September 1 2003
You can’t print that! A potted history of student papers By Gary Andrews
his feature was intended as a look at the history of the student newspaper but as any fresher who’s just come through clearing will tell you, there are bloody hundreds of universities, most of which have their own paper and a ton of their own history. So rather than write a whole book on the subject and give it away free with this issue, we ve condensed it down into a (very) potted history of the student press. Today it s a rare university that doesn t have some sort of student rag, even if it is only written on two sides of
A4 and printed on the SU photocopier during Monday lunchtimes, which is pretty much how most of them actually started out many decades ago. One of the oldest student newspapers is the now sadly defunct Edinburgh Student, which had been going for 115 years (so they certainly didn t start out using a photocopier) until it was forced to close a couple of years ago because of financial pressure. However, Gair Rhydd can trace its origins back to 1885, when a few Cardiff students started up a small magazine. This went through quite a few guises until 1971 when The Broadsheet changed its name and style and the first issue of GR was published. Although a few student papers can
claim to be a couple of years old, it was in the mid 20th century when independent newspapers really took off around university campuses. Part of this was because of the student protests of the 60s, when our predecessors were a bit of an angry bunch and protested about anything and everything, often occupying university buildings to do so. Students wanted to know what was going on in these demonstrations and editors realised that this was great front page news and would shift copies by the bucketload. We re a little less militant today, but the student press is still a vital source of info for many undergraduates as well as campaigning for student rights both
locally and nationally. Gair Rhydd won best campaign in 2000 for exposing dodgy landlords in the Cardiff area, whilst in Cambridge some years back the Stop Press newspaper exposed one of their students, Nick Griffin, as a member of the Nation Front. Griffin now leads the British National Party. The most pressing campaigns today are likely to be against tuition fees and anti-globalisation protests, with jobs and living accommodation high up the list. Another vital job for the student press is to hold their own universities and student s unions to account. Some SU s however, are a little less tolerant than others of criticism directed towards them. Earlier this year the Liverpool Student was first pulped, then taken over by the Guild of Students after it ran a series of stories criticising its sabbatical officers for giving themselves pay rises, whilst at Aberdeen University the editor of The Gaudie resigned after the Students Association tried to wrest editorial control following a few critical articles. Needless to say this caused an outcry in the Scottish city and even led to questions being asked in Parliament about it. Although such cases are few and far between, some papers are still reluctant to be under control of their SU s, with Sheffield Uni s Steel Press recently refusing the offer of a paid editor fearing it would compromise its independence. A fair few famous bods have also put pen to paper for their student rag. The BBC s Huw Edwards passed through the doors of Gair Rhydd, whilst Nicky Campbell wrote for The Gaudie. Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers nearly got kicked out of uni during his editorship of Cambridge s Stop Press, whilst Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown was news editor on the Edinburgh Student, although rumours that he required each story to pass five tests before he printed them are unfounded.
Next Issue - gair rhydd Media looks at the ups and downs of a student life spent at the radio mike.
The Guardian Student Media awards, now 25 years old
Student media in the 21st century A
lthough very few Students Unions have a TV station, a good deal of them will have a film society. Some will just concentrate on film screenings, but the majority will be in the business of making their own student films. Indeed, the facilities of some film societies are only a small step down from the smaller student TV stations, with both having very similar output. Student film makers have been around for ages and some universities (Newport for instance) have dedicated film departments. For institutions that don t run practical film degrees, a film soc is the only place where budding Spielbergs can get their vision onto screen. Cardiff University s own film society is quite small compared to the other student media, and, in it s current guise, is no more than a couple of years old, but has come on leaps and bounds since its inception and last year took part in the annual Cardiff Student Media Awards for the first time ever. Currently living in a box room opposite Xpress Radio, they have some top class equipment and are aiming to churn out a minimum of half a dozen films this year. If they manage to produce a film every month, they ll already have surpassed their near neighbours in terms of work rate.
ith the web revolution well and truly here, it’s a rare student media organisation that doesn’t have an online presence. Most national newspapers now have vast and impressive online sites, and student newspapers are gradually catching up. Gair Rhydd Online is currently in the process of being revamped and with other publications such as Nerve at Bournemouth Uni and Aberdeen s Gaudie having a strong online presence. Similarly, most student radio stations will let you listen online, as well as providing student news, reviews and features to much around with when you should be doing your coursework. Normally these sites are run by one or two people who spend half their life screaming at computers (so usually computer scientists), but the end results often look as good as professional organisations. As anybody with a decent computer and the right software can knock up a web page, small websites devoted to student news have sprung up, such as www.students.com, a site that gives a round up and provides links to student news worldwide. It s also pretty easy for somebody with enough time, commitment and the right contacts could set up their own website to deal with student news and issues, although with the web being such a huge place, they d have to make a pretty big effort to promote is as well, if anybody s actually going to visit the thing.
Published on Aug 31, 2003