You’ve heard from Nouse’s writers. But what about the other 10,000 of you? We sent our intrepid Features Editor to find out what campus had to say about our efforts this year
From what my spies – sorry, sources – have been telling me, Nouse has built up something of a reputation for itself on campus. Apparently, I’m told, as well as having opinions about the stories inscribed on the pages of this ‘ere university rag, our readers also make judgements about those of us that wield the pen.
Here in the hustle and bustle of Nouse headquarters, the editorial team are forever aware, not to say thankful, that the newspaper is worked on by upwards of 50 members of staff, all of whom reflect a diversity of viewpoints, as evidenced by the heated disputes that accompany each new edition. Yet it is inevitable (if somewhat bizarre for us) that by working on Nouse, we take on a collective identity for those who browse the pages that we’ve inscribed and together bear the criticism when we aren’t seen to accurately represent campus opinion.
So what exactly do you lot think of the Nouse ‘brand’? And, over the past year, have you thought that Nouse has reflected your views? This week it was my mission to find out.
It’s with the news story, of course, that a newspaper ultimately makes its mark; a choice headline on a lead article or even (as we found out to our detriment) a controversial minor article can engage the most apathetic, disinterested student in a debate on campus politics – if not on journalistic morals. One friend may have sheepishly admitted, “Honestly, sweetie? I never really read it,” but she could still link Nouse to at least a few of our more divisive exposés.
A case in point would be what our esteemed editor has termed ‘mock-execution-gate’: the report that revealed how members of the University Officer Training Corps had filmed said execution while on exercise and, in wisdom that could only have been acquired at an army boot camp, put the footage on YouTube. It was one of the stories of the year and, three months on, everyone has an opinion on it. Yet while there are disappointing calls of “victimisation” and “slander” from some expected quarters, the majority verdict seems to be this was one time we got it right. Loosening the reigns on our ‘gonzo-attack dog’ reporter has earned us all a collective pat on the back for uncovering a story that not only satisfied campus’s thirst for scandal, but also offered a curious insight into the activities of one of its shadiest societies. “I think it was completely justified,” a second-year English student told me. Another punned: “The OTC shot themselves in the foot – they thoroughly deserved it.”
Sometimes, however, we find ourselves swimming against the tide of student opinion. An issue that seemed to unite campus but divide it from both its newspapers was race. To recap, Nouse led in the week 3 edition of this term with the headline ‘Are we a racist university?’ The consensus, among the racially diverse collection of people I spoke to this week, was an overwhelming “no”. Reflecting the exasperation of the reader who wrote to us to complain at our “unfounded ‘racist university’ crusade”, the general view was that the hard-hitting headline didn’t match the reality that students experience; we were jumping on the race bandwagon and, as one interviewee opined, “just having a poke at Vision, really.”
For another, otherwise pro-Nouse student, the racism story was yet more evidence of the paper’s position on the majority of campus issues: “It does seem to have an anti-University stance. Although it tries to be serious, it gets carried away, and sometimes you do get these screaming headlines, like ‘are we all racist?’” Interesting, I thought. Nouse is believed – by one person, at least – to be prejudiced in its reporting of events involving the University administration. Another conversation I had went further. If Nouse had a defining statement, I was told, it would be this: a serious, wants-to-be-broadsheet newspaper (evidently there’s some truth in that), turning its nose up at the brashness of its tabloid rival, Vision, and sniffing at any mention of the establishment.
The opinions of these two forthright readers reminded me of one of our most outspoken critics, who also objected to what he saw as Nouse having an agenda. One thing the aforementioned OTC story did bring to light was the dissatisfaction of many right-wing factions of campus with what said critic termed the paper’s “liberal-left” slant. In that instance, there was little need to explain ourselves: a smudged photocopy of the first ever edition of this paper clearly states its aims, one of which is to be ‘progressive’. However, when it comes to students holding the University to account, the campus media is one of a select few mediums that allow them to effectively do so.
It seems that many of you realise this. The front page best-remembered from this year by most people I talked to was the one displaying our open letter to Vice-Chancellor Brian Cantor, signed by academics, staff, students and alumni, demanding that management ‘Bring back our porters’. Where YUSU have failed to mobilise students in support of a particular cause, the student body is thankful that the media has taken the lead: “One of YUSU’s problems at the moment is that they’re not very good at actually reaching people with a message and rallying people to a cause,” said one active campaigner on campus. “That’s why I really welcomed the issue with the porters’ campaign… I thought at long last it was an expression of student opinion; before that, no-one had stood up and said, ‘That’s not good enough.’”
Saying ‘do better’. Holding people to account. It’s what we like to think is part of our job as campus hacks – and it’s what we hope that you, our readers, will say to us. And you do, whether you’re part of a JCR or society demanding space to publicise your events or applaud achievements or whether you’re discussing the latest issue over coffee in Vanbrugh debating its merits and deriding its mistakes. We love it – and we want you to continue. Otherwise, my spies will be on hand to report back.