How will Leveson impact student journalism?

A ridiculous amount of ink has been wasted on all the ramifications of the Leveson deal this week - but no one has considered how it will affect the student press. Two student journos on either side of the fence examine the issues

Alex and Freddie are both third-year undergraduates at the University of York. Since their freshers’ week, they have regularly contributed to two of the campus’ extensive range of media outlets.

However, there is one crucial difference between the two: Freddie’s York Vision is signed to the media charter with York University Students Union. He has to face potential issues of restriction with each issue. Alex’s The Yorker is an independent news outlet, and faces no interference from the student union. Having different experiences of regulation, how do they feel Leveson relates to student papers?

Alex argues Leveson is a negative, a double to SU restrictions; Freddie believes that Leveson isn’t something to be worried about as student papers continue to thrive regardless of the unions.

Alex Jackson: More restriction? I never wanted to write about Hugh Grant anyway!

At a City University debate this month, Neil Wallis, a former News of the World executive editor warned: "If there are any student journalists here: it’s your freedom and once it goes you won’t get it back." This advice strikes close to home for many students, as Leveson replicates an issue long-standing at university.

I joined The Yorker at university because the idea of the independent paper appealed to me over union-approved media. Our independence has stood firm since we launched; unlike the other major student papers on campus, we don't sign the YUSU charter and are not moderated. If campus papers adhere to union policies, then they are often subject to restrictions that leave many students without sufficient space for investigative journalism. Instead, papers become a mouthpiece of the authority figures as the university officials steer the direction of print.

You only need to look at recent censorship of student publications to see that Leveson is likely to compromise the young journalist position further. At Sheffield, The Forge Press was banned from distribution in halls after they broke a story concerning the exploitation of a pay loophole by the university. Elsewhere, in Leeds, the NUS attempted to prevent the publishing of an interview with infamous BNP leader, Nick Griffin.

The most prolific example was probably in the case of Edinburgh University, whose student union served an interim interdict on the The Student paper after a story that could have potentially harmed their reputation was slated for front page. Instead, the students decided to leave the front page with the single word ‘Censored’, but it's still wrong that an article of such gravity should be restricted from student access, especially if rumours will circulate due to the injunction order. The truth and student journalist integrity would be better.

On Question Time last year, Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins warned the audience that: “Every single measure introduced by parliament to restrict your freedom always goes further, it never goes backwards.”

It seems that some student papers could essentially be double-restricted by the proposals, government adding to union restrictions. There is a sense of trepidation: just where should regulation end and student independence start?

At the very climax of years of hard work fine-tuning the ability to report a ground-breaking story, students’ first medium of expression is set to be stifled. How should upcoming reporters explore their journalistic potential if they cannot follow their leads and initiatives?
 

Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, participated in a candid interview about Leveson on the BBC this week: “People are saying there’s a certain amount if independence in there? Is there?” he questioned. “Independence or not independence? It tends to be a quality that’s either one or the other.”

This has been the issue for students for decades. The best stories came from publishing news the unions didn’t want in print, so undoubtedly the trouble is learning to compromise union policies with student rights. If Leveson meddles in a manner that the unions have advocated thus far, independence is really something under threat, and students may never know true journalistic freedom.

Freddie Nathan: Leveson ain't no thang

Campus media should not be underestimated. Out of the 150 universities in the UK, the vast majority have at least one publication. They are disseminated through campus, reaching anywhere up to 40,000 people (in the case of The Mancunion of The University of Manchester). That is not to mention online coverage, from which my student paper got about 100,000 unique hits a month last year.

I became involved with York Vision in my first term at York, along the way holding the positions of sport editor, online editor and deputy editor. Vision is the most awarded student paper in the UK – however, we are also not an independent force, allowed to write whatever we want. We are subject to libel and defamation laws in the same way as the national press. It is simply not the case that we can write anything and expect to get away with it – we are not immune.

Yet that is by no means the biggest obstacle we face. We are a ratified student society, receiving grants and funding from the students’ union and the main University body. As a result, we fall under their code of conduct.

In York, the campus media outlets signed a media charter, outlining a formal relationship between YUSU and the Student Media outlets it supports at York. This does not stop reporting the news we want to report – however, we know that intervention will often occur if a story does not satisfy the agenda of the union.

On certain matters, the reputation of the institution is paramount and it is not even worth an argument. Cardiff’s Gair Rhydd for example, re-published the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed back in 2006 - utter stupidity by the writers involved led to an international political and diplomatic matter.

Many believe, however, that censorship is fundamentally wrong. I can't argue with Alex's point about the censorship controversy in Edinburgh.

However, there are obvious pitfalls with biting the hand that feeds you. In the case of student media dependent on higher powers, it is having funding withdrawn, or even being shut down. Yet stories that students have spent hours of their voluntary time and effort compiling are all too often discarded because the union has gone to great lengths to gag them.

Similar instances have occurred in Sheffield, Loughborough and Leeds. In eventuality, the 'CENSORED' headline had the intended effect of the original scandal, if not more. Causing a stir created gossip and awareness of the scandal without revealing the explicit details.

Despite the restrictions, stories are still being broken; people within the world of higher education are still being brought to account. It will be a sad state of affairs if the day comes when the journalists of tomorrow stop taking chances and cease to break the news that may not be of interest to the nation, but can affect the lives of the Camerons and Levesons of tomorrow.

Alex and Freddie are both on Twitter. Follow them here and here.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Executive / Marketing Assistant

£18 - 23k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Executive / Assistant is n...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider to the fa...

Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Analyst - Global ERP Implementation - London

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed