Why The Tab isn’t trash journalism

The musings of a departing Tab Editor


As I come to the end of my time as editor of The Tab* I often muse about how I ended up in this position. And why I ended up championing this yellow ship as opposed to either of our blue competitors. I tend to say I "fell into" The Tab as a fresher, that it was the only one I knew anything about and therefore was the one which I applied to.

But why are you writing this? I hear you grumble. You're a nostalgic editor on her way out – we can guess that you love The Tab! Well, I want to fight The Tab's corner one last time, like I have had to for the last year and a half.

Because people at this university do love to hate The Tab. I've had University News Centre staff send me patronising and dismissive emails addressed to my personal crsid; members of the ADC, CUCA, CULC, CUSU, RAG, and countless individuals from across the university have messed me about, or refuse to engage with me after they found out that I wrote for The Tab, instead of Varsity; and don't get me started on the angry tirades I've been at the receiving end of everywhere from Wednesday Cindies to Glitterbomb. And whilst you're all entitled to your opinion, I just have a bit to say about the difference between not liking our content and dismissing an entire platform because of pre-conceived ideas you have about "good journalism".

Let's start on the micro-scale of The Cambridge Tab with the question: what's the problem with student journalism not keeping to stringent formal rules? The Cambridge Tab, like all other student newspapers, is run for free by students who also have degrees and do whatever else we all manage to fill our time with. It's neither paid nor our full-time job, it is at the end of the day for fun. And why would I want to finish a day of writing an academic essay by writing an opinion piece in a kind of prose that I could submit to my supervisor? I mean maybe that's how some people roll but that most certainly isn't for me.

When I'm doing this "journalism" it's nice because I get to use memes, and Essex-isms, and references that everyone appreciates and understands but could not be used in academic writing, or indeed serious newspaper such as The Guardian. It makes the process more enjoyable for myself and I suspect more engaging and enjoyable for the reader. After all, I remember the naughty things Theresa has done in wheat fields far more than I can remember any in-depth analysis I read about her election.

Does informally written news have less value than something more formal? Definitely not. Surely if it's accurate and well-researched, it doesn't matter that it throws about some colloquialisms and collages.

The problem is that our society links informal journalism with fake news and misleading headlines. It's shackled up with the power of right-wing media and seen as something used to misinform and influence the politics of everyday people, who are then themselves in turn dismissed for wanting to read these papers and accept those views in the first place.

But informal journalism does not have to be misleading or misinformed. It can be nuanced and accurate. After all, complex language and lists of statistics don't make a newspaper unbiased – there are examples on the left and right of that. So, it seems bizarre that we hold such elitist ideas about what constitutes "good" and therefore "worthwhile" journalism. Of course, no news, formal or not, is unbiased.

My experiences at The Tab have left me with the belief that there is a pressing need for people, especially the middle class left, to take informal journalism seriously. I'm proud that I've edited The Cambridge Tab and not TCS or Varsity. I like that at The Tab we put out stories which are easy to read and fun but also accurate and relevant. We are not perfect and in the words of Hannah Montana herself – everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days! However, I feel that within an ever more volatile news climate where fake information is thrown about and sensationalised far quicker and easier than before, having accurate but also accessible journalism is crucial.

So, next time you want to be arse-y to The Tab because we just-aren't-Varsity maybe bite that tongue and have a ponder as to why that is and where that feeling's come from. We may not be affiliated with the university and may not have the biggest team, we may love to throw about best bums and BNOC lists and college comparisons, but we need to be taken more seriously. And it's been my absolute pleasure to stand on this soapbox in the corner and explain to you why I believe in the strength of trash journalism!

(I'd say feel free to disagree but hey, you've just read nearly 1,000 words of The Tab so it can't be that awful x)

*It was important to clarify this early on as this article is delightfully biased. But I hope you got something from it none the less.