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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 2. 1965.

New Statesman Old Students

New Statesman Old Students

This Article, written by John Morgan, of the New Statesman examine critically the British student newspaper It is interesting to see how closely some of Morgan's criticisms apply, albeit unwittingly, to the New Zealand student press

Undergraduate life, to judge from the newspapers students produce, changes little. Old attitudes, survive new buildings Drink is funny; sex is serious rowdies beat up dance; apathy continues to characterise attitude to student government; apartheid is detested; arguments over Berlin, homo-sexuality and which is new Lord Robbins.

Possibly the sensations are more sensational than they were, In Durham black magic, in Sheffield lesbianism. But what seems to me different, on reading a selection of student newspapers and speaking to some of their editors at their annual conference at University College. London, is the quality and style in which student reports on student.

It used, as I remember, to be the case that an editor of an undergraduate paper would need to write most of it himself Nominal staff would be easy to find; there was a glamour in having your name on the mast head—a glamour that survive. Persuading people to write was a different matter, which marked out student journalism from professional—where the problem is to prevent people writing. Nowadays it seems easier to find genuine and industrious reporters. There are even editors, as at Cardiff (Broadsheet), who are in effect managing editor Swansea Crefft claims to have a total staff of 70.

The quality of the papers varies sharply but none of them have escaped the influence of the popular press on their format. Make up is jazzy; headlines are large, occasionally in higher point than their message seems to warrant: "Rugger—that's for the birds," proclaims Leicester Ripple in a great banner: Mixed Rugby Anger Club but they have accommodated the style of the Mirror and Express, without much borrowing of language, curiously, it is only in the Beaver, produced by the London School of Economics, that girls are "pretty, vivacious" and "flick their long hair as they talk." In the Beaver too, "Mrs. Ellis Slams critics."

Which, of course, is not to say that the rest of the student press is stodgy. Oxford's Cherwell is probably the brightest. It has won the Daily Mirror award for the best paper of the year, and not entirely because Cambridge's Varsity did not enter the competition. (Varsity won in 1962. Birmingham's Redbrick in 1963).

"Yet another lover boy goes" says Cherwell of a student rusticated for being found with a girl in his room. "Longer Hours in Birdcages," they say of extended visiting hours at women's colleges, A leader proposes that the Oxford Union should be pulled down "and replaced by a multi-storey block containing both offices and union facilities. It might fulfil the functions of a University social centre which the present set-up patently does not do."

It is John Evelyn's Diary which comes nearest to Fleet Street standards of expertise, although ex pressing a different and healthier set of value.

The diarist offered a prize of a "Black and white second-hand CND badge" to the scruffiest gatecrashers of an "exclusively blacktie party" given by Lady Catherine Pakenham. Later it proudly announced: "Lady Catherine's Party Was Clashed By Six Ravers on Friday." Cherwell also carries in the same issue, reviews of work by Brecht, Genet, Ellington, Bach, and Beaugard, and so demon-strates that its flippancy is calculated.

But Cherwell, perhaps because of Isis's competition, sells to a smaller percentage of undergraduates than most University papers. A circulation of 5,500 gives it a 40 per cent sale at 3d weekly, varsity sells some 1500 more at 4d, but is larger, occasionally reaching 24 pages to Cherwell's maximum of 16.

What Cherwell has in common with most provincial Redbrick paper is radicalism as a well as price and size. (Some papers, such as Exeter's, cost 6d. and most appear fortnightly. Leeds, Birmingham and London being among the few other universities that can manage a weekly). It still seems as difficult as ever to find educated right-wing Journalists. Radicalism often takes the form of headlong and sometimes disastrously libellous attacks on university Institutions.

Every student editor seems to find it necessary at some point in his term of office to thumb through Areopagitica and produce his own defence of the press's freedom The discovery that the Liverpool Guild Gazette was subject to the censorship of the Student's Council stirred other editor' anger Leicester Ripple Sheffield's Darts and the Durham Palatinate have been showing a powerful set of muckraking muscle.

Accusations of financial malpractice and corruption helped Leicester. Sheffield had a field day with its lesbian picture, although the vulgarity of its posters appears to have distressed some students. The Palatinate rather lamely leapt to Its own defence against an attack of sensationalism (it had published an article about black magic) by accusing the universities of precisely that. But they can be more serious. Darts's leaders I particularly like. They were very good on halls of residence:

"It is vital that snobbery and outdated ideas do not influence decisions which in this period of expansion will set the pattern for the many generations of students following us. Can anyone seriously uphold the continuance of the worst public school traditions of "all chaps together and the feeble attempt a aping Oxbridge formality which lingers on in our halls? The only conceivable use for a gown at meals would be to keep the gravy off one's clothes, but they'd need redesigning even for that... ."

Yet oddly enough it is not the university but the colleges of Advanced Technology papers which exhibit most interest in world affairs. This may be because there is too little going on at those establishments to make for general reporting or too few reporters, but I suspect that, at least in the case of Chelsea College, it reflect the editor's interests.

Chelsea's Concetto, looking less professional because its paper is glossy, recently has carried article on abortion law reform, homo-sexuality, the South African situation. MRA and the march on Washington. It casts a cool eye on affairs at home. A survey conducted at meetings in the college offered these statistics: 3 per cent attended an evening debate "about women"; for Ian Mikardo the figure was 10; for a general meeting 15; and for a dance only nine.

In general, though, it is in their treatment of day-to-day events that the student press seems to have improved, it features seldom reach the same standard. The prize for the best feature was won by Liverpool's Guild Gazette for its treatment of the Arab-Israeli dispute. It published what, on the face of it, seems to be a curiously inappropriate article in the city where other disputes lie on the doorstep, because there had been a nasty incident at an Arab exhibition at the university.

Because a map did not show Israel It was defaced. Posters were stolen. Tempers ran high. The Guild Gazette explained what It was all about. But running it very close for the prize, I would think, was a long and devastating riposte by the Leicester Ripple to a questionnaire sent it by the Daily Mirror on the question of students' sexual behaviour.

But to my taste—my view is that undergraduate writing should be wild so that at least there's some verbiage there to prune later on—the best-written paper is the Aberystwyth Courier. The Courier lays about with an egalitarian fury. It rejoices that lounge suits can now be worn at formal functions. It attacks the Senate for refusing to allow dance to continue after 11pm It wants a bar in the union (That's Aberystwyth!) The issue carries an attack, over 2000 words in length, on evangelism in general and St. Paul in particular, that begins in this style:

"On Saturday nights, while the worldly merry-makers of Aberystwyth are guzzling ale, fornicating or otherwise enjoying themselves, a small pocket of fanatics is preparing for better and more lasting pleasure in the world to come. Soon this branch of the IVF (inter-Varsity Fellowship) will he supporting a professional evangelist, the Rev John Stott, in his attempts to dissuade other students from taking the primrose path to the everlasting bonfire."

But generally there's little interest in the quality of prose, matched by little attention being paid to pictures—always excepting Chelsea's Concetto and Burningham's Redbrick—both of which, it seems to me, use them imaginatively This lack is the more surprising since—or so some of the editors at the conference suggested —most of the student journalist aspire to work in television. They want to be interviewer The prevailing view seemed to be that an editor of a paper could reasonably expect to get some kind of job in journalism when graduated (the Bristol editor said his predecessors had no difficulty). For the rest of the staff it was usually more difficult. How long will it be before each university has its own television station, its own Panorama or Tonight, before the student press goes the way of the other?