There are many reasons why students choose to get involved with student media; some decide to get involved for the experience, because it’s an additional thing to put on their CV, or because they want to meet new people. Here in Swansea, we’re fortunate to have three established student media channels – Waterfront (our online and print publication), Xtreme radio, and SUTV. For some students, “student media – print, online, radio or video – can be the launch-pad to a career in journalism.” This was certainly the case for former News Editor of the Waterfront, Gemma Parry, who I recently caught up with to find out more about her involvement with the Waterfront and what she’s been up to since.
Gemma, who always wanted to be a journalist studied History here at Swansea University and got involved with the Waterfront during her very first year, after visiting their stand at the Fresher’s Fair. Her role as the News Editor involved finding stories around campus, sometimes writing these stories herself as well as working closely with the overall Editor. Gemma was involved with the paper throughout the entirety of her degree. When I asked her if there were any changes or developments within the Waterfront while she was there, she explained that a new Crime and Investigations section was set up. She worked closely alongside the Editor for this exciting new section and had the opportunity to go to court, as well as to work on investigative pieces of journalism regarding the University and the Students’ Union.
There is no doubt that getting involved with the paper has countless benefits – professionally and personally. Being part of a students’ newspaper whilst at University is an opportunity “to improve your journalistic skills. If you’re making regular contributions it will sharpen your writing tone, buff up your vocabulary and give you the confidence to write in any style.” There is a lot to get stuck into within the Waterfront. Aside from the more obvious tasks of writing and editing, there is also the chance to get involved in designing the paper, which opens up the opportunity to learn about and to gain experience, confidence and competence in using a variety of new software.
I asked Gemma what she’s been up to since she graduated from Swansea University and thus ended her time with the Waterfront, in 2014. She went to study an MA course at Cardiff in Journalism and has since spent a couple of years working for the Evening Post in Swansea, before recently beginning a new job with the BBC in Cardiff. When I asked her how her time and involvement with the Waterfront has helped her throughout her career so far, she said that it has done so massively. When she undertook an internship during her MA course, she already had journalistic experience that other students did not. Working within the Waterfront also gave her the chance to work alongside a variety of people as well as improving her editing skills. Gemma explained that by looking for errors whilst editing other people’s work, it made her more aware of what to look out for when writing her own stories.
On the other hand, it is “a common misconception that all students who are involved with student media are dead set on a career in journalism. While this may be true in some cases, skills like working to a deadline and conducting an interview will prepare you for a range of career paths. Meeting new people, especially people you wouldn’t normally come across, can be rewarding in itself.” In Gemma’s case, it would appear that the Waterfront became a real life love story as she met her future husband through their involvement with the paper.
In the case of student journalism – it doesn’t stop with the written word. In an increasingly digital age, it is certainly worthwhile to get some experience of working on a website; it’ll provide the chance to gain “knowledge of SEO, and publishing platforms such as WordPress – essential for the budding digital journalist.” Within student media, there are also chances to get involved with the radio which could see you landing interviews with those in the music industry. Furthermore, gaining skills in using a camera is becoming increasingly valuable. “Video expertise is increasingly in demand among media employers, with video content being three times more likely to be shared on social media than text alone.”
Interestingly, student journalism is “often – and rightly – applauded for the work it does at universities across the country. Many of those who now sit atop newsprint began their days in student newsrooms, chasing stories across campus. Jeremy Paxman, for example, began his career as the editor of Cambridge’s Varsity.” I asked Gemma why she believes that student journalism is important – she responded that lots of students don’t know what really goes on within the University and the Students’ Union. Student journalism holds these people to account.
If you’re thinking about getting involved with student journalism and our students’ newspaper here at Swansea University, there is so much to learn from being a part of the Waterfront. One thing that Gemma highlighted was that the Waterfront team was like a family to her. However, she also further developed her passion for journalism by just doing it. There are many ways to make the most about being involved with us here at the Waterfront. By writing for us, you begin to build a portfolio of published articles – not only do numerous articles printed in the paper make a proud wall display, but it’s useful to have real hard copies of published articles when attending job interviews. Writing for the paper also enables you to develop a writing style that is completely different to the writing style that is expected in academic essays at University.
“It is easier to begin writing (or editing or designing) as an Undergraduate than to start picking it up once you’re already out in the wider world.”
Read more about getting involved as a student journalist in these articles with The Guardian here and here; there is also more advice on how to get the most of out your time with your student newspaper here.
by Emily Maybanks