Student Journalism: What’s the point?
A takedown of Cambridge’s clogged student paper scene
Cambridge is awash with student papers. Most ordinary universities will have a local (generally inactive) Tab branch, some moribund paper with 3 overly enthusiastic journos single-handedly sustaining it and maybe a few bloggers-but that's it. Cambridge, on the other hand, is riddled with them. Whether it's the world's best student paper, the Tab (but you knew that already), the wanky yet charming musings of Varsity or The Cambridge Student (?) – our uni has a vast array of student media.
However, what's the point? Do we, as little more than trumped up teenagers pretending we've entered the real world, really have anything interesting to say? Or is the endless stream of near-identical articles spouted by all three of Cambridge's recognisable paper brands nothing more than an ego boost to students eager to vent at a captive audience? Let's break it down in order of relevancy from pointless papers to Pulitzer worthy purveyors of print…
The Cambridge Student
I'll start out nice and admit that TCS does have some positives. Their content is actually decent with some well thought-out articles, it's generally quite readable and unlike some Varsity articles rarely appears as if it's been assaulted with a thesaurus.
However, the brand itself is utterly boring. The name alone elicits hardly any attention or reaction, the logo which still appears on the website (though credit to the new Facebook cover image which is pretty aesthetic) epitomises meh and their outreach is dwarfed by that of Varsity and the Tab. To make matters worse it's hard to determine what vibe they're aiming for-currently it just seems to be a shit Varsity with basically the same articles in a washed-out version of Varsity's colour scheme. Their recent photo-op of the new editorial team was a step in the right direction, but currently they're the journalistic equivalent of vanilla.
To many, this is the pinnacle of Cambridge's student journo scene. A paper with a pedigree, numerous awards and famous past writers. The branding oozes professionalism, going as far as to regularly issue print editions which just enhance the slickness of Varsity. To top it all off, Varsity even has a sub-brand with an easier tone and some pieces that are actually cracking. The fact that they've even nicked the Guardian's font just encapsulates their vibe. But none of this makes up for the sheer pretentious noncery of some of their articles. Could anything be more boring than a jumped up HSPSer from Surrey, on his third summer internship with an MP, writing about his own personal super plan for peace in the middle east?
Articles which could be 600 word pleasant reads are instead transformed into gargantuan word-salads, and things as mundane as opinion pieces on the theatre scene become Wikipedia entries. To sum up Varsity in a word: sanctimonious. It's blatantly obvious Varsity exists as an entrepôt for aspiring Guardianistas, and that's fine, everyone needs to start somewhere. But it does get tiresome having to endure essays on the Venezuelan revolution when you're just looking for a quick read, save it for the supos lads.
The Tab is undoubtedly the success story of Cambridge's journalism scene. Our brand is that good we've been rolled out across the country, and even the world (LET'S NOT MENTION MURDOCH), gloriously irreverent, yet with some high quality articles which don't feel quite as forced as Varsity's pieces.
Granted, at times we can be click-baity, some of our features articles can be ridiculous and our less partisan approach to journalism means more Tories get published here than on Varsity, but that doesn't make us any less brilliant. Without the Tab how else would you be able to find out which Game of Thrones character is your college? Read interesting opinion pieces without the forced essay-style tone that many of Varsity's articles do? Glance upon the best bums of Cambridge? Or even tag your friend in clubbers of the week? The Tab is a precious institution and with nearly double the Facebook likes of Varsity, long may our glorious reign continue.
I think it'd be fair to say that most student journalists, including non-Cambridge ones, have little of import to say. Student journalism, whilst it can have some interesting pieces and be very entertaining, is nonetheless essentially just a means for aspiring journalists to build a portfolio when looking for work as a real-life hack post uni. Weird as it seems, writing about wavey garms and homosexual anxiety probably will help you out in the real world after graduating.
However, just because we write without purpose, it doesn't mean you should stop reading our stuff. Every click, every share, every like/love/angry react and every comment you make is balm for our souls. Knowing people are reading, appreciating and critiquing your work does actually feel pretty fab.
So don't stop, keep reading and indulge our egos!