Officer Updates & Blogs

Editor of the Courier

Blog: Ella Williams, Editor of the Courier

End of Term Report - November 2020


What have I done this term?


I think all of the Sabbatical Officers can vouch for the fact that days have felt equal parts similar and hugely unpredictable. We’ve had our fair share of hurdles, some large and others more minor daily barriers that build up over time. But overall the need to push harder to achieve our goals has made us even more driven to make it through. 


I’ve had a really rewarding time in my aim to create a unified collection of student voices during such an isolating time, and I’m proud of what I’ve achieve given everything. Here’s as good a summary as I can muster of what has been a busy and at times chaotic term:



The first task was to get the new team on board. I was really fortunate that there was a lot of interest to be a part of the editorial team this year, and we ended up with more applicants than there has ever been! The interview process was tiring but eventually, but after almost 70 Zoom interviews and a lot of spreadsheets and post-it notes, I managed to build a team of 47 enthusiastic and hugely talented sub-editors. 


Management of Courier team

I created a big Facebook group as the hub for all the Courier news and updates, as well as group chats for each section, other student media branches and senior editors. I streamlined the social media pages and Facebook writers’ groups, managing all the admins, names and descriptions in line with the new team and year. 


Freshers’ issue

Laid up, printed and distributed special issue for freshers at the uni



Using feedback from previous editors and previous designs, I focused on creating a more modern look for the Courier that also harked back to its previous iterations. The Lion Crest that was used previously in the masthead has a new design, as well as changes to the print and social media branding to make it all more 



New Puzzles and Relationships sections

Introduced a new Relationships section and expanded the puzzles section to a double page spread


Freshers welcome events

Organised four welcome events (one per super-section), with help from the section senior-editors and editorial team. Aim was to introduce people to the Courier in lieu of an in-person freshers’ fair. 


Tidying and archiving old issues

Organised the office. Archived 5 issues from each edition of last year,  excluding 2 issues which could not be found in the office. 


Training the new team 

Over Zoom, carried out Photoshop and InDesign training with he help of senior team, going over basics of using the software


Editing and style guides

Wanted to create more written information for the editorial team all in one place, in lieu of in-person training. Created a detailed guide for online editing, as well as for Photoshop and InDesign, including screenshots and past examples. 


Journalism training and workshops

Courier deputy, Julia, helped to facilitate various online Journalism workshops with the CIJ for the editorial team over summer. We also had a Media Law training session with David Banks.


Online socials

We have hosted a few Zoom socials to help the team bond over the term, including Zoom quizzes, scavenger hunts, game nights, as well as smaller section socials. 


In-person socials

Started planning in person socials in the stretch tent, though this plan has been put on hold since rising case numbers and second lockdown.



Preparing for safe use of the office

It was a big task working out how to make the office safe with social distancing, and I had to alter plans in line with fast changing guidance. First I created a survey to get a sense of how people felt about coming in/using a shared office. Initially we discussed plastic screens to separate people using computers. The rules then changed to 6-8 per room, so I worked on creating a separate pop-up office in the Kate Adie room in order to allow for a higher capacity of people.

Set up hand sanitiser and wipes in each room to wipe down computers after each use.

Started an online doodle form to keep track of who was in the office when, as well as a sign in and out sheet on the door. 


Managing remote access

Working out a system for people to work on spreads remotely. Initially this was just for those who couldn’t come in due to shielding or being at home. The University remote access system (RAS) was taken offline due to the cyber attack in the summer. While waiting for a more cyber-secure service to become available I have had to distribute existing Creative Cloud licenses around the team on a rota to allow sub-editors to download necessary software. OneDrive system put in place to share Cloud files.Syncing up and relinking images and fonts on files to make sure everything is up to date.


A revamped Courier website

In line with he new rebrand, we have been building a new and improved website with new features. As the in-house NUSU IT team were somewhat occupied deadline with cyber-attack, I sought an external developer to help with the project. Worked through design mock-ups and feature list: aim is for the website to run more smoothly, design-wise appear more integrated with the print design, better highlighting of author bios and articles, integration of newsletter subscription, optional places for advertisement, more articles to view on the home page and many more new features. 


Agony Aunt 

Collaboration with inclusive buddies to set up a recurring agony aunt column in relationships section


Improving Courier online presence and Instagram page

Paid promotion of Courier events and writers’ meetings. Improvement of the Instagram page: set up a template for posts of  individual articles and producing around 4-5 posts a week with the help of Social Media managers


Courier newsletter

Set up a weekly newsletter subscription service with summary of articles each work with deputy. Subscription button to go on the New website. 



Online writers’ meetings

Brought weekly writers’ meeting, usually in planning room, into online format. This required some trial and error to work out a system which replicated the in-person format and ability to browse through the different sections. Eventually found that using Discord server with separate section channels was the most effective way. Creation of new Facebook event each week and subsequent promotion across social media channels. 



Write-in sessions

Set up weekly write in sessions to allow writers to work on their articles remotely but with company!


Creative contributors

Set up new Facebook group alongside writers’ group for student illustrators, photographers artists to contribute to the paper. Weekly commissions on group as well as setting up of a backlog of artists’ previous works on cloud drive


Newcastle University COVID-19 Community 

Working with the other Sabbs on reigniting the community page over the course of the second lockdown, with frequent light-hearted posts to (hopefully) build people’s spirits a bit




What has been your biggest achievement?



Getting through despite the hurdles! But most notably  I think the Creative Contributors page has added a lot to the paper, and we have managed to build up many new followers and engagement on our Instagram. I’m really happy with where that’s going, and we have lots of plans for it in the future.




What could you have improved on?


Hot Off the Press- we have run into several technical issues which have prevented us from getting going with the radio show. These have now been (hopefully )resolved, so my deputy and I will be on air next week in the Courier’s sister show!


Distribution- it has been tougher than anticipated to get papers distributed to halls as planned due to changing guidance. We have been able to get papers out via other channels such as in Co-op food delivery boxes. This is a big focus for next term, though, and could definitely be improved. 





What do you plan to do next term?


It’s difficult to know where we will be COVID-wise, but currently my main focus are:


- Continuing to build online presence and engagement. Carrying out social media giveaway, making further improvement to running of Twitter and Instagram pages such as polls and story section takeovers.


- More socials and workshops for writers as well as editors


  • Improvements on Distribution- potential of distributing around Newcastle as well as on campus and halls 


  • More society collaboration in creation of collaborative events across the Courier, NSR and NUTV


  • Distribution improvements 


  • In-person socials- Corona-dependant but a big socially-distanced social in the campus stretch tent is much needed and is something I’m really keen to organise


  • Keep producing papers!