I’ve said at every opportunity that academics and classes are only the beginning of your university experience - what rounds out your time there and you as a whole are the other experiences, the people you meet and the things you do. Societies act as a catalyst for such experiences and are a fantastic way to make new friends doing what you love, or even trying something completely new.
There are three main elements to my experience with societies, two of which were particularly large time demands. What I mean to say by this is that while other people may have been regular attendees at more or fewer groups, this was the balance that worked out best for me alongside my other pursuits. I’ll be doing an article on each of these to analyse them separately.
First and foremost is the university newspaper, The Courier. The way this works is that every week, the editors of each themed section of the paper meet with writers and assign articles or accept pitches from writers. For example, if a particular disease was prevalent in the media, or a large-scale political event such as the 2017 general election, you might be given a 500 word piece to write for next week’s issue.
I wrote mainly for the science and gaming sections, but did dabble elsewhere too. When second year came around I applied to be a science section editor, but there was a logistical mixup and it was assumed that I’d gone for gaming instead. While it wasn’t what I necessarily wanted at the time (and in truth was quite irritated), I went ahead and it turned out to be an amazing experience. That was how I met my two friends Michael and James who were my coeditors for the section, and we gelled really well.
"...I of course decided to stay on, and once again expressed interest in becoming a science editor. It was not to be however..."
So by this point we were the ones pitching the articles every week and laying it up in Adobe InDesign ready for the paper to be printed. Again it’s worth pointing out that this work is done in an office alongside all the editors from the other sections, such as Film, Music, Sport, Lifestyle, Arts, there’s so much work goes into each and every issue. Because you all have different interests but are working towards a common goal in a great looking weekly paper, everyone bonds well within the office and you really feel like part of a team. My favourite part of this year was the feature pages that we produced, in particular this Dark Souls one celebrating the launch of the third game in the series.
When it came to my third year of studying, I of course decided to stay on, and once again expressed interest in becoming a science editor. It was not to be however, as the opportunity came around to become a deputy editor, which was a step up from where I was and involved looking at the paper on a more general level rather than being responsible for any one section. I’ll get there one day, damn it. It was at this point that I properly got to know my friends Jordan and Jared who went on to found the videogame journalism platform Quillstreak, and of course Errol who is one of the most perpetually busy people on the planet.
So in my last year I stepped back completely from pitching articles and influencing content, and everything became about consistent print layup between sections and helping the new subeditors with Photoshop and the ‘quirks’ of InDesign. This was also great because nothing cements your own knowledge quite like teaching, and you have to stop and think about why you’re doing what you are. It was a great way to get to know all the editors on a personal level too, perhaps even more than I did the previous year because of this particular aspect.
"When I was working with James and Michael we were lucky
enough to be awarded ‘Features of the Year'..."
Every year the students’ union hosts the Student Media Awards, which I attended in my second and third years - these were an absolute blast. There was way too much wine for too few people, but awards were given out to individuals from all aspects of the student media (including the radio and television stations), which is a fantastic way to honour those people that go above and beyond in providing a quality service.
When I was working with James and Michael we were lucky enough to be awarded ‘Features of the Year’, and at that same ceremony I gave a preamble speech before delivering an award to James Sproston, who was actually elected Editor for the paper for the 2017/8 academic year.
Working with The Courier has been an incredible experience, one that I never would have dreamed I’d have. I’ve never had aspirations to be a journalist at all, and genuinely still don’t, I’ve just found that I enjoy writing. The skills developed have helped me enormously even with my own coursework and essay crafting, and the layout principles have come in handy for academic posters.
I have in my possession pictures of the team from both years, and speaking quite personally they’re among the most valuable things I own in terms of sentimental value. I don’t know quite what it is but it’s been the closest thing to a family of people that I think I’ve experienced beyond my own because of that shared drive of so many wonderful and talented people, it’s really remarkable.
So whether you harbour an interest in tapping keys for a living or not, I cannot recommend that you get involved with your university paper enough. Beyond academics it’s been my favourite thing that I’ve done during my time at Newcastle, and despite not getting what I wanted at each stage, I wouldn’t change any of it for anything. And guys from the team, if you’re reading, know how special you are to me and I think the world of you.