Putting old guard into Guardian Student Media

The Guardian Student Media Awards.

The Oscars of university media.

The pièce de résistance of student journalism.

Last week, the 2010 nominations were announced to widespread excitement ahead of the ceremony in November. But, once again, they demonstrated how they are an inherently flawed means of celebrating student media.

Student Media Awards

A large part of the problem with the Guardian Student Media Awards (GSMA) is that they are entirely predictable. It’s possible to guess, before the nominations are announced, that certain names are likely to appear – the likes of Cherwell and the Oxford Student at Oxford, York Vision and Nouse at York and often Gair Rhydd of Cardiff.

And history suggests that not only do certain universities get nominated more but actually they win the awards too – York won 7 in 2007 whilst Oxbridge cleaned up in 2009, winning 6 of 14 awards. This year threatens to be no different, with York and Oxford monopolising the nominations, particularly in the Reporter of the Year category, where two Oxford students (albeit from different publications) and two York students dominate.

The year-on-year nomination of certain student papers and magazines sends out a message that the awards are an elitist and inaccessible affair, which offer more opportunity to established student media publications. Now, we’re all for the best student media picking up awards and would never want nominations to be spread out for the sake of it but can we really assume that Oxford and York produce consistently high quality every year?

The nature of student media is that quality fluctuates according to those working on a publication at any given time, so how can it be possible that certain papers retain a permanent place on the student media pedestal? Their ever-present appearance breeds the sense that the awards are just some sort of old boys brigade in which the usual suspects are given grace and invited to the glitzy autumn do without more than a thought.

In their current form, the GSMA only provide a snapshot of the student media landscape.

The other issue with the GSMA is that the structure of the awards themselves fail to do justice to the idea of student media, as if the Guardian have failed to understand or somehow forgotten the way student media works – that there is often a high turnover of students in certain years which can cause a publication’s quality to dip and falter. Despite this widespread fact, awards for improvement over the course of a year or two years (although admittedly tough to track) are simply not on the Guardian’s agenda. And that’s not forgetting that the judging of the awards takes place in July, when content is at a premium and part-time reporters are at home taking a well-deserved break.


Even with the change in structure that has occurred this year – bringing categories down from fourteen to just six – the awards still do not change because of the varied means in the way publications are run. It’s hard, verging on impossible, to properly judge between Student Direct: Mancunion (which covers the universities of Manchester, Salford and Bolton with a sabbatical editor whose full-time job it is to produce the paper weekly in print) and fellow 2010 Best Publication nominee The Alligator (which bills itself as a ‘digital information network’ and has no print run and no paid editorial team). It’s like comparing chalk and cheese.

And that’s not to mention that all the judges are of a certain career path, very print and broadcast heavy, with no input from innovators or social media experts who could appreciate what a publication is doing away from its content.

“‘Ah, but that’s all just the bitter blogging of student journalist whose efforts weren’t rewarded by the Guardian!”, we hear you cry. An easy comment to make which, though none of us ever received a GSMA nomination, is not true. Rather, we think there must be hundreds of student journalists who feel that their efforts in the makeshift newsroom of their university newspaper have not been recognised. And, as one of the two major student media awards, the Guardian must recognise that.


About benwhitelaw
Ben is Communities Editor at The Times

37 Responses to Putting old guard into Guardian Student Media

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Putting old guard into Guardian Student Media « Wannabe Hacks -- Topsy.com

  2. The GSMA aren’t there to recognise effort, or applaud a good attempt in difficult circumstances. They are there to recognise the best student newspapers in the country. By their nature, they are elitist; calling them such is hardly an insult.

    York is always in there because it has two bloody good newspapers. Same goes for Oxford with Cherwell, Cambridge’s Varsity and Cardiff’s rag.

    What’s wrong with the judging taking place in July? As I understand it, you submit three pieces from any point in the previous. The fact that fuck all happens in July is irrelevant.

    “But can we really assume that Oxford and York produce consistently high quality every year?” Don’t assume it. Read them. Find out for yourself. They’ve always struck me as extremely professionally done and well put together (and no, I don’t go to either university).

    • The Intern says:

      I intend to put a proper comment in soon, however just as a point of information – I think the July comment is specifically about judging the websites. – A good website is a living thing – updated constantly, interactive and engaging. Whilst of course you can look back at the content and activites from the past year – very little actually goes on, on student websites after June because there are no students. So it seems silly to judge them then.

      • Fair enough re: websites.

      • Am I right in remembering that the Student Website category has an earlier entry date? Presumably so that judges can take a look at each website as it develops over a set time period…

      • The Intern says:

        They changed that this year. It was the case in the past.

      • I think it’s unfair to say that very little goes on in July for student websites – if a student website decides to “close down” over the summer, they’re missing a trick. New sabbs are settling in, the University still ticks over, so there is still scope for news/comment, and of course features is still there. Sure, lectures don’t happen, but people are still around over the summer in Uni cities – particularly postgraduates, so having judging after the end of term isn’t necessarily a bad thing – for good websites.

  3. Peter Demain says:

    This initiative is the journalistic equivalent of a waning Roman Empire offering prizes to the ‘strongest Visigoth, Vandal or Hun’.

    Shame you spent so long pontificating on the same point. Felt like a drab concerto eager to revisit its defining cadence. You’ve obviously the eloquence to be bolder; there’s no shortage of related criticisms of both this paper and other ‘quality’ ones. To ascend beyond the stock-and-trade moan develop an idea – how about a yearly prize fund for investigative journalism? Not merely for students, but all aspiring hacks under say…thirty?

    Right now there’s the Paul Foot award. Winners are mostly employed fixed-rate in national print media: I’m unconvinced of nepotism or passive bias though Alan Rusbridger was until 2008 on the judging panel.

    Freelancers don’t make much of a showing in investigative journalism nowadays and nor do the young. It’s a gamble; if you win, costs get covered and you gain renown. If not you’re out of pocket without much to show for it. The salaried can at least weather it as a ‘pet project’.

    Even so, a catch-all contest modeled on the Paul Foot one would be better than segregating an award for those in formal education to the exclusion of everybody else. Agreed?

    Pete, editor at Dirty Garnet.

  4. Catherine Wylie says:

    LOVE THIS. I agree with everything. It felt like I was reading my own mind. 🙂

    (Having #journalismstress so can’t muster any more views)

  5. Lobyouknowme says:

    I have grievances with the GSMAs but in completely the opposite direction. As someone who used to read a great deal of student media, the papers (other than Varsity, Cherwell, York lot, perhaps Exepose) just simply aren’t very good, and sometimes after doing research on some of the people nominated who aren’t from these unis you do think ‘wtf?’

    The MAIN problem is the nomination of newspapers with either paid staff or those with a sabb at the helm.

    After the reduction in the number of awards after Sky withdrew funding due to a petty war of words the nomination criteria basically became a joke. For example ‘writer of the year’ – features, sports, comment all in the same category…

  6. It’s an interestng debate, one which you may remember myself and Andy Halls having.

    I have no doubt that the quality of newspapers is high at said institutions, apart from York Vision, whose consistent nominations are fairly perplexing.

    What I and others (who’ve voiced their views over twitter) are also concerned about is the inflexibility of the awards. ‘Best Writer’ is a fairly catch all category, meaning that anything from comment, features and investiagative journalism to reviews could be published. You aren’t comparing like for like, so it’s impossible to judge properly.

    At the end of the day, it is just a set of awards. It’s still not going to prove your aptitude more than work experience or setting up your own enterprise (disclosure, I run a hyperlocal website). If someone really thinks that winning a student media award means they’re in another league to other student journalists, they’re deluded and frankly not worth bothering with.

    Then again, maybe I’m just bitter.

  7. Not sure I agree with much here. It seems like you’re trying to suggest that the same names recur because the judges are biased towards them. I think it’s true that some of the same names tend to crop up in the GSMs, and perhaps that is, as you suggest, partly because a publication’s reputation precedes it. But there have been, over the years, a few names you’ve omitted – Sheffield Steel, Felix (Imperial) and the Warwick Boar – that have occasionally gathered a significant number of nominations and awards, but then faded away. Leeds Student, which won Newspaper of the Year last year, hasn’t won since 1999! My opinion of it is that only a few papers/sites seem to possess year-on-year consistency. Gair Rhydd rightly swept the board in 2004/5, but since then we were hardly nominated at all until 2009.

    What really matters are resources and restrictions. Some papers have a lot of support. Some have hardly any. Some papers have to be signed off by the president of their Union. Some have Union staff in their offices. Some still have no office at all. The best – and most consistent – student papers tend to be the ones with the most resources (the Varsity has its own Trust – how many papers can lay claim to that?) – but that’s hardly the Guardian’s fault. And it’s not something they can realistically take into account either.

    I don’t really share your concern about the different conditions under which papers have to operate. Every student paper has to cover a differently sized university, often with satellite campuses and varying distribution of students. You find your way around it.

    I think a more pressing concern for the awards, actually, are the stories that student newspapers choose not to print, and how much they are in the pocket of their Union/University – something that it is of course impossible for a judge to gauge. At gair rhydd there has (usually) been a culture of fierce editorial independence from the Union and University, whereas I know for a fact that this is not the case at other student newspapers. It can be rare to see stories that really scrutinise college or Union decisions, for instance, or directly criticise the actions of sabbatical officers. In fact, I understand that one of the reasons for the death of Sheffield Steel a few years ago (when it was a fantastic tabloid) was that it was upsetting its Union too much. I think that independence is actually extremely important, but it is of course something that no Guardian judge is in a position to assess.

    But apart from any of that, what really matters in student journalism is surely the impact it has on the readership. Way too many papers seem to focus on awards – how many student papers ape the Guardian? Maybe you’re not getting recognised at the awards, but if you’re providing an effective and engaging resource for students, you’ll get noticed soon enough – like Josh Halliday whose SR2 blog played a part in securing him a job at the Guardian.

  8. …Although I totally agree that having fewer categories is a very bad thing!

  9. Henry Foy says:

    Perhaps strong student newspapers stay strong because those hoping to start a journalism career while at University choose to study at Universities with a reputation for good student media.

    A lot has to be said for student unions that give resources and time to cultivate good student media, and allow freedom of expression (read: allow themselves to be attacked by their own paper). Thus good student unions will consistently support good student newspapers.

    I think that student rags with sabbatical editors have a tendency to become pretty stale and boring because the editor is undoubtedly pally with the Union and there’s a disconnect between volunteer reporters and a paid Editor. See Scan at Lancaster, or a handful of others as examples.

    York’s papers do really well because everyone that works for them is essentially putting their degree at risk, working 40 hours a week sometimes for nothing – except the pleasure of producing the best edition they can. There’s also a great team aspect on both papers, and certainly, the fact they are in competition keeps standards as high as possible.

    GSMA are important – they give papers something to work towards, and a pat on the back is always nice. But they need funding and support to get back to a much bigger range of categories, or could just shrivel and die in a few years. However, they don’t guarantee a job, the prizes are actually very expensive for anyone who doesn’t live in London, and employers are far more likely to appreciate 6 weeks on the Scunthorpe Echo than a nice bit of carved glass with your name on it.

    Yes, some very hard-working and talented student hacks don’t win anything. But then again, lots of talented and hard-working graduates don’t get to sit on a news desk to earn a living. We chose a cruel profession, so suck it up.

    And, before anyone pipes up to have a pop, yes I went to York, was Editor of Nouse, and saw the paper win one of these awards. Bite me.

  10. I too voiced my opinion over Twitter, but I’ve decided to get in on the act here.

    The Media Awards are in essence a good idea, and often provide top journalists with a much-needed leg up into a career in an increasingly competitive jobs market. Recent winners have shown this – Patrick Kingsley, last year’s winner of the solo award, has written some stirling stuff so far.

    However, as the categories are consolidated, it is becoming a lot more tenuous. Seguing online and print into one category is grossly misleading – putting an online venture by one or two enterprising students on a par with established papers (which juggle a huge number of contributors with wildly varying skill and enthusiasm levels) is fair on neither party.

    On the writing front, too, it is far too difficult to compare the craft of, say, and investigative journalist with a critic. For every aspiring Fitch or Gourevitch, there’s a burgeoning Charlie Brooker – and you can’t sensibly suggest that those two should be judged in the same category, can you?

    • The Intern says:

      Oli, the consolidation point is one that really bugged me this year when submitting – I was told that it meant a website and paper from the same publication would be competing against each other. It is a diservice to those that are online only ventures and to those that manage to control both a sucessful print and online presence.

    • Peter Demain says:

      Henry Hoi-polloi said: Yes, some very hard-working and talented student hacks don’t win anything. But then again, lots of talented and hard-working graduates don’t get to sit on a news desk to earn a living. We chose a cruel profession, so suck it up.

      You make it sound as if desk journalism is a desirable end! Have you heard about how abysmal working in the prevailing cheap n’ easy orthodoxy of PA wire vigil is? For one thing the money isn’t good and is declining, for another you sit at a desk regurgitating stuff from the wire. Hey, The Independent isn’t soft; they’re getting youngsters in paying the lot of them a wing and a prayer (or be it cinema visit) for the ‘privilege’ of work experience (sources: Private Eye, Flat Earth News).

      I wouldn’t work in an office for double the going salary they presently offer to those lucky graduates. It’s called churnalism: Soul-destroying, repetitive, uninventive news factory PR-infused crap: if you think you’ve talent I’d suggest avoiding it as within a year you’re likely to lack any since your passion and interest has been smothered under the drudge that is British newspaper journalism in 2010.

      But hey Mr. Hoi-Polloi, if you aspire to or are already in that sort of job more power to your misinformed self! I take a third of what they pay a year and do the real thing thanks.

      Pete, editor at Dirty Garnet.

      • Henry Foy says:

        Hey Peter. Like what you did with my surname. Very clever.

        I wasn’t saying desks are a desired end. For most grads though, they are the only place to start, and I don’t know many people struggling to find a job in the industry that would turn one down.

        As to your point, I agree. Thanks for the explainer – I work for Reuters in Delhi so have a pretty good grasp of how the wire works.

        Best of luck doing the real thing.

      • Ben says:

        With the proof of your talent so abundantly evident in the quality and readability of the Dirty Garnet, I don’t think you’re going to have to worry too much about getting offers from PA or the like, Peter.

        A lot of young people work very hard to get their foot in the door, and like it or not, for many it is something to aspire to regardless of the hollowing out that journalism has received. As Henry said earlier, quality student media breeds quality student media, and at places like York or Oxford that regularly win awards there’s a high bar that has to be met for those getting involved. That high standard has been there for decades. Where there’s less competition, or excessive SU involvement that dictates coverage, I suspect that bar is set a lot lower. You can only beat what’s been set in front of you.

      • Peter Demain says:

        Glad what I did gained the first mention in your post; it took far more effort than the rest of it.

        Hoi-Polloi said: For most grads though, they are the only place to start

        Oh? I’d love some cites as to how your catch-all applies to ‘most’! Sources?

        I do know that nowadays in the age of as much as possible by as few as possible as cheap as possible that the desk is the end of print media. You might get ‘promoted’, but you’ll hardly ever go outside with a pad, a camera, and a mic to gather news.

        That’s the real thing – what happened more prior to the corporate buyouts. Not recycling the likes of Reuters, Press Association, Associated Press with the odd ‘exclusive’ that isn’t really an exclusive. Yes; that’s how it ‘works’ – except it doesn’t really, does it? PA and the tabloids, indeed print media as a whole, devoted more column inches to one person’s illness and subsequent death (Jade Goody) than 250,000 deaths (January 2010 Haiti earthquake).

        Something’s going wrong. That’s why I don’t buy into the bargain – because it’s bunk. You lot did a great job at replacing the laid-off freelancers though – I feel gratefully unpatronized in receiving a wish of luck from a wire journo!

        Pete, editor at Dirty Garnet.

  11. Jamie Thunder says:

    One problem is just regularity of output – gair rhydd’s weekly, others are fortnightly or even more limited. That affects the number of issues you have to choose from (although you could argue more time should mean better output!).

    The different circumstances of student papers – Sabb or non-Sabb editor, resources, print run etc. – make it hard to judge. But to say it’s just elitist isn’t fair.

    As for “the nature of student media is that quality fluctuates according to those working on a publication at any given time, so how can it be possible that certain papers retain a permanent place on the student media pedestal?”, it misses the fact that a lot of section editors will have a position in Year 2 then Year 3, so bring that experience with them once the Year 3s leave. It’s not just a fresh batch a year.

    • Simon Lucey says:

      I agree with Jamie. Certain Universities have created a culture of strong student media. Once it becomes a central focus of the Students’ Union it is not surprising that it attracts talented people towards it. As well as this they can learn from the good work of previous years.

      This is why Oxford, York and to some extent Cambridge are pioneering student media at the moment.

  12. York Nouse grad says:

    On whether York churns out quality every year, consider this: Of those who graduated in the last three years from York, and who worked for Nouse, there are currently employees at the following places:

    Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail, Reuters, Indy, and the FT.

    I think the evidence speaks for itself.

    • There’s no doubt Nouse is a great paper, and York is a great Uni. I’d like to see how many of those did later postgrads…

  13. The New Yorker says:

    Section edited and created for Newcastle University’s Courier for two years. It has been integral to my university life experience and after applying to three categories in 2009 I didn’t even apply for GSMA this year. I didn’t think any of the categories were particularly appropriate for what I worked hard for and specialised in (the culture section) and I was fairly disenchanted with them being the only real award system for student media.
    I’m not the type of person who gives up easily – anyone who is shouldn’t embark on being a journalist – but I am thoroughly realistic and have been fairly bemused by previous winners. The (un)spoken bitchiness and competition between the leading student papers is fairly intolerable during the academic year – to expect us to indulge in it even further when finals are approaching, only to know that you probably won’t get a look in – is not exactly appealing.
    Furthermore, when the award would be a cash prize that would be eaten up by the work experience placement amongst dozens of other unpaid, educated, keen graduates at the Guardian? Are we seriously all fighting over this?

  14. Pingback: The Guardian Student Media Awards – another sign of elitism? « Rosie Taylor

  15. rosietaylor says:

    Really interesting debate going on here. I’ve made my point here http://bit.ly/9dHjkB

    (not just blog-plugging I promise, had to put the picture in for it to make sense!)

  16. Alex says:

    Brief introduction: former York newspaper editor, recent City Newspaper grad, current national newspaper trainee. Gold and silver medals at the Guardian awards

    Article is a load of tosh but has promoted a good debate. Successful as a blog post, but I’m unlikely to return to the blog ever again and I’m sure most respondents feel the same way.

    The Guardian does not have much spare money to throw around so we should be thankful that they’ve retained the SMAs – as Henry said above, they’re a nice thing to aim for. Yes, it’s a shame that there’s no longer a division between small outfits and massive ones, or weekly newspapers and termly publications, but it is what it is. And it’s better than nothing.

    On the (pathetic) point of predictablility, would you have guessed that The Alligator or Mancunion would be on this year’s shortlist?

    On the point of elitism, how do you explain York’s performance over the past ten years? Is the media run by a load of massively influential York graduates that I’ve not been told about? How many York graduates are on the judging panel?

    Journalism is full of jaded, bitter old hacks, which is a godsend for the enthusiastic, hungry students at places like City, or slaving away on their undergraduate newspapers looking to break into the industry. I’m not sure where the jaded, bitter new graduates are going to fit in.

    • Peter Demain says:

      Alex said: The Guardian does not have much spare money to throw around

      Indeed. Check out how much the editor in chief, and GMG top brass get in yearly salary and benefits: Fleet Street’s fat cats never had it so good. I’d link the analysis from Dirty Garnet but the info is readily available from a quick Google search. You could trim 10% off their collective pay packets and finance not one, but a bunch of awards or initiatives to get young, enthused hacks doing great work.

      The profession is corrupt. If you enter a newspaper office after graduating you’ll be used up, cynical and sapped of any promise you displayed at graduation.


  17. Jennie Agg says:

    Good idea for an article, shame about the woeful execution.

    A couple of factual corrections first – Student Direct: Mancunion does not cover Manchester, Salford and Bolton, Student Direct: Mancunion (now just The Mancunion) is the name of the Manchester-specific edition. Student Direct had two other editions in Salford and Bolton that are distinct from the Mancunion. Likewise, to echo some of the other comments on here, Student Direct: Mancunion hasn’t been nominated for at least five years and I don’t think it has won since the 80s, so really the point here about predicability is pretty weak.

    The sad thing, not just about the original post but about all the comments below it too, is how quick wannabe hacks are to put the boot into the journalistic efforts of other students. Of course as denizens and alumni of student newsrooms we are going to be protective of the set-ups peculiar to our institutions, but there’s still no need for all the virtual bitch-slapping that goes on.

    Yes, as editor of Student Direct: Mancunion I was paid a wage (although not a living one, if you must know…) as are many other stoodent eds dotted around the country. I can see and even understand the jealousy this might prompt from places where media teams are entirely student-led, but the flipside of this is that non-sabb staffed publications (with the notable exceptions of the oxbridge papers) tend not to publish as frequently. We could debate for years the relative advantages of different governance structures for student media- but why in heck would you want to when you could simply be getting on with it?

    It should go without saying that the GSMAs are hardly a perfect test of talent or endeavour (how could they ever be?) but they’re a start and I cannot get my head around why anyone would want to knock the achievement of other aspiring journos. The author here tries to nip any accusations of sour grapes in the bud, but his baffling logic and poor research (even wikipedia would have given a better picture esp. regarding predicability: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guardian_Student_Media_Award ) make it hard to draw any other conclusion.

    And what’s really, catastrophically depressing is that there’s no mention at all in the original article of the scrapping of cash prizes this year leaving behind just the extended periods of work experience (cue old joke: First prize – one week’s work exp at the Guardian, Second prize – TWO weeks’ work exp at the guardian…). If ever there was a reason to question the ‘old guard’ of the GSMAs this would be it, as effectively the prizes now assume a level of wealth (not to mention a London postcode) that is somewhate at odds with a left-wing organisation. Talk about burying your story in parag 16…

  18. The Guardian Awards have lots of faults, but this article is simplistic and bitter. Also, I think picking on York Vision is the worst possible example, as a few facts will show.

    It is true that the loss of funds has led to some strange categories being created and it is certainly a valid point to make that they are now very hard to judge, e.g. ‘Publication of the Year’ puts newspapers against magazines and websites, making it hard to compare. (Incidentally, I am told that they lost the funding after Alan Rusbridger slagged off Murdoch, causing Sky News pulling out of the deal.)

    It is also true that it is far easier for some newspapers to produce good publications than it is for others. For instance, Varsity, Forge Press, Leeds Student, Felix and Gair Rhydd all have PAID members of staff (mostly full-time business managers or managing editors). However, York Vision and Nouse are entirely run by students in their spare time. Similarly, some papers have much, much bigger incomes than others. Varsity has an income of c. £80,000 a year; York Vision gets c.£9,000 (most of which is raised by students on the editorial team.) It is annoying for those of us who work for no pay and sacrifice our degrees for the sake of journalism, to be judged against people doing it on a grand budget with full time staff. Student awards should be for real students.

    It is very common amongst many of the ‘leading’ student newspapers to appoint new people with job application forms, interviews and the like. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this and it is certainly a good way of ensuring some consistency of quality, rather than constantly fluctuating like you claim. However, once again, York’s papers, Vision and Nouse, do not operate like this. Instead, they both hold elections which any student can stand in. The result is an inclusive and democratic environment which not only allows the best people to get to the top, but also allows input from people who just want to give it a go. So why don’t we fluctuate? Well, we do a bit, but we usually have such a dedicated, hard-working team of people that we are able to pretty much keep the standard up.

    I think it is important to realise that the papers that are nominated every year ARE very good. I’ve heard stories of people doing journalism BAs where they say they can barely cobble together a newspaper, let alone a good one. York has a ton of people who are interested and dedicated. For many, student media is a reason they choose to come to York in the first place. It is precisely because of our good reputation that makes us keep the high standards up. Editors want to match their predecessors. They want to match the scoops and the awards. When I started in the News section I was shown the ropes by people who had put their whole university life into it and had got some really amazing scoops, and I felt compelled to match them. Good scoops are something you don’t often see in a lot of student papers. If Vision nominations perplex you (Joseph Stashko) then perhaps consider the big scoops that we get and the high-profile interviews. And scoops are something anyone can do, wherever you are. Vision and Nouse are filled almost entirely with exclusive stories, many of which take days, weeks, maybe months of investigations.

    Another thing which makes it easier for some papers to get nominated than others is the fact that some papers (no names) choose their 3 editions that they plan to send off before they even go to print so that they can tailor them to suit. I’m not sure how much this is done, and Vision certainly never does this, but I know that this happens at least a little bit in some papers.

    So yes, the GSMAs do have their flaws, without a doubt. There are questions to be thrown at the Guardian, certainly when it comes to newspaper funding and the role of full-time staff. But: (a) don’t kid yourself that these papers aren’t good. (b) there are many reasons other than favouritism why they are good (I think feeling the need to maintain the papers’ reputation is a big one). (c) don’t knock York Vision.

    • Thanks for the hefty response. I still am hanging on to my assertion about the perplexing nature of Vision nominations, though with slightly less conviction than before. My reasoning being that I haven’t seen anything on Vision that’s a true cut above, putting it in the ‘top 5’ publications in the country. That’s not to say it’s a bad newspaper, but from scanning the website every couple of weeks I didn’t see anything which really leapt out of me as a shining example of brilliance. Feel free to link me to stuff which will blow this opinion to smithereens 🙂

      What I do agree with and would like to expand upon is the content of your third paragraph, that of funding. This is a crucial and salient point, because it shows that when matching up various student media outlets, one isn’t really comparing like for like. If one university gets ten times that of another in helping fund student media, it’s like comparing a local newspaper to a national; they’re just not going to be able to compete.

      I started this kind of debate a fortnight ago with a fellow student of mine, where I argued that students at red brick universities arrived with more ambition and drive than those at new universities. That coupled with a more visible student media presence on red brick campuses generally means that they’re in a better position to push forward and produce some top quality journalism. That doesn’t excuse individual writing motivation and skill, but it goes some way to showing how the most established universities can be said to be a few rungs up before any pen is put to paper.

      I’m a comment editor at my student newspaper, but the main of my efforts is directed towards the hyperlocal website that I run. That produces daily articles about the local area, and we’ve delivered several scoops that’ve beaten both the local and regional press. ‘Doing it for myself’ actually turned out to be a far better proposition than battling with the bureaucracy of a union owned newspaper whose funding is constantly directed towards drinks promotions, rather than fostering a newspaper at the university which hosts the oldest journalism course in the UK. I think that’s sad because working as part of a larger team is no doubt a lot better because of the opportunities provided by collaboration.

      My comment seems to have as ever, deteriorated into a garbled mess, but I hope you understand the main thrust of my argument…

  19. The Student says:

    Firstly, thanks to all of you who took the time to comment on the blog, it’s very interesting to have everyones input. WH was intended as a place to discuss issues about journalism so we’re glad that that has happened in this case. Obviously it’s impossible to reply to everyone but it seems appropriate to respond to a few points people have made.

    Many have picked up on the point about predictability, citing The Mancunion and The Alligator nominations this year and Leeds winning Publication of the Year last year as evidence against the argument. What I would say is that, whilst I understand that the GSMA’s don’t nominate the EXACT same publications every year, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that publications from Oxford and York are a recurring theme at the GSMA. (There has been at least one publication (sometimes two) from each of Oxford and York that has been nominated for an award since 2004).

    Obviously there is a reason for that (‘which I stressed when I said ‘we’re all for the best student media picking up awards and would never want nominations to be spread out for the sake of it’). However, and this relates to the elitist aspect, what I tried to say was that, in consistently nominating certain papers, the Guardian have given the awards a somewhat elitist feel (ie an advocacy of a certain few)

    Many comments have said ‘they’re awards, they’re going to be elitist’ and it’s a valid point but I think it is possible to do more with the GSMAs than just congratulate those we know are already good (whether this is via different categories of awards or at least nominations for less established papers is probably for another time). And if anyone got to the end of the article, it’s clear that my ‘beef’ is actually with towards the Guardian itself (‘And, as one of the two major student media awards, the Guardian must recognise that’) rather than with those who win the awards.

    In a sense, and perhaps what I didn’t put very subtly, was that I believe the Guardian’s means of judging the award is flawed. I wasn’t disagreeing that York Vision and Cherwell don’t deserve their nominations (although it would be useful to find out what, whether scoops, design or anything else, makes them worthy of a nomination) but merely calling for some affirmative action to commend those student publications which aren’t from established papers which have resources or a have paid editorial team (ie whatever it is that contributes to making them a force). That way the awards don’t seem so privileged and student media can become more healthy as a whole.

    [Apologies for grouping together The Mancunion with the other Student Direct papers; I didn’t realise they were distinct from one another, partly because the content on the two sites (Mancunion/Salford) is the same and I’m not able to get a paper copy. Apologies once again]

    NB: Wannabe Hacks do not tolerate personal or offensive comments made on the site. The site is a place to debate journalism and topics surrounding journalism and will not tolerate insults of any kind. We reserve the right to not use comments submitted on the WH site

    • So, basically, what you’re saying is that papers that are consistently excellent should miss out because other papers should be allowed to have a go? All that’ll achieve is to devalue the GSMAs

      Also, I’m pondering what awards you’re referring to when you say there’s only one other major student media award, I can think of at least 3 more: the media section of the NUS Awards, the SRAs and the NaSTA awards – unless you actually meant “student press awards”

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