Kicking off our series focusing on different student media platforms, Ones to Watch’s resident blogger Caroline Mortimer argues there’s much more to student journalism than wannabe professionals sitting huddled over their MacBooks, pleading with InDesign late into the night…
When it comes to student media, the student newspaper is still King.
It’s often the oldest and the biggest, with a legacy sometimes as old as the university itself, and is seen as the go to service for the best and brightest student journalists. But despite its hallowed reputation, does it really deserve its position as the most influential student voice? And is the best journalism – the quality investigations, comment and reviews – still to be found within the broadsheet pages of the old and the venerable student paper?
Varying from university to university, the student media centre will have a variety of different mediums sometimes united under one umbrella such as the combined Forge Media over at the University of Sheffield or separate entities like Redbrick, G:TV and Burn FM at the University of Birmingham. Increasingly there are separate newspapers, tabloids and magazines found in one university such as the variety on offer at the University of Cambridge.
It may not be something that we like to talk about that much, but student journalists can sometimes be a little arrogant. Taking on the ‘mantle of truth’ that normally gives professional journalists a sanctimonious air, along with the natural idealism of youth, can sometimes, although not always, leave the traditional broadsheet student paper’s head firmly up its own arse.
Now, of course that does not mean that they are not excellent pools of young talent and the work they do is not valuable but it can sometimes leave the casual participant or observer with a sour taste in their mouths and searching for something different.
With very few student newspapers being completely financial independent, the burden on student unions means that variation will be limited. However, where there is room for alternatives they should be embraced.
Whilst quality investigative student journalism is vital to hold organisations that deal with students, including the university and the student unions themselves, to account, quite a lot of students are looking for some light entertainment as well. A tabloid magazine, for better or for worse, can facilitate this and leave more room in the mainstream newspaper for the important stories.
Similarly after a long day of reading, writing and stressing over essay deadlines, print is not always going to be the most desirable ‘leisure medium’ for the average student. Student TV and radio form a perfect distraction and source of information (as well as providing great experience for student journalists who want to work in broadcast media). And student broadcasters should not be afraid to work more on the investigative and current affairs side of student journalism – the broadsheet paper does not have the monopoly on investigations.
We should be encouraging more collaboration and multimedia projects between the different mediums, even if they remain officially independent of each other, so that they can bounce ideas off and each other and learn what works and what does not .
Student media should be a microcosm of the wider world in which different formats compete. Each is important but despite what James Murdoch says about television, none are superior to each other. The student newspaper cannot continue to claim its right as King. Maybe its time for a revolution?
Whatever your opinion on which format is best, it is time to give the others a fair hearing. Over the next few weeks we will be featuring posts from editors of different types of student media, starting with a debate on whether broadsheet or tabloid papers are best, when the editor of Exeposé, the University of Exeter’s broadsheet newspaper, and the former editor of the University of Cambridge’s infamous tabloid The Tab will go head-to-head.