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22nd April 2013

The Mancunion needs a paid editor and a ring-fenced number of issues if it is to surivive

This week a motion goes before the union assembly calling for The Mancunion to have a paid editor and a ring-fenced number of issues. Here’s why we’re putting it forward

The Mancunion is an easy target for cuts.

It’s expensive to maintain and its budget is decided by an elected student executive, who we spend the majority of our time scrutinising. But this week, I’ll be arguing that the newspaper should be ring-fenced from further cuts – and be maintained at its 32 page, 20 issue size – and that we return to a paid editor to safeguard the paper’s long-term future.

The Mancunion is an enormous operation. On top of the 35 section editors we have photo editors, web developers, marketing officers and sub-editors. Then of course there are the contributors, which by the end of the year total well into the hundreds.

It takes all of these groups to come together to make this newspaper work week in, week out.

As for my motion for a paid editor, it’s not a sly way of sticking around for another year. I’m off to City University at the end of the year, with a CV and portfolio that I’ve spent the year building up. I have no desire to carry on dealing with union politics for any longer than I have to.

The paid editor motion is about more than that. The vast majority of section editors, an experience essential for any Editor, are third year students. So the pool of talent for the Editor position is small. The editor was removed as a paid position last year because there were complications with having them as a trustee of the Union. I can see the argument to that, but there must be a way around that.

It’s partly because so many people are involved that the newspaper cannot be compromised. The Students’ Union often talks about graduate prospects, but there are few groups they fund that can support a career as much as involvement with us.

Working for the paper is what you make of it. Some contributors come along simply because they love theatre, music or the arts. And that’s great. It involves them in Manchester life, encourages discussion and debate and they can see their name in print and views read across campus. For others, the skills acquired here stay with writers and editors for the rest of their lives. Learning about media law, using advanced design software, conducting interviews and gaining contacts are incredibly useful for those wanting to get into journalism.

That’s not just hot air designed to get you signing up next term. Last year’s editor is writing front pages for the Manchester Evening News, while our News Editor (and NUS award winner) works for a national financial magazine and spends his weekends working for The Independent. Jennie Agg, 2009/10 editor, now works for the Daily Mail. Her News Editor Girish Gupta, interviewed in this week’s edition, has written for New York Times and Reuters.

Of course, most students at Manchester won’t get involved, though you’d be hard pressed to find another single society with that much regular commitment.

This year we’ve exposed extremism on campus. We reported on a former Exec who campaigned on broken promises and then took two and a half months holiday. We covered dodgy exams and told you the reality of DEMO2012 against the endless propaganda churned out by the Students’ Union Facebook page.

If our budget remains beholden to each year’s student executive, these stories will be fewer and farther between. There will always be the fear that your stories may be doing permanent damage to the long-term future of the paper if a vengeful exec comes around.

I’m not being alarmist. The President of a Russell Group Students’ Union visited in October and couldn’t believe I was a student. I asked why, and they told me how the budget would be dangled over the Editor by certain exec members if they started writing stories that criticised them.

Nationally we already have a big problem with censorship. The Students’ Union at Edinburgh invoked some pitiful excuses to ban a story on an Exec member, whilst the curret situation at the London Student looks like an unmitigated disaster.

You may not have agreed with everything we’ve written. But it would be a crying shame if, as the biggest University in the country, our award-winning newspaper was allowed to be cut away bit by bit.

I’ve sat in meetings in which the idea of digital copies has been put forward as “that’s the way the industry is going.” Rubbish. Our newspaper is free and is spread around campus. In any case, we have so many contributors because they see their name in print. Take that away and we could become a glorified blog. No student would take my job and devote their final year to managing something available only online.

The Students’ Union must be careful how it spends its money. I accept that I’ve seen waste. But this is not an irresponsible motion and I sincerely hope you are behind us.

Richard Crook

Richard Crook

Editor-in-chief at The Mancunion. E-mail me at [email protected].

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