We live in a world not only controlled, but also constructed, by the media. Our realities are fundamentally based on what we are told, as much as by what we see. Journalism is by nature un-objective, inseparable from a larger political motive or narrative. Stories are exaggerated to sell copies or to create a sensation. Celebrities are celebrated and issues which reveal holes in the supposed infallibility of our government – the people in whose hands we entrust our very lives – are hidden, swept under the rug. Who out there, in our big bad corporate world, can hold our hand and guide us through the muddy waters of mainstream media to the crystal lakes of what really matters?
Student journalism isn’t saving the world. Its audience is inevitably limited. To my knowledge, no revolt or revolution has started due to an article tucked away somewhere in the dark corners of student journalism online or some old magazine which only exists in a university’s library archive. But perhaps its value is in its detachment from the wider institution. Student journalism allows students to critically examine issues of the world from other students’ perspectives. And while wholly objective journalism is a standard that will likely never be realistically achieved, it is nice feeling like we are reading the views of others in a similar position to ourselves, rather than exclusively people in positions of authority who seem to be telling us what to think instead of guiding us through how to think.
But despite its apparent limitations, student journalists can make a difference, and that’s where its value lies. You might not be surprised if I tell you that government-critical journalists have been arrested in Egypt this month, or that lawyers beat up a student journalist in India. But what if I told you a student journalist was arrested in the USA for reporting on the 2014 Ferguson protests?
“Student journalism doesn’t exist to sway people, it exists to inform people, or start conversation”
University is a cocoon in which people blossom based on the ideas they have been exposed to. These three, four or however many years are a break from mainstream media, a chance to explore the world through critical eyes national newspapers deny us. Newspapers seem to have been placed on a pedestal, and we are actively encouraged to believe that a newspaper article is either ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. Student journalists are seen as just that – students, whose opinion matters but doesn’t necessarily fall into either category in the binary of right or wrong. They, therefore, encourage close reading and critical thinking: when I read a student-written article, I am always conscious about the fact that it has been written by one of my peers – voluntarily, not paid to twist their facts to suit a larger corporation’s views – and align my own viewpoints with theirs, considering to what extent I agree or disagree with their article. Student journalism doesn’t exist to sway people, it exists to inform people, or start conversation. The beauty of student journalism is that anybody can write and find a place to get published. Politically neutral, socialist, capitalist, scientifically factual, and a variety of other articles sit alongside each other; on reading Impact articles online one never feels overwhelmed by a single over-arching imposing ideology. We are invited to think about our own views, not just absorb someone else’s.
But student journalism is more than just that. Student journalism is fun. Sure, it can be entertaining to read about Bieber’s exploits and make fun of him, or gawk at whatever ridiculous comment Katie Hopkins has made this week (seriously, I’m just glad we have no-one like her in Impact). But just by scrolling through Impact and The Tab’s website, we see the familiar words keep on cropping up: ‘Lenton’, ‘Ocean’, ‘George Osborne’, ‘deadlines’, ‘Hallward’, ‘Ocean’ again. This is our world, and we belong to it. The articles are relatable, engaging and feel a lot closer to home than what’s just happened in Geordie Shore or Kanye’s latest antics (okay, we could maybe use slightly more of this in our student newspapers). These articles are by students, and about what matters to students. This is the true secret of student journalism’s success (Impact has had a magazine in some shape or form for as long as UoN has been situated on Uni Park Campus), and hopefully its sheer fun factor will lead to its survival – and positive impact – for many more years to come.
Image: Jon S via Flickr.