The West Rail explosion two weeks ago catapulted a university student into stardom. Nathan Leung Siu-kin, a Year Three journalism student at Hong Kong Shue Yan University, was on the Nam Cheong-bound train which caught fire on Valentine's Day. Following the explosion caused by a faulty transformer, about 650 rush-hour passengers had to evacuate the smoke-filled carriages and walk for two kilometres along the dark tunnel to the platform. Driven by his journalistic instincts, Nathan turned around midway and returned to the scene of the accident. Being the only 'reporter' in the front line, Nathan's pictures of firemen battling the blaze were splashed across the front pages of local newspapers the next day. Besides the exclusive pictures, Nathan was invited to write an eyewitness account of the incident for a daily paper. To the aspiring journalist, it was nothing new as he's always on the lookout, with his camera and notebook ready. 'I'm an editor of my school's newspaper. Whenever I come across interesting things on the street, I jot down my thoughts,' said the 21-year-old. Recalling the experience, Nathan said he learned to multi-task while reporting on an accident. 'While I was taking pictures, the policemen, firemen and railway staff at the scene kept asking me to leave. I had to juggle many things at the same time,' said Nathan. 'While finding the right spot to take clear pictures of the fire, I had to make sure I stood far enough from it so as not to get hurt.' His 'scoop' ensured a memorable but busy day as he worked late into the night. 'I did many interviews with newspapers that day. I worked until 3am writing the story for my school newspaper and posting more than 100 pictures on the Web,' Nathan said. 'I also got the chance to visit the headquarters of TVB and several newspapers. It was an eye-opening experience.' When asked how he felt about his photographs appearing on the front pages of local papers, he said he was just in the right place at the right time. 'After I left the scene, I ran into crews from a TV station who were outside the cordoned-off zone. I approached them and asked whether they wanted my pictures,' Nathan said. 'It felt really good that my pictures helped people learn more about the accident.' The experience also provided a lesson on journalism. With most dailies opting for pictures showing firefighters in front of a huge fire, Nathan witnessed firsthand how newspapers used sensationalism to boost circulation. 'Compared with the dramatic images, the actual fire was very small. The foam from the fire extinguishers made the flames look like a roaring fireball in the pictures,' Nathan said. 'The photographs on the front pages did not reflect reality. 'Publishing them was quite unfair to West Rail. If I were the editor, I would have chosen the pictures which reflected the real situation.' Nathan Leung's account and pictures of the West Rail explosion can be found on the SHUONLINE website at http://stu.syc.edu.hk/~shuo/ New generation of journalists With the dawn of digital technology, there are hundreds of people on the street equipped with camera phones. Websites such as YouWitnessNews and NowPublic.com collect pictures, videos and commentaries from witnesses close to breaking events. This army of 'private reporters' is expected to play a bigger role in traditional news operations in the future.