At the NUS-Amnesty Student Journalism Summit last September, many wannabes expressed concern at rules and restrictions that many students’ unions, universities and other institutions would put on them, in an attempt to control their output.
With the Students’ Union elections coming up soon at Warwick, it’s a hot topic for us student journos, and opens up many debates about control, censorship and fairness.
English laws give journalists fair comment to express opinions on current events, and absolute and qualified privilege to report on what is happening in public bodies and courts, as long as we’re fair and accurate. Technically, Warwick’s students’ newspaper comes under British law, and is editorially independent, which should mean that we get to write what we want, right?
Wrong. As a society of the Union, there are some rules and regulations that we must abide by. Some of these, such as equal opportunities, and rules forbidding discriminating against any groups of students, are beneficial.
On the other hand, some rules that are placed on us by unions, universities and other institutions can sometimes do more harm than good.
For example, the Boar cannot report on election candidates if the stories we promote are negative, even if it is related to their campaigns. All material has to be balanced, and checked by a union official. Regardless of the reasons behind this – it might be for the best of intentions – it’s hardly a ‘free’ press.
Some newspapers also have rules on who they can and can’t advertise with, if it advertisers competitors of the university, or union for example. Services, outlets or club nights can pose problems with a clash of interests.
There is also the impact of sponsors, and those that we know. If one of your big sponsors was acting in an inappropriate way, corruptly, would you still write about it? The same can be said for friends. University communities can be very close knit, and more often than not stories will come around involving friends, or those who also work in an official capacity. It’s difficult to draw the line of professionalism and journalistic integrity, alongside being a student, friend, employee, etc.
The truth is that we’re not professional journalists yet. We’re still learning, and we do make mistakes. We’re not producing content for profit, and we’re not getting paid. While we are members of the unions and our universities, and that doesn’t quite make us a professional organisation, we still have a duty to try to be.
Many of us could be professional journalists one day. It is our duty as student journalists to deliver content about our environment. This involves reporting what we think is in the student interest, and holding companies to account. We need to try and stand up for student media, and fight against the censorship that many media organisations face on a day to day basis.
Have you experienced censorship? How have you overcome it? Tweet us @wannabehacks.
Photo: NS Newsflash
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look