The London Student closed its doors on 8 July. Recognised as the biggest student publication in Europe, the University of London's award-winning paper was designed to meet the needs of 120,000 people across its campuses. Refused a £54,000 cash injection to keep it alive, the London Student said goodbye to a 35-year history of holding its Union and University to account. A scary footnote in the university's budget, the publication became subject to a complicated financial squeeze, denying students a voice through an austerity measure that so many have failed to understand.
It can be difficult to describe how invaluable student media to even the most avid newspaper reader. The unique mechanics of each university make it hard for one student to understand how their own publication works, never mind the operations of another. It is with this lack of uniformity that so many University establishments can get away with silencing their media channels. As most student publications run on a budget provided by the Union, they are placed under unpredictable measures of financial uncertainty. Consequently plagued by restrictive measures that inhibit their abilities to write stories, accrue advertising revenue and even the distribution of their print run, student publications require an incredibly understanding University and Union that will allow the 'risk' of being held to account.
In the most recent NUS Amnesty Student Media Summit meeting, Editors from across the country gathered to share their stories of struggle in the face of budgeting and threats to their freedom of expression. Incidents in which sabbatical officers controlled the content of the newspapers at hand were shared, with officers in several cases interrupting writer's meetings to ban stories from publication, and in some incidents, deciding to write the news themselves. Some outlets are at risk of permanently damaging their reputation due to these events, as the division between the media and the Union has become less and less apparent.
I am in a more fortunate position than most. Although we at Leeds Student have been subject to financial strain over recent months, I am an elected, paid Editor, able to commit to ensuring that our paper is the best it can possibly be on a full-time basis. Although 150 Universities exist in the United Kingdom, approximately only eleven hold paid positions for Editors. In consequence, many full-time students are struggling to juggle the responsibilities of editorial work alongside their degree, despite their talent and commitment to the cause.
Whilst student publications are being squeezed at all angles and the reputation of the journalism industry is in dispute, the opportunities that student media gives to aspiring journalists are nothing short of invaluable and must be recognised. Paul Dacre, Jay Rayner and Nicholas Witchell are just a few of the household names that have used Leeds Student as a training ground for their next editorial feats. Although I struggle to envisage what I am doing next week, I am confident that the 50 members of my editorial team next year have the ability to contribute fantastic work to the UK media industry in the future. I am assured that if my publication alone operates with the help of such dedicated individuals, it would be nothing short of astounding to consider the untapped potential that student media volunteers offer as a whole.
In order for a successful student media to operate, it is necessary for you to support it. In the midst of the financially-driven rhetoric of the Higher Education system, it is easy for dissenting voices to get lost. Not only is student media is not only designed to inform and entertain students, but it it serves as a constant reminder that the freedom of the press deserves to be an indispensable human right.