A student paper has become the first to be nominated for a national media award with the editor describing the experience as "amazing".

Leeds Student is in the running for best local or regional news site in the Online Media Awards and is the only student paper to appear among this year's nominees.

The mainly student-run publication is up against the websites of well established regional papers including:

  • Belfast Telegraph
  • Bristol 24-7
  • Manchester Evening News
  • Wales Online

The student paper's web editor Jack Dearlove expressed his delight, telling The Huffington Post UK: "It's amazing!

"When we entered we were obviously hoping for a nomination but we knew we would be up against some tough (and professional) competition. It's a real accolade and a credit to how much work the team has put into online this year."

Dearlove, who helped launch the paper's iPad app, said the efforts made to change the editorial team's attitude towards the website was instrumental in setting the paper apart from other student publications.

"Gone are the days when articles would all be uploaded once a week when the printed version hits the stands and every section is now making a big fuss about their articles when they're released.

"Previously the website has taken second place to the printed product. I'd like to think people are now just as proud seeing their page online as they are in print."

The 21-year-old student, who is the paper's digital and web editor, shared the paper's secret of engaging with their audience.

"From an audience point of view we're also using our website to get to students that might never pick up the physical paper, broadening our appeal and levelling the playing field with the media outlets around us. The time people spend on our website is just part of their everyday browsing, you've got to look professional to keep people coming back."

The future looks bright for the 40-year-old student paper, which has previously won Guardian Student Media Awards in the past.

"Nothing for a few years though," Dearlove laments. "But we're hoping to change that this year."

The paper attracts around 1000 hits a day and has 40 section editors, as well as full-time editor Lizzie Edmonds, who graduated from Leeds in 2011.

For Dearlove, the highlights of the year were having an impressive 100 people on their live blog for the results of the National Union of Student elections, and topping 25,000 hits in one day for their gang attack exclusive.

In a time when regional paper circulation is falling and editors are making staffing cuts, maybe they should turn to the highly professional amateurs in Leeds to learn a thing or two.