With the release of the Guardian Student Media Awards shortlist on Monday, I was reminded of an open letter to the Guardian which circulated last July. Written by the editorial of the Glasgow University Guardian, and signed by numerous student journalists, the letter argues that the Guardian has “diluted the substance of their awards to an unacceptable degree.”
The letter claims that the cost of submitting work is too high for most cash-strapped students, and that the quality of prizes has diminished year on year: “Seven weeks of placement with expenses paid (offered 2003-2006) is a good way to spend the summer. Two weeks of self-funded work experience is an insult to supposedly the best student journalists in Britain.”
So, are the Guardian Awards worth our time and money?
The buzz on Twitter last Friday as students received emails notifying them of their nominations seemed to confirm that the awards still hold weight and worth. They are still largely applied to and held in high esteem. And so they should be; they are a stamp of recognition and approval from one of the UK’s most well-respected media outlets.
The judging panel consisted of every aspiring journo’s dream-team, featuring the likes of Jon Snow and Caitlin Moran. Their comments and criticism, praise and encouragement should undoubtedly be taken to heart. They are of value.
Furthermore, having your work pushed across a desk to the right people can be all it takes to land a job in journalism. The Student Journalist of the Year 2009 award was given to Patrick Kingsley, who is now a feature writer at the Guardian, boasting six G2 covers. The 2008 winner of the same category, Hannah Küchler, now writes full-time for the Financial Times.
However, I think it is too easy to get all doe-eyed and forget about the lack of a solid cash prize, paid internships, and other previous prizes that seem to have disappeared. While winners still get something for their CV and a work experience placement (not things to be sniffed at), it feels to me that student journalists are becoming less valued by the industry we are striving to break into, and this is the overarching problem.
The Guardian, while it does offer the Awards and should be commended for doing so, has repeatedly scaled back their prizes, and also cut their Student Media conference last year. It makes me wonder whether the industry is doing enough to support and student journalists. I know it’s a tired phrase, but we are the future of journalism. If we are to ultimately replace the Jon Snows and the Caitlin Morans, then the industry has a vested interest in nurturing us, and helping us to improve. But, rather than doing so, it seems to be withdrawing from us, and leaving student journalists to make up the ground alone.
Independence and a lack of external support are not what bothers me. I think independence offers us the opportunity to show what we can achieve by ourselves, and, looking over some of the work shortlisted for the Guardian Awards, the results are impressive. But if we’re impressive without help, then what could we be achieving with greater support, more funding, and paid internships?
It is unfair to target the Guardian Awards as the Glasgow University Guardian does; they exist for a start, and are undeniably of value. However, the industry’s withdrawal from student journalists is clearly visible in the changing nature of the Awards and the disappearance of the Student Media Conference over the last few years. This is a concern; the industry should be investing in us rather than abandoning us. Cutbacks are being made in many areas of journalism, but they shouldn’t be made here.
Despite the pleas of the Glasgow University Guardian letter, I doubt anything will change. Do you agree that we need more support and funding from the industry? Know of any schemes that demonstrate the industry helping aspiring journalists out? Comment below or tweet @wannabehacks with your thoughts…
Featured image courtesy of thatnugget
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look