Keeping Up With Campus: Why Student Newspapers Are Essential to University Life
Whether you’re a keen student journalist yourself, or just looking to learn more about student culture at the universities you’re planning to apply to, student newspapers are the place to go.
We break down the benefits you’ll get if you become a student journalist at university (which can even include the heady heights of professional publication!), as well as the benefits reading student papers can bring you as a prospective student of any course.
Why student papers are important
Student newspapers are (generally) run by students, for students. This means that, as well as reporting on any administrative news like changes in fee structures or the Vice-Provost’s office, they report on the social side of student life. This is where they can differ from university-issued newsletters.
Whether it’s food recommendations near your student halls, a roundup of the best evening social events or a newsblast letting you know a filming crew and celebrity have been spotted near campus, student papers can offer a lighter, more fun take on student news.
That’s not to say they avoid the harder-hitting stuff, though. If there’s a dispute about accommodation rent, representation in the faculty or senior members of staff’s wages, student papers can often offer several opinion pieces, allowing you to learn from and connect with a range of perspectives on the topic.
If you’re a prospective student, the universities you’re considering will usually give you lots of information about student life at their institutions. This can be really helpful, and is often written in collaboration with current students, but independent papers can offer less formal, more colourful impressions of life at each uni.
So, should you write for a student paper?
- Refresh your writing – Writing for a student publication ensures your penmanship skills never grow stale; take a break from the rubric for your standard university essays and try your hand at punchy, journalistic writing instead. Being able to adapt your writing style to attract different audiences will also stand you in good stead for your future career, as it improves your ability to communicate effectively with a range of people.
- Editing – Whether you become editor-in-chief of your student paper, or simply edit your own work before submitting it, the ability to improve things is invaluable. This will also improve your concision, making you a better communicator and appealing to potential employers.
- Interviewing – Working with a student newspaper gives you the opportunity to talk to a range of people about really interesting topics. You’ll learn how to promote comfortable conversations with a wide variety of people, as well as how to ask the juiciest questions sensitively.
- Design – A student newspaper allows you to be your most creative self. Whether you want to get involved with the formatting of a print copy or draw satirical comic strips for the website, there are lots of opportunities to exercise your visual creativity.
- Variation in media – Journalism no longer revolves entirely around the paper and print; student journalism is often web-based, featuring styles like listicles and clickbait articles. You could even develop your social media management skills by looking after the paper’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Get a taste of the future
Student newspapers aren’t just an opportunity to develop your writing skills and gain experience for a career in journalism. Here are just some of the fields you’ll get experience in if you write for your university’s paper:
- Sales – Newspapers often run adverts, which means students communicate with businesses to offer advertising space. Think sales pitches, crafting invoices and fostering vital connections with the local economy.
- Administration – Students have to organise every aspect of a newspaper themselves, from the writing and the layout design to the photography and printing. You’ll learn how to delegate tasks, manage workloads fairly, and set deadlines (and meet them!). Particularly if you take on an editorial role, you’ll be surprised how much your leadership skills grow!
- Customer relations – You’re creating a product which is available to anyone from your academic institution – this means you have to be open to criticism and respond with improvement. Sure, students won’t be as harsh a critic as a professional editor, but having your cohort pick up on your poor proof-reading will make you learn from your mistakes just as quickly.
- Accounting – A student newspaper cannot run on enthusiasm alone; you’ll need to liaise with investors to raise some kind of budget. Money must be handled correctly, so your numeracy skills might need dusting off from school.
Become a vital part of the local community
Involvement in a student newspaper allows for building relationships with a variety of people. You’ll be a direct link between the student body and local events, businesses and organisations. You’ll need to maintain the trust of your readers, while holding their interest with a fine balance of serious exposés and lighthearted tabloid columns. Student journalism means you’ll be the first to know of any drama within the university and the first to deliver it to a wider audience.
You’ll also be a trusted source for the administrative staff and university faculty; legitimate discontent felt amongst the student body will be reflected in the newspapers, which will doubtless be invaluable to the staff who wish to stay informed of the student body’s thoughts.
How to get involved
So, now that you’re definitely on board with the idea of writing for a student newspaper, how do you get the ball rolling? It can seem quite a daunting prospect, especially as student newspapers often come with an impressive reputation within the community. However, joining a student publication isn’t as difficult as you might initially think.
Most student newspapers will welcome writing samples and article suggestions from anyone, regardless of experience or subject matter. Whether it’s your first time writing any sort of article, or you’re well experienced with the art of journalism, student papers will hear what you have to say and provide you with space on a page.
Make contact with one of the current editors and ask what opportunities there are for writing. Visit your university’s freshers’ fair and interact with the editorial team; make sure to attend any meetings they hold during the term, too. Once you’ve completed your first piece, you can start thinking about writing other articles to expand your portfolio. Writing articles also opens the door to future editorial roles within the newspaper.
If you’re desperate to get involved but worried about a lack of writing experience, you could participate in a course designed to improve your writing skills; the writing course offered by Oxford Scholastica aims to develop your writing prowess, ensuring you can send in polished, confident content when you arrive at campus.
- Keen to join a student paper but worried about a lack of writing experience? Take a look at our Oxford Scholastica Academy Writing Summer School
- If you’re more interested in fiction, you might like to read our reasons Why Shakespeare Is Still Important
- Nearly every UK university has a student paper – we’ve put some examples below for you to explore:
- Cherwell – A weekly student newspaper published by students of Oxford University, founded in 1920. It’s one of the oldest student publications in the UK.
- Varsity – Cambridge University’s main student newspaper, published every Friday during term time.
- Palatinate – The official student paper of Durham University, whose name is derived from the colour palatinate, a shade of purple associated with the university.
- The Student – A fortnightly published newspaper run by students at the University of Edinburgh, read by some 30,000 people in the city.
- The Courier – Student newspaper written and edited by student volunteers at Newcastle University, published in a 40-page print edition every week.
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