The Tab sits down with the Porters Log
‘You can make fun of union hacks without them confronting you’
At an undisclosed time, in an undisclosed coffee shop, I sat down to talk to the Head Porter of the Porter’s Log and one of their fresher writers.
The first bombshell of the interview came almost immediately when the fresher writer ordered a glass of milk instead of a coffee. This, of course, immediately prompted an intense journalistic investigation into the psychological complexities of that decision. Once I had recovered from that shock we began chatting.
Becoming a Porter
The Porter’s Log recruitment system is very unorthodox: the Head Porter described how he got spotted based on an article published in another Cambridge newspaper. This is pretty typical of the Porters’ Log, the Head Porter describes how they encourage writers to “recruit anyone they find funny.” The fresher writer’s recruitment story was even more interesting: he was recommended to the Porter’s Log based on an overly-satirical Tab application (interesting to note that you can be too funny for the Tab… I’m trying not to be offended that they let me in).
The Porter’s Job
The writing environment is “casual and fun”. Writers meet on an unspecified day of the week in a variety of pubs with a copy of an unspecified Cambridge student publication (*cough* Varsity *cough*). “If the edition of the newspaper is good we make fun of the news, if the edition is bad then we make fun of the newspaper.” They throw around some headline and cartoon ideas and then send people off to write. It is a “very collaborative process” and writers often help each other with ideas. “We’re quite a wide community… we have some Footlights, a couple of blues, student journalists and a surprising amount of stem students.” “Turns out mathmos are actually quite funny.”
Famously all writers at the Porter’s Log are anonymous, meaning “that you can make fun of union hacks without them confronting you.” It’s also a tradition at this point: writers have been anonymous since the newspaper’s inception in 2015. There are limits to anonymity, “my friends and mum know” admits the Head Porter and “some people brag about it when they’re a few pints down” (the fresher writer admitted he had committed this sin).
Although the Porter’s Log gets nowhere near the number of complaints that Varsity does, they do experience their fair share of backlash. “The Christian union has complained. So has Varsity.” The most dramatic and hilarious recent example of backlash was “a writer was a bit sick of seeing Timothee Chalamet everywhere so he did a ‘ten reasons why I hate Timothee Chalamet’ article. Somehow it got retweeted into America and we got bombarded by hundreds of Americans who didn’t realise it was a joke.” “We do normally try not to punch down or fall into cliches”. For example, on C Sunday “we didn’t want to do the easy joke that drinking societies get drunk.”
The Hit Taller
Obviously, I was not going to leave an interview with Cambridge’s oldest satire newspaper without a question or two about its most recent competition. “Never heard of it.” Never? ” “Not to sound at all smug or pompous but they haven’t published since March.” The Porter’s Log is “more established”, having been around since 2015. “It’s actually quite depressing to go back and read the old stuff… they were much funnier than us.” That’s not to say the Plog is a massive operation: “it’s probably just under ten people that contribute regularly.” “We’re not a big institution, we have a current net worth of £30 that I might have accidentally embezzled.”
Join the porters
When asked to give a pitch for wannabe writers the Head Porter succinctly commented that the Porter’s Log “is a good way to have fun if you like fun.” There is the added bonus of “No BNoCs”, as the team is made up of “loners who won’t get spotted in the pub” (note: you do not have to be a loner to write for Plog). “It’s only once a week” and “we take ourselves a bit less seriously than the rest of the Cambridge student press” (obviously not including the Tab here).
Then I asked the Head Porter’s opinion on the truly important question of Cambridge life: where has the nicest porters? “Trinity definitely has the nicest porters. I agree with them on all their political views.” Finally, I asked the Porter’s Log to rank Cambridge student publications: “I’ll put the TCS first just to cause you some pain to type out (ouch!). Then the Tab. Then the Cambridge Globalist. Varsity is definitely bottom.” The Tit Haller? “I’ve never heard of it so I couldn’t possibly include it.”
Feature Image Credit: Author’s own screenshot via the Porter’s Log Facebook