Exploring the Archives: how much has changed in 100 years?

It goes without saying that the style of The Student newspaper has changed significantly over the years. But its aim as a publication, to provide a platform for the student voice and bring refreshing, current news stories onto our campus, still resonates with its writers and editors who produce the paper today.

This piece from the archives dates back one hundred years to 1920, and contains an interesting discussion about the purpose of the paper, describing the ‘ideals’ to which the editors can aspire and the struggle to achieve a balance in tone between light-hearted and heavier journalism.

The article explains the need for the paper to represent the entirety of ‘University life’, not just the individual faculties or subjects. It tackles the criticism that the newspaper ‘attempts sustained levity’, suggesting that writers treat more grave and serious subjects with humour or a lack of respect.

Regarding this complaint, the article’s response is that The Student ‘should present some escape from the lecture and the text-book’ and, as a ‘channel for student opinion’, the publication presents important topics in a way that is accessible and approachable for the reader to make a welcome break from the wordy challenge of academic literature.

The piece goes on to describe certain University events, such as sports matches, ‘the society meeting’, ‘the dance’ and ‘the debate’, as ‘trivial’ , though still necessary in the newspaper’s coverage of all functions which take place on campus. The issue, or ‘vexed question’, of the price of the newspaper is raised in the final paragraph, as at the time readers would have had to pay ‘the modest sum of sixpence’ for copies which were then referred to as ‘STUDENTS’.

The article asks the reader to consider ‘the cost of production in these hard times’, implying that it was naturally more difficult to print and distribute the newspaper in 1920 than it is today, as now The Student is free for anyone to read. The article further states that the editors believe that The Student ‘should still be run, even if it were a financial loss’, and they will ‘make every possible effort to ensure the success’ of the paper they so ‘fondly cherish’.

The article ends with a song, perhaps supporting the idea that the newspaper combines more formal, hard-hitting journalism with a more upbeat message of celebrating the achievements of its student contributors.

This attitude is perhaps best summarised by the statement: ‘Let The Student be the natural and free reflection of all that is best and most characteristic in University life’.

The song seems somewhat traditional for 1920, as the lyrics demonstrate archaic syntax such as ‘a lady fair’, ‘a song of passion strong’ and ‘as befits her ear so rare’, as well as old-fashioned lexis like ‘woebegone’ and pronouns ‘thy’ and ‘thine’.

Though the newspaper today contains a Music section which publishes reviews of songs and albums, and a culture section with discussions of poetry and novels, this piece does not include an analysis or comment about this song; it is simply a cheerful addition intended to lighten the tone.

It is clear that the newspaper has changed a great deal since the 1920s: the style of writing, content, and layout is in many ways unrecognisable. The newspaper will continue to change, however this is not a bad thing; change is inevitable, as is evident when we reflect on old editions of The Student and observe how much it has evolved.

Images: The Student Archives and @studentnewspaper via Instagram

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