Student Journalism at Oxford - Editing


Student journalism can be split into two parts: contributing and editing. I've had a go at both and can safely say that I have really enjoyed both sides of the coin. If you're more interested in the contributing side have a read of my insight here

Editing at any Oxford student paper is really easy to get into. Every term an entirely new editorial team is selected with a series of applications and interviews which are widely publicised so you won't miss the opportunity to get involved yourself. Editing teams have a strict hierarchy and can be broken down into:

  • Editor-in-Chief (usually 2)
    • In charge of the whole paper, overseeing things and making sure it all runs smoothly
  • Deputy Editors
    • Overseeing sections, reporting back to and helping the Editor-in-Chief
  • Section Editors
    • Oversee a section, make sure content calls go out and articles are coming in and being checked
  • Deputy Section Editors
    • Edit articles coming in and put them up on the website, they also help to lay in (format the paper on InDesign ready to be sent to the printers)
When you first start getting into the editing side you'll start as a Deputy Section Editor. The papers are really friendly and make it easy to apply and I managed to get a position the first time I applied (although in one case it wasn't necessarily the section I wanted, but, don't bite the hand that feeds you!).
Then after each term, you can apply for a role slightly higher up and progress up the ladder. 

I applied for the Oxford Student (OxStu) and the Cherwell at the same time and got Deputy Section Editor duties at both; I was on the Life subsection of Culture at the OxStu, and on the Stage section at Cherwell. If you want to know my thoughts on the two big papers, check them out here.

I have to admit that doing both at the same time was rather over-ambitious. It was a lot more work that I had envisaged what with content calls, editing, discussing edits, uploading, and editorial meetings. Both papers had different time scales and ways of doing things down to formatting of articles on WordPress and recommended word counts for reviews so it was a lot to keep up with. Trying to remember everything was tiring and I was always worried I would slip up and upload the wrong article to the wrong paper.

Nonetheless I did enjoy many aspects. I liked the stress and the teamwork. I liked thinking up content call ideas and developing them to fully fledged article topics. But I enjoyed it less when nobody took up the commissions. This meant that we as the editors had to fill in because the papers still needed content to fill pages. I have written several last-minute, up to the deadline articles because no one else took them and the paper was being laid in the next morning. Not my finest work but needs must!

Laying in was also a really stressful part of the papers. For the Cherwell it was just boring because I watched my section editor do it online and normally got on with other work in the background. But at the OxStu, it was a lot more of a hand on approach. Two people from each section would go down to the SU buildings and sit at a computer, trying and generally failing to use InDesign to put all the content in. Everyone I have spoken to hates InDesign with a passion. It's tricky to use, very temperamental, takes time and is a generally frustrating process, which alas is extremely necessary for a print version. I would say, although I haven't mastered the software by any means, I'm improving each time and getting faster but I would also say it's probably one of the harder aspects of the editing side of student journalism. 

Despite that aspect, and especially in COVID, it's been a really fun way of meeting people from other colleges, subjects and interest spheres that I wouldn't have come into contact with otherwise. It's also really nice to be part of quite a large community of people, all of whom really enjoy journalism in some form and it's opened up conversations with existing friends about topics I didn't know we shared in common. It's definitely something I be continuing with throughout my degree. 


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