It has been over a year since Ireland was thrown into the unknown and uncertainty of lockdown. During this time, much of the public has looked towards journalism, including student journalism, to provide answers to questions ranging from inter county travel to when they can get a haircut again.

However, students have largely been left in the dark when it comes to the conversation surrounding campus activity, the difficulties of remote learning, and when they’ll be able to see their friends again.

Student journalists have stepped up to put the questions to those who have the answers. They gave student issues representation in the media. This article examens exactly how student journalists have pressed on during the most unprecedented times.

Student Newspaper generic

University Times, Trinity

The University Times (UT) Editor, Cormac Watson, spoke to The College Tribune regarding his year, the challenges faced, and an optimistic future.

“The biggest day-to-day effect is the pausing of the print run. The University Times is an online-first newspaper, but naturally our print run – which usually comes out every three weeks – is a massive part of the fabric of the paper.”

Watson further told us of the social scene in the UT offices, and how that has been curtailed. “One of my favourite things about The University Times is the social aspect. we would normally have a lot of meetings. Zoom calls have been great in some ways: it means students don’t have to come to campus to attend meetings, so we can be more flexible, and it’s also a nice social outlet. But still, nothing beats the in-person element of the paper.”

When speaking moreover on the impact the pandemic has had on Student Journalism, Watson believes “Newspapers have become a really important source of information during the pandemic, when there has been so much uncertainty. In that respect, the pandemic has helped drive us on to do better.”

Lastly, the UT editor told us that “I think it’s important that, as student journalists, we don’t get too pessimistic about the future. The pandemic won’t be here forever, and while it has been tough so far, we need to remember that we will return to some level of normalcy.”

The University Observer, UCD

Editor of The University Observer (UO), Doireann de Courcy Mac Donnell, spoke on the challenges of working from home, and how the publication maintained their readership.

“What once was a social and lively office now lies empty, as everyone works from home. I do not feel that the quality of work and journalism produced has been negatively affected.” The UO Editor told us. “What once was a social and lively office now lies empty, as everyone works from home. I do not feel that the quality of work and journalism produced has been affected.”

De Courcy Mac Donnell further emphasised the difficulty in running a print issue this year, and how the paper overcame such challenges. “We felt it was important that we continue to print a limited number of copies for our readers who do not access news through the internet or on social media” and they “could only have one person assemble and distribute papers at a time” due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The UO Editor further commended the contributors that allowed the paper to keep on ticking “the way in which so many students still contribute to the paper on top of their mounting academic work is admirable.

The articles which have been written are of a consistently high standard, and I imagine that the pandemic has triggered a time for reflection for many student journalists and allowed them to expand their thoughts and ideas through their written work.”

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Student Independent News, NUIG

Paddy Henry, Editor of Student Independent News (SIN) from the national university institute, Galway, had his say on the matter of zoom fatigue, collaborative efforts across student journalists, and a return to physical print issues.

“In normal times we hosted fortnightly in-person meetings where volunteers could come along and chat to us and take on articles. It was a social thing as much as it was a way of getting writers to fill pages in the paper and make my life easier! The current situation has led us away from that and on to Zoom and I think it’s fair to say that almost every student in the country had felt the Zoom fatigue over the past few months.”

Henry touched on the utilisation of digital editors to maintain student engagement while being off campus. “we have had to look for other ways to keep students engaged, entertained and informed about what is happening around the college. We’ve been very lucky that our online editorial team have really taken up the mantle in that regard and they’re doing an absolutely fantastic job.” Henry maintained “there’s nothing quite like picking up a newspaper in your hands and reading though it.”

Henry then told me of the “silver lining” that the pandemic has brought about, with the connections that student journalists have made across the country. “[The Pandemic] has also led to greater engagement between student journalists across the country too, the fact that I’m giving my thoughts for this piece in The College Tribune is a prime example of that, and that can only be a good thing going forward.  The pandemic has also meant that there hasn’t been any shortage of news over the last year or so, which has been great for our news writers. If you were to ask the SIN sports writers the same question though you might have gotten a different answer due to the lack of on-field action!

Finally, Henry told us of the ambitions SIN have on the return of in-person activity. While he intends to “learn a lesson” from the pandemic with maintaining their online channels, he wants to thank those who have worked for the paper this year: “The priority for me however will be to get everybody that wrote for us over the course of this year into the college bar once it reopens to thank them for their great work over the past year. I’ll probably have to get my wallet out for that one when that time comes!”

Luke Murphy – Co-Editor