WannabeHacks Wannabe Hcks website
Ben Whitelaw and Nick Petrie have won £1,000 to launch a business to teach journalists skills in data journalism.

Whitelaw and Petrie, both part of the Wannabe Hacks site were today announced as the winners of the myNewsBiz student journalism enterprise competition, sponsored by Kingston University.

A £500 prize was also awarded to five journalism students from Kingston University to launch Relish Magazine, a cooking magazine for men.

Whitelaw and Petrie's winning proposal is to launch the Visualist, to "provide journalists, both wannabes and old pros, within smaller media organisations with the skills needed to do data journalism". They plan to "teach journalists how to use relevant programs and tools and also provide additional support with collating data and producing visualisations before a given deadline".

Whitelaw and Petrie have both secured jobs – Whitelaw at Guardian Professional and Petrie at the Telegraph – but say their careers will not stop them from launching the business.

"We are obviously very pleased to have been awarded the prize and are really excited about the prospect of developing the idea and to have been given a helping hand," Whitelaw said, who entered the competition while studying for an MA in journalism at City University.

The idea for Relish Magazine was put forward by Natalie Mason, Philip Andreas, Lily Meyer and Ellie Pullen from Kingston University.

Despite three of the entries being "worthy of further development", the judges criticised the quality of several and lack of innovation and some of the applicant's lack of business sense.

"Some others had the seeds of promising ideas, but lacked the clarity and rigour necessary to convince would-be investors; disappointingly, a few lacked notable innovation and inspiration," Greg Hadfield, founder of Soccernet and Schoolsnet and former head of digital development at the Telegraph, said.

"Interestingly, most of the ideas were product focused; hardly any imagined how journalism could form the basis for a service – and fewer incorporated elements of social media or emerging technologies," he added.

The judging process promoted lively debate among the three judges on what it means to be entrepreneurial as a journalist and whether it is something that can and should be taught on journalism courses at universities.

"I think there is still some confusion about what being entrepreneurial as a journalist means, as opposed to being just entrepreneurial. My take is that it means being able to fund your journalism, not necessarily to become rich in the process. Of course, both still require some basic business sense and the same enterprising spirit to be able to get a project off the ground through, often, sheer determination and initiative," said John Thompson, founder and managing director of Journalism.co.uk.

"Even with that caveat, I was a bit disappointed by both the overall number of contestants and the lack of basic business savvy of some of them. The ideas also varied widely from purely conceptual projects to those already put into practice. We were, of course, just judging on the basis of written statements rather than Dragon's Den style interviews, so perhaps it would have been easier to gauge such qualities had we been able to meet contestants in person.

"So, in my view, some potentially good ideas fell by the wayside because of the failure to address the economic side," Thompson said, suggesting it should be "a big red flag for journalism trainers".

"Luckily a few still stood out and it was a relatively easy process to arrive at a consensus for the winner and runner-up.

"Finally, the irony in all this is that any journalism students showing a glimmer of initiative in getting themselves noticed and actually getting a journalism project off the ground is likely to be snapped up by a national publication before they ever get around to running a self-funding, or even profitable, business. Something we are already seeing happening a lot."

This has been the case for the two winners of the first prize and, although being praised by judges for an original idea that "brings something new to journalism”, the term entrepreneurial journalism is not one Whitelaw is comfortable with.

"It's a strange term but what studying gives you is the opportunity to be creative. People don't realise the time they have as students and they should be trying these things," Whitelaw said.

Commended by the judges:

The Student Journals, Siraj Datoo & Ali Gokal, Warwick University;
L20 Magazine Amie Mowlam-Tett, Kingston University;
Plastik Magazine, Marc Thomas, Cardiff University;
Multimedia CV, Sherwin Coelho, Bournemouth University.

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