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    Where’s the originality in student journalism?

    by Peter BowdenAll student journalists must die; every single one, rounded up and shot in the face at point-blank range, for the good of humanity. I don’t exaggerate; we’d lose nothing. Hear me out.
    We are not in a golden age of student journalism. Whatever the opposite of gold is, that’s the age we’re in – the age of soil, or gonorrhoea, or festering cats.
    Originality is dead: this is an age in which it’s hard to find a non-news article starting with anything other than (1) a vapid rhetorical question, (2) “You probably think some baseless stereotype is true – well, THINK AGAIN!!!”, or (3) some needless recitation from the Big Book of Oxford Clichés, as though Pimm’s were offering ballgowns lined with crack for every reference.
    This is an age in which the whole stinking shebang is run by grey, insufferable sub-humans who the words “malaise” and “brainstorm”, and still think they’re going to change the world. Change the world, rather than – say – spend five years “in media” fetching lattés and spellchecking the sudoku, before getting their only break as a stand-in online Guardian columnist explaining how the new Lily Allen album really reminded them of the Palestine situation. Before dying alone. And poor. Probably.
    My first contact with the world of student journalism was in my first term here, at a meeting of the Features department of the Oxford Student. Going to this was, naturally, a bad idea on more levels than I can ever find words. We did start with “brainstorming”, which in itself was enough to make me want to gouge out the vocal chords of everyone in the known world, armed only with a biro, and grim, righteous determination. I held back.
    The format went as follows: one of them would give a broad, sweeping topic idea, unoriginal to anyone who’d as much as scanned the contents page of an in-flight magazine. Then they would end the sentence with the words, “maybe we could do a feature on that?”, and then there’d be nods, and that would be it. Idea. Conclusion. Repeat. Nothing else was ever needed.
    The first was “Abortion. Maybe we could do a feature on that?”, as though they just expected to splash some dead foetus pictures over a centre-spread, slap on a quick point-counterpoint, and call this an article. Next we had “houses”. “Prostitution”. Then, for some reason, “China”. Few of us had been bemoaning a recent lack of China-centric OxStu journalism, but still this got the nods.
    Here I abandoned all hope, and considered the use of the biro in self-lobotomy. In retrospect, this might not have helped: most likely they’d just have seen the blood gushing through my nostrils, then they’d wait, point, and say, “maybe we could do a feature on that?” They’d snap a few polaroids, and use me as a tragic example in a poignant piece on student self-harm. Clearly, I’d be a popular, handsome student, and their first sentence would probably be along the lines of: “You probably think life in the ‘dreaming spires’ is heaven for everyone. Well, THINK AGAIN!!” They’d call this a “scoop”. Death’s too good for them.
    There might be a case made for their existence, if only they didn’t insist on being taken quite so seriously. On the way into the meeting, we were told not to leak anything to Cherwell. This made me laugh on two levels. First of these was at the thought that they were half-expecting Cherwell spies to sit for an hour, make notes, and report back: “An article on China, you say? We must outmanoeuvre them! Get me a typewriter!”
    Secondly, more importantly, I laughed at the implication that anyone would truly care that much about student papers: they don’t. Contrary to their own delusions, Cherwell v OxStu isn’t actually World War VI with Fit College and pashminas. As battles of wit and guile go, it’s closer to Soggy Biscuit – an analogy which, coincidentally, works on a number of levels.
    If the infamous million typewriting monkeys could manage Hamlet, it’d take them half an hour to shit out an Oxford Student, before moaning at being overqualified, and applying for jobs in telesales. Kill all the student journalists – and now I’m here, I’ll be happy to start with myself.

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