Katie Oakes is a trainee journalist on an NCTJ course in Newcastle. She guest posts for Wannabe Hacks on Student Media, this week taking a look back at some famous names who all worked on their respective University newspapers.
Broadcasting houses, national newsrooms and the Houses of Parliament are all stuffed full of former editors and reporters from student papers.
The Varsity in Cambridge has produced a hugely varied line of famous faces from deep within its newspaper. Jeremy Paxman, Michael Winner and the late, great Richard Whiteley were all editors. Add to that former Financial Times editor, Andrew Gowers, David Frost and Andrew Gilligan and you begin to think they all graduated from student hack-dom with a double tap of some magic journalism wand.
A former editor of Leeds Student, Damien Whitworth, who now works at The Times, said of his University’s students: “Leeds Student alumni in the media are like rats in London; you’re never more than 20 yards away from one.”
And that’s not far from the truth. In the last 20 years, all bar four of the former editors are now working journalists, the majority at the nationals, the BBC and Press Association. Last year’s editor, Virginia Newman is
now with PA Masons news, part of South West News. The two editors before her, Laurie Whitwell and Charlotte Griffiths are both at the Daily Mail.
Harold Evans, the author of one of all trainee’s bibles, Essential English, started his long, successful career as editor of Durham’s Palatinate. Alan Rusbridger, Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian, describes him as “the journalist we all wanted to be. He could write, sub, design, re-write, – everything short of standing on the streets and selling the paper himself.”
Lizo Mzimba of Newsround fame and now the BBC edited Redbrick in at the University of Birmingham, Justin Webb was editor at LSE’s The Beaver and Gordon Brown’s first managerial role was editor at Edinburgh’s Student.
They all started exactly as we did; legging it around campus in the snow, juggling Cervantes revision with Charity Fashion show coverage and trying to find anything at all to write about during Reading Week. All this before many finally realised they never want to do anything else.
That these famous faces got from that point to where they are now is motivating, refreshing and, on a dark Wednesday night from a trainee newsroom in the North East, a very comforting thought.