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Why There Must Be A Space For All Newspapers At City University

19/11/2016 13:42
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The disbelief, confusion and outrage trickled through my social media feed as Friday morning journalism classes began at City, University of London.

Incredulity ran like wildfire as myself and my classmates discovered that our own student union had decided that "there is no place for The Sun, Daily Mail or Express" on our campus.

And do you know what the most hilarious thing is about this ban? It is part of a policy to oppose social divisiveness.

There's definitely no denying that a large proportion of City's students scoff, gasp and roll their eyes at the content of certain newspapers. "Every time I see a copy of The Sun on a shelf in the newsagents, I make sure I cover it up with just about any other newspaper," my Magazine Journalism colleague Hebe Hatton tells me as we speculate over the decision.

However, that is not to say that each newspaper does not have value, regardless of its editorial content. It is certainly not the case that any one publication has more of a right to be sold, read or discussed on any university campus.

Perhaps the biggest irony in this situation is that City, University of London is home to one of the best journalism schools in the country. Having studied at City for two months, what I am absolutely sure of is its involvement with a range of media organisations, and its acceptance of students from all walks of life. There are students from over 160 countries studying at City.

It is as dangerous for City to ban these newspapers as it would be to promote their most extreme, sensational headlines. We should be concentrating on promoting unity and solidarity in the face of the divides that are appearing across societies all around the world.

In a world where there is so much hatred and division that a pussy-grabbing misogynist like Trump can be elected President of the United States, and where a vote for Brexit was seen by so many as a banishment of immigrants "back to their own country", we should be focussing on what unites us, not what views we would rather not bother ourselves with. These views exist, and banning the publication of them is a rather arrogant form of censorship, believing that one institution knows better about what the majority should be reading.

The Sun, for instance, has the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in the UK, with 1,672,217 copies being distributed daily. It's been accused of misogynistic content, as well as demonisation of racial minorities, but it represents a large cohort of the country and, to a certain extent, their views. These views may not be shared by City's Student Union, but they are views nonetheless.

How many hours have liberal-minded millenials spent exhausting ourselves trying to find some elusive middle ground on these views with various family members? Brexit, the refugee crisis, the US election. There is undeniably an exhaustive list of things to avoid discussing over the Christmas period, and it keeps getting longer.

But it's time we stopped avoiding these discussions. It's time we concentrated on opening the floor for debate, and fighting for the consensus and unity we have so clearly lost.

I'm not saying that City's Student Union doesn't have a responsibility to oppose "fascism and social divisiveness in the UK media", it absolutely does. We all do. But what we must do is debate. We must try to understand each other. We must not silence any one voice in the hopes that it'll go away if we ignore it long enough.

For the sake of good, responsible journalism and an open, communicative society, we must believe that there is a place for all newspapers and their views, and be free to debate and discuss even the most offensive stories. Perhaps then, we can create enough unity so that such divisiveness may one day not exist at all.

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