There is a bit of an argument raging at our Centre for Journalism and it is one that can be heard in student newsrooms across the country.
The Medwire, the independent student media outlet based in Medway, was not invited to attend an awards ceremony organised by Kent Union. The KiC Awards is being promoted as a “celebration of the successes of student media” and it is an issue that the Medwire team has taken to heart.
It is a polarising debate and both sides have perfectly valid points. The Medwire is not a member of Kent Union so why should they celebrate our work? Why should they pay for us to be recognised? One person likened it to “Coca-Cola going to the Pepsi awards”. Others have said the Medwire is being all “up itself” about this. After all, it’s the first ceremony of its type; it is a purely cosmetic issue and one which does not grant us the power to be all high and mighty.
But we have to be “up ourselves” because we believe so strongly in what we do. One of the organisers said: “Of course, if the Medwire were to consider becoming a part of the union, we would welcome their participation in the awards.”
The Medwire is one of the last sources of independent student media in the UK. The majority of student media outlets are union-funded, operated by a team of union officers and volunteers. Across the country, horror stories are circulated about union censorship and newspapers/magazines being transformed into PR for the university.
We are “up ourselves” because we don’t do that. We are independent. We lock our reporters in a room for hours on end, bribing them with biscuits and alcohol in a bid to keep hitting the phones to secure a precious advertising deal, so we can have a website and a magazine for the next few months. One of our main advertisers, ironically, is the university. Does this make us hypocrites? No. Does it affect editorial content? No. We still get angry emails over stories that rightfully shame the university. They pay us a sum of money, because it makes good business sense to them and nothing more.
The Medwire is not the BBC. We are not even the Radston Times. Our team often question why we do this in the first place. Is it a vanity project? No. We do this because we have to. It is our duty to the 10,000 people we serve in Medway, and further afield, to scrutinise the union, the university, the societies, the council or the cafe next door. And we do this in the same manner that the BBC would. We aim to be fair, accurate, honest and objective in our reporting, values imposed upon us by our Centre, whilst adhering to the same media law as the professionals do.
Our persistence has scored us some major successes, hitting the nationals on more than one occasion. We enjoy our freedom; it can be incredibly stressful and my role as deputy editor feels like it has swallowed my entire life (and that’s me, imagine our editor). We may have a small audience, but we grow everyday and provide a valuable service to those who have judged us worthy enough to bring news to them.