This may come as a shock, but Concrete pages may be worth more than a provisional doormat. They can also be used for papier mache projects, or wet shoes fillers to soak up rainwater. As for the words on the pages, if they are still legible after this treatment, why would you choose to read them over the words of other professional journalists who have dedicated their lives to their craft?
Unless your answer is “well, I don’t choose to do that”, you will have your own reason for reading. For me, it’s because I am a literature student. I spend countless hours reading the words of dead historic writers, sometimes with a vocabulary so incomprehensible or too far removed from my linguistic world to mean anything. Sometimes, it’s enjoyable to listen to others from your own community.
If you attend social events and listen to what other students are interested in, why not read what they have to say once they’ve spent hours thinking and writing about it? You’d listen to a half-baked opinion conceived in the smoking area of the LCR, so why wouldn’t you read their well-cooked slow-roasted opinion, seasoned with research and metaphors? Reading the articles of someone you like is akin to listening to someone you like, except if that person thought a bit more about what they were saying. It is a polished monologue written for your attention.
Now there’s the question of whose writing is more valuable: the reputable authority of the tax-funded BBC or the internet searches of a student? The BBC may have a reputation worth millions of pounds at stake, and may have correspondents witnessing events first-hand, or qualified opinions from experts, but those internet searches collect sources and voices from everywhere, free from the fear of stepping on another newspaper’s toes. Where they may be given hot, urgent deadlines to be the first to publish a story, student journalists compile an assortment of sources and don’t face the same pressures as churnalists, giving them more time to process the information and display it in a clearer, more accurate way.
Aside from why you should read student newspapers for your own interests, they give the opportunity to put a voice into action. A great example of this is the Concrete Mental Health Crisis campaign set up in September 2019 following the deaths of four UEA students in the space of ten months. This campaign sought to promote wellbeing on campus and was supported by the mother of a UEA student who took his own life, the Vice Chancellor, and various other names such as Stephen Fry, Sir Norman Lamb, Gina Miller, Winchester MP Steve Brine, and Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. The campaign’s articles and social media posts received over 266,000 views.
As well as generating awareness for a mental health endemic which may have otherwise gone unnoticed, it forced the university to listen to students and put pressure on the Vice-Chancellor to commit more to fixing it. As a result, UEA launched an initiative allowing the university to inform a specified person about any concerns regarding the student’s welfare. The Vice-Chancellor declared he would invest an additional £250,000 in the 19/20 academic year and £1.4m in mental health and wellbeing services for the following one.
If you’re still wondering why student newspapers are important, let me ask: would these changes have occurred if Concrete hadn’t run the campaign? And without its readership, would Concrete have even existed to have been able to do it? To be part of the conversation which decides how your academic environment is reformed, you must read the newspaper which leads it.
Thank you for reading.