A 16-year-old trainee outscooped national reporters who had been sent to the home town of Pop Idol finalist Sam Nixon to learn more about his schooldays.
Most of the tabloids had staff digging around all over Barnsley for material, but through legwork and contacts, Barnsley Chronicle editorial assistant Matthew Murray managed to get hold of a copy of the yearbook produced when Nixon left school.
It included about a dozen pictures of Nixon and formed the basis for an exclusive Chronicle feature about his school days.
Murray joined the paper full-time only four weeks ago after spending the summer on work experience. He said: “The nationals were desperate for pictures of Sam Nixon’s schooldays. One reporter was so desperate he was stopping shoppers in the street and offering them up to £500 in return for an old school picture. He even stopped me while I was on my lunch break.”
Family, friends and former teachers had all refused to speak to the media about Nixon, who was voted off the show at the weekend, after a warning from the Pop Idol press office that it could jeopardise his chances of winning.
Chronicle editor Robert Cockroft said: “This was good work by someone so raw and testament to the virtues of youth. We have an open mind about recruitment. Some papers insist on graduates, but many of our best reporters have come straight from school.
“Although this is the first time in years the Chronicle has set on a 16-yearold, it paid immediate dividends.
Matthew has the key attributes of any reporter: insatiable curiosity and enthusiasm in buckets. And he can spell.”