Elena Cresci: The Siren is proof that alternative, new and entrepreneurial journalism exists for students
Elena Cresci is editor, co-founder and writer of The Siren: Swansea students’ alternative approach to student journalism. Describing themselves as the “students you can’t shut up” The Siren is an interesting and inspirational take on how student media is no different from the national “grown-up” media; there’s room for alternative, new and entrepreneurial journalism here as well.
So don’t knock it…
Here at Swansea University, student media is developing somewhat from its more traditional routes. While student paper The Waterfront reached its 200th edition this year and our radio station Xtreme Radio dipped its toes into the Smartphone market by releasing an iPhone app, our Education Officer’s blog precipitated the rise of new media at Swansea University.
The Siren is one of the new additions to the university’s media scene. We’re an entirely independent commentary blog about life at Swansea University, representing all students: from the Freshers who are out on the lash every night to the final years and postgraduates who have seen it all.
The Siren went live at the end of December last year, but the idea was planted when conversation at your typical pre-night out drinking session turned to The Waterfront. It all began when friends began voicing their frustrations with the paper, complaining it really wasn’t worth reading and bemoaning that they felt it didn’t represent them as effectively as it could.
Having made the concrete decision to get properly stuck in with The Waterfront that year, it was a bit of an awkward conversation to say the least, but it got me thinking. As the beer started flowing, the drunken planning began. “LET’S START OUR OWN PAPER!” someone shouted, and the utterly unrealistic ideas began spilling out; alcohol made the group believe they really could create a paper to rival The Waterfront. In the grim light of the next morning’s hangover, it seemed to be an idea which would never come to fruition.
Except the initial idea didn’t quite go away, particularly as I began worrying that my articles at The Waterfront wouldn’t be enough to take me where I wanted to go in journalism.
While I was taking on several articles per issue, I just wasn’t satisfied. Along came the student protests, including our very own regarding cuts to the Modern Foreign Languages department, and I realised the key role student journalism could potentially play in this storm of change.
At the time, I felt The Waterfront wasn’t doing enough to address this. It took Sammy (co-founder of The Siren) and me a while to get to the name, but once we had that, it only took one late night session of formatting, setting up various accounts and writing to turn the pipe dream into something more realistic.
We’re markedly different from The Waterfront; as a commentary blog, we have more freedom to express our own personal opinions, and each of our writers has a distinct voice from different areas of the student community.
Being a blog with no printing deadlines to meet, we’ve sometimes been the first to comment on certain stories, such as the news of Swansea’s new campus, the student involvement in the Yes For Wales campaign as well as the news of a £750,000 fund secured by the union earlier this term.
The Siren has taken off in a way that neither Sammy nor I anticipated, and I think it’s due to our providing a completely different service to anything else that Swansea University’s media scene offers.
Through the blog, Twitter and Facebook, we’re directly connecting with the heart of the student community in Swansea. The Waterfront has the means and the contacts to break the stories, but we have the will, the voice and the website to provide commentary and interactivity.
In this sense, both the traditional and the new are crucial to Swansea’s media scene. We hear so much about how the internet closes the gap between journalist and audience where professional news mediums are concerned… why on earth wouldn’t it be the same with student media?
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look