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maxwellearnshaw
4th October 2022

Student Media Matters: Student media makes sense in a world which doesn’t

Your time at university is the optimal time to explore your passions, take a stand, and work to improve and shape the world how you see fit. Student media alone won’t do all of that for you – but it just might help.
Student Media Matters: Student media makes sense in a world which doesn’t
Photo: Jess Walmsley @ The Mancunion

Student media is vital.

Maybe I am biased (I definitely am) but in starting my new role as Opinion Editor for The Mancunion, I have had some time to reflect on the invaluable role student media has played, and must continue to play, in society.

I must stress at the outset this isn’t a one-sided rant about the flaws of the mainstream media. I genuinely believe that for every government sycophant writing in a right-wing tabloid, there is a dedicated and passionate investigative journalist elsewhere committed to amplifying voices and exposing wrongdoing.

This was particularly highlighted during the pandemic, when Partygate was broken by the Daily Mirror, and BBC Panorama produced the Cashing in on Covid documentary which exposed links between Conservative MPs and companies who made millions through PPE contracts.

However, the reach of the mainstream media is dwindling with regard to students. TV news is being replaced by news produced for social media, and the newspaper market has been thoroughly cornered by ageing white men from the political right who have about as much in common with the average Fallowfield student as an alien.

Stress-inducing stories about the cost-of-living crisis, climate crisis, warfare, and inequality are available 24/7 on rolling news channels, and reposted on social media just in case you managed to miss it. It is no wonder that many of us are beginning to feel overwhelmed by and hopeless with the state the world is currently in.

This is where student media such as The Mancunion newspaper comes in. It stands to reason that students can talk to other students in a way which resonates far more than the national press at large. Whilst I am aware this makes the whole article sound like an incredibly unsubtle advert, it is true to say that we are able to break the most relevant and important stories for students and young people first.

The best evidence for student media’s success is that The Mancunion has led the reporting on various student matters of national importance. It reached country-wide recognition for stories surrounding the Fallowfield fences during the Covid lockdown; it also acts as the official media partner for the Reclaim the Night feminist protest march.

By demonstrating the willingness and ability to break stories that matter to everyday students, and by sharing this content in a digestible and accessible way, I believe The Mancunion shows that engaging with the news doesn’t have to be hopeless. As volunteers, everyone who writes for this paper is doing so because they have a passion to share, a story to tell, or truth to uncover. Student journalists are able to develop their skills free from peering eyes over their shoulder who insist that a particular political line be taken or narrative to be followed.

By starting with student matters that are particularly pertinent to the readership, our paper breaks down the woes of the world into more bite-sized chunks. Campaigns by the paper have produced results: Fallowfield fences came down, student activism is prevailing from strength to strength, and, most importantly, people at the University of Manchester have a way of making sure they are heard through the metaphorical loudspeaker offered by student media.

The effect of all of this is that contributing to, or reading, student media makes problems appear more solvable. It makes the world seem less daunting by showing that, as students, we can make a difference by asking the right questions and demanding answers.

Of course, student media can’t claim to be able to initiate great societal changes alone, but by promoting our skills, as students, in speaking truth to power and standing up for our beliefs, I believe it can shape a new attitude for a generation which will have to tackle some major issues over the course of our lives.

In the title of this article, I suggest the world doesn’t make sense; it is easy to feel that that is true for all the reasons I have discussed in this article on both a local university level and beyond. But your time at university is the optimal time to explore your passions, take a stand, and work to improve and shape the world how you see fit. Student media alone won’t do all of that for you – but it just might help.


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