Throughout September I kept close contact with all of the editorial team. I had a preliminary meeting with all of the senior editing team to establish the plan for training the sub-editors, and to lay some basic formatting changes to the paper for the forthcoming year. This included small aspects such as new designs for pull quotes, stats and profiles, as well as font changes and text formatting. Following on from this, all new sub-editors were required to attend an initial training session that introduced them to the schedule of The Courier, the principles of being an editor and media law, with the latter being presented by an expert in the field, Dr David Baines. Having conducted the initial training, each section was individually invited into the Courier Office to be trained with the software. This was conducted by myself, as well as a number of the senior editing team and long-serving Courier volunteers, mainly Mark Sleightholm. Within each training session, each sub-editor was given a booklet of guidelines for the technical aspects of the software, which mostly centred around InDesign, Photoshop and WordPress, as well as most of the material covered in the initial training for reference. The training provides a foundation to be able to learn the software better, as much of the learning process is done on-the-job, with help from senior editors. Each week, each of the senior editors is required to provide feedback for the sections that they edit, to continue developing each of the volunteers involved.
In my last report, I outlined that the Freshers’ Edition was progressing well, having interviewed all of the Sabbatical Officers and preparing to lay up the paper. I maintained the broad structure that was introduced in previous years, with some changes. The interviews accompanied the introductory pieces written by each Sabbatical Officer, with the interview being individual rather than in a group to provide a more light-hearted piece in each section of the paper. Similarly, the Freshers’ Week Organisers were interviewed, with the guide to Freshers’ Crew again keeping much of the same format. Whilst the ‘guidance’ articles remained similar, this year we introduced the ‘Cultural Guide to Newcastle’, which largely mirrored the Stan Calvert preview map that I produced earlier in the year. This geographically highlighted where several of the cultural hotspots in Newcastle are, though I’d recommend including more ‘interest points’ like Tynemouth, Grainger Market or Jesmond Dene in future. I had to squeeze in more societies again this year, but the Sport section included more information than previously, highlighting the Great North Run, as well as both the performance and participation sport available. In the Freshers’ Week pullout itself, there was much more focus on the ‘alternative’ nighttime activities since there was far more on offer. Mark Sleightholm also massively helped out with producing a useful daytime activity guide, as well as creating an ingenious snakes and ladders game at the centre of the pullout. The issue was sent off to print on the Saturday before the Wednesday deadline, on 16.09.17, after putting in two big shifts on the preceding Thursday and Friday.
Freshers’ Week and first Writers’ Meeting
Having sent off the Freshers’ Edition of the paper, my attention turned to Freshers’ Week itself. I organised The Courier’s stall at the Clubs and Societies Fair on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of Freshers’ Week, gaining over 300 sign-ups across the three days. That was transferred into a capacity turnout at the first Writers’ Meeting of the year in Merz Court L302, as each section introduced themselves and gave out articles to be published online. Each week up until 29.11.17 there was a weekly meeting every Wednesday at 1.30pm in the same room, with a large proportion of dedicated writers being established. Equally, NSR put were very proactive in promoting themselves. Having been present an Open Day earlier in the month, on 16.11.17, the station conducted outside broadcasts, being visible on campus throughout Freshers’ Week. The work put in around campus and during the Clubs and Societies Fair led to a very well attended first meeting, as a full schedule was quickly established. As for NUTV, a number of the volunteers were involved with Film Crew during Freshers’ Week, including NUTV Head of Production Ava Forbes. As a consequence, some of the presence at Clubs and Societies Fair was compromised, however a number of volunteers were recruited through Film Crew.
Redesign, new sections
Before the first issue of the new term, Mark Sleightholm and myself set about a redesign of the paper. Drawing inspiration from current mainstream publications, other student newspapers, and previous designs of The Courier itself, a new front page was designed, featuring the ‘inside today’ component last used approximately five years ago. The new masthead was tweaked a few times before the Georgia font and colour coordination was agreed upon, nodding to the previous use of Georgia headlines, whilst the rest of the headlines in the paper were to be Cambria font. With the new style of masthead, a new flagship colour needed to be decided upon. This was taken to a poll for the editors to vote on, with the dark red colour being the convincing favourite amongst the new editorial team. Another relatively major change was the homogenisation of colours for individual sections, as all ‘Life & Style’ sections were changed to the Lifestyle orange colour, whilst all but one of the ‘Culture’ sections were changed to a purple colour previously used for the TV section. At the sub-editors’ request, the Science section changed to the electric blue and metallic grey used for their feature last year, which I was more than happy to do considering the stylistic and content differences between Science and the rest of the Culture sections. Similarly, News, Comment and Sport retained their different section colours due to their differences, despite being blanketed under the ‘Current Affairs’ label for the sake of the editorial process. Within this redesign, the new sections were also incorporated. The Travel section was added as the last page of the Life & Style super-section, opposite the Student Activity section, which acts as the start of the Culture super-section. With the Student Activity section is the ‘Student Spotlight’ a space for any society or event to be promoted, beneath a generic ‘What’s On’ section that acts as a listings space for all events on that week. Also on the page are regular contributions from NSR, Stu Brew and Poetry In Action, respectively providing their Show of the Week, Beer of the Week and Poem of the Week. Opposite the now re-designed Blind Date page, is the Student Voice section, bridging the gap between Comment and Lifestyle. The purpose of this section is to showcase any student experience that doesn’t necessarily have to be made ‘newsworthy’, but provides a space for their voice to be heard. As well as this, it provides a space for Sabbatical and Part-time Officers to be interviewed about their work and campaigns. The other major aspect that was changed in the redesign was Page 2, which has been used for a ‘From the archives’ and ‘Cross-campus news’ so far, with a view to revisiting some Courier alumni in the future. Deputy Editor Alex Hendley has taken responsibility for the Student Activity and Student Voice sections, as well as picking up the Puzzles gauntlet, whilst Mark Sleightholm has taken on the Page 2 content since he has experience with The Courier’s archives.
Weekly paper, distribution and online reach
Since the first issue, seven more have been published. All sections have improved, with News seemingly struggling the most, primarily due to the difficulty getting stories each week. Despite appointing a Distribution Manager, distribution has stuttered. The waterproof paper bin outside the Union is going down well and the papers quickly disappear. Equally, the placement of a bin in the Medical School foyer has gone down well, and an agreement with accommodation services has been reached so that they’ll deliver to some halls of residence. The reallocation of papers has generally gone down well, and a number of current Courier sub-editors have been hired by the Marketing department to distribute the papers. Due to this, the Distribution Manager has had significantly less to do, and has effectively become redundant. In recent weeks, that’s come back to bite us a little bit as absences of Marketing staff has meant that lots of the papers have gone undelivered. Nevertheless, I believe we’re back on track, as another Courier editor has been taken on to cover for those absences. As well as attempting to increase print readership, we’ve also gone about making changes to our online and social media presence. Whilst our Online Editor has been closely monitoring online content, we’ve also made some aesthetic changes to the website, changing the masthead and colour to match the print redesign. Once the online content was deemed high enough quality, we pushed social media more, rolling out new social media icons to our entire main and section social media channels. Though we’ve not had statistical data for very long, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in online readership, peaking at up to 14000 article views in a day.
Following on from a successful Freshers’ Week, the NSR Exec conducted training in presenting, producing and interviews. The initial schedule changed around a fair bit in the first few weeks as some shows were scrapped and others were introduced. The schedule is now stable, and a waiting list has been established. Regular feature shows such as the 90 Minute Show and NSR News occur regularly during the week, as well as the specialist shows that fill up the rest of the timetable. A motion was presented to Student Council by NSR’s Deputy Station Manager Harry Parsons to have the backing of the student population in getting NSR played in the Union, receiving a 96% approval rate. After sorting out technical issues on both ends, NSR was played for the first time in approximately five years on 01.11.17. Now that NSR can now be played on the TuneIn app, attention in the tech team led by Rob Nixon has refocused on the website, which needs the coding to be looked at further before any major changes can be made.
NUTV have produced ten videos this year, on top of eight Freshers’ Week videos, two Student Council live streams and all of the videos building up to and including Fight Night. Shows such as Bigg Market Banter, Spotlight, T00nvision and NUTV News have returned as well as regular Coffee House Sessions. The feeling within NUTV is that production quality has improved, mainly due to the increased number of editors from last year, though there has been more difficulty in finding camera crew this year. There are decisions to be made whether to continue to upload to YouTube or to start uploading to Facebook, where it is believed they may get more views.
Live coverage – Clash, Fight Night
In general, collaboration between NSR, NUTV and The Courier has been broadly successful. NSR’s Music team and the Music section of The Courier have been working closely together throughout the year, with each showcasing the other’s song picks of the week. Though that relationship was somewhat jeopardised when the idea of an NSR magazine was pitched, the collaboration still continues. Likewise, NSR Music’s team have also been collaborating with NUTV to record the Coffee House Sessions, which seem to have improved this year. So far, the only instance where all three branches have been brought together has been live coverage. This collaboration has stemmed from having regular Media Exec meetings, specifically fuelled by myself, NSR’s Deputy Station Manager Harry Parsons and NUTV’s Head of Production Ava Forbes, where discussions about ideas can be had for collaboration, as well as providing a platform to tackle any issues each branch may have. Though ‘Clash of the Titans’ was postponed until later in the year, the next opportunity that presented itself was ‘Fight Night’. NUTV live streamed the event last year, however getting The Courier and NSR involved this year would provide build up, as well as studio and commentary coverage on the night. Despite a few audio and communication issues, the coverage went well and was broadly well received, despite one of the fighters not being happy with the commentary. There are limited options for live coverage before the end of the year, but the consensus across the branches of student media is that we’d like to provide live coverage again before Stan Calvert at the end of February.
Christmas Issue – Fashion shoot
Traditionally, the last issue of The Courier of the year is a Christmas-themed edition, with a pullout. For the first time, the pullout is set to be 16 pages, with contributions from every section in the paper. This year we had a specific planning session on 26.11.17 for each of the sections to brainstorm ideas and plan their pages, which seemed to be successful. Whilst every section is doing something unique for the pullout, one notable feature is the shoot that the Fashion and Beauty sections are collaborating on. On 04.11.17, they went to Jesmond Dene House with several models, a photographer, and the NUTV Head of Production, Ava Forbes, to film and produce a VT about the shoot.
Celebrating Success and Strategic Planning
Every year it is the role of the Editor of The Courier to organise the Media Awards, which are linked with the Celebrating Success Awards. The planning has started, beginning with making decisions on the awards to be included in this year. Having taken the issue to Media Exec, the awards to be given out have been decided, but more work needs to be done to find a way of championing the other important volunteers involved with student media, so that will be taken to the next Media Exec. Another part of my role as a Sabbatical Officer is to start the ball rolling on the Union’s Strategic Planning. After attending meetings with the other Sabbatical Officers and student focus groups, certain priorities have been outlined and visions established, so the next step is to take the ideas to the next Media Exec to gauge opinion and to visit other universities.
Career Development Module Students
This year I have also taken on four students on the Career Development Module. They are The Courier’s Online Editor Jared Moore, The Courier’s Life & Style Editor Izzi Watkins, NSR’s Station Manager Meg Long and NSR’s Head of Music Meg Smith. I see each of these students on a weekly basis, if not more regularly, and know how many hours they put in to their roles. It is these kinds of students that really benefit from the Career Development Module, and it helps give them credit for the amount of hours put into their roles outside of their degrees.
Nathaniel from Marketing has worked pretty tirelessly to get the Macs up-to-scratch over the last few months. After finally managing to schedule all of the Macs to turn off and on, we set about attempting to restore the InDesign, Photoshop and Premier Pro to the Macs without them. It seems that the Adobe licensing details has been lost somewhere, with the likely purchase date predating the current email used and the current staff in the Marketing department. Consequently, new licensing probably needs to be bought, as all the Macs could be updated to Creative Cloud, but the priority is with the two Macs that currently don’t have the software. Ideally, all of the Macs need replacing, since most are approximately eight years old. We’re hoping to appeal to the University for extra funding to be able to replace most of the Macs as well as rebuild a large proportion of the NSR studio. In the meantime, the NSR studio has also been redecorated, with the houseplants being rehomed by the Director of Commercial. Likewise, the Courier Office is set to be redeveloped by moving the store cupboard and extending the Courier Office to where the current storeroom is.