Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 1. March 3 1968
First Editor Remembers
First Editor Remembers
The nineteen-thirties were years likely to produce an increase in the vigour of undergraduate thought at Victoria. Opening under the shadow of massive unemployment, and passing quickly into a period of mounting international tension — Japan's attack on China; the absorption of Austria by Nazi Germany; the betrayal of Czechoslovakia; Mussolini's assault on Ethiopia; the invasion and subjection of Spain — by 1938 the decade seemed certain to end as in fact it did, in war on a vast scale.
It was as a result of the changed mental climate produced by events such as these that the 1937-38 Students' Association Executive decided to alter the nature of the undergraduate newspaper from the light-hearted record of Victoria's activities until then provided by SMAD, to a publication reflecting more closely and more widely the events of those days.
Through its President, the Students' Association Executive made it clear that within the laws of libel and the bounds of taste and commonsense, the editor and staff could print what they liked. There were to be no strings or tags; all executive asked was a lively, good quality journal. They certainly kept their part of the agreement. In that year it was inevitable that we should print many things with which Executive were probably in profound disagreement, but never once, either directly or by a hint was the slightest pressure put on any member of "Salient's" staff to change what we wrote. On the contrary, encouragement from Executive to press on was a notable source of strength. Salient's good start owed much to this relationship between Executive and the editorial committee.
The Students' Association Executive appointed the editor and he chose his staff. The name Salient originated with the assistant editor, Derek Freeman, now I believe Professor of Anthropology at Canberra. Derek designed the original layout and also wrote vigorously and pungently.
The Literary Editor was Ron Meek, then already well known for his successful Extravaganzas. In addition to writing amusing "Cautionary Tales" Ron produced a number of interviews with celebrities which generally lifted the corner of a curtain which somebody would have preferred to leave undisturbed. Probably his most successful effort of this kind was a revealing interview with Count von Luckner. Ron is now. I have been told, Professor of Economics at Leicester.
The quiet efficiency of Maurice Boyd (still of Wellington) kept our name good with the printer. No one on the staff had a more difficult task.
Marie Bullock (nee Best). Vesta Emmanuel, the late Mary Dowrick (nee Brisco), Harold Gretton (now of Taupo and author of "No More Double Bunking") wrote in lively fashion in a variety of forms.
John Bullock of Seatoun, our Business Manager, secured a steady supply of advertisements for any page but the first, on which we would allow no advertising. Lara Sandford and Ruth Singleton handled the Sports Page and distribution was well managed by Eddie Robertson who usually shot out from an unfinished science experiment just in time to see to it.
This staff ran Salient as a fully co-operative effort. Regular staff meetings were held to pool ideas and decide policy. It was agreed that the time had come at Victoria to try to link University life more closely with the world, that we should comment on events rather than simply narrate them, that we should openly abandon the traditional but usually phoney editorial attitude of Olympian impartiality. We would sign what we wrote and take the consequences.
But the students read it. By the third issue the circulation had doubled and had reached what was then a record figure. 600 out of a total roll of 900 students. The staff watched all these reactions with great interest and often had them in mind when they planned fresh issues.
We had the view then, and all those members of the original staff with whom I have discussed the question since still hold this opinion, that it should be the function of an undergraduate newspaper not only to report, but to comment widely on events of the day, both within and outside the University. We believed then and believe now that any country is entitled to look to its educated young people to show a lively intellectual curiosity about all kinds of subjects. Salient tried to embody this idea in what it said; to rouse the indifferent, to question the orthodox, to stimulate discussion.
This remains an important and legitimate task for any university paper. The need to do this is just as great today as ever; perhaps it is even greater.
Congratulations then to Salient on its 30th birthday. May it long continue to stir the sluggards, to provoke the complacent, to rebuke the autocratic and occasionally, to amuse us all.
A. H. Scotney.