Editorial #828: The same but different

By Imogen Usherwood, Editor-in-Chief

Like everybody else, I’ve spent the last six weeks imagining “what I would have been doing” at any given moment. Necessarily, lockdown has seen endless cancelled plans, from summer balls and birthday parties to lectures and physical exams. In a parallel, covid-free universe, I would have been writing this editorial in the Palatinate office, in between working on the print newspaper in which it should have appeared. This alternative self has been back at Durham for over ten days now, and spent most of them in the library panic-revising for her second-year exams. In the real world, though, I’m typing this on the sofa at home while my family watches Celebrity Bakeoff.

It goes without saying that this is not the Easter Term any of us had expected. This is meant to be the time of the academic year when undergraduates get our heads down for a few weeks with summatives and exams, then come out the other side in late May or early June, ready for nearly a month of events, bar crawls, pub trips, college days, balls, concerts, sports fixtures, performances – all things that are currently unsafe. Instead, we’re about to enter a period of online, open book, 48-hour exams which don’t necessarily affect our degree results, followed by, in all likelihood, some kind of continued social distancing and isolation. There will be a lot of celebratory Zoom calls. 

This is not the Easter Term any of us had expected

The other thing that has been cancelled, too, is Palatinate’s print runs. With no access to our office computers, the pre-exam newspaper, which you should be holding right now as you read this, isn’t possible. I was crestfallen when it became clear that what should have been my first print edition of Palatinate as Editor-in-Chief wouldn’t happen. However, rather than postpone Palatinate #828 altogether until we’re next back in Durham (whenever that may be), we’ve made the decision to take it online. I like to think that future Editors will look through the newspaper archives and wonder why a few editions seem to be missing – “Oh, that must have been during lockdown in the coronavirus pandemic”. 

Of course, Palatinate has hardly been inactive during lockdown so far – on the contrary, we’ve done some really important work recently. We updated a live feed on Durham’s response to coronavirus, from face-to-face contacts hours being cancelled to no-detriment policies. Palatinate also, of course, broke the about Durham’s now-shelved proposals to offer more permanent online degrees, a story which has since made it to The Times and The Guardian among others. 

This ‘print’ edition will, then, be entirely digital; over the next few days, a series of articles that would normally have made up a newspaper will be published on the website. We’ve got plenty of content appropriate to the lockdown period – Books and Film & TV have gathered student opinions on everyone’s current binge-watch, Normal People, while Science & Tech reveal the impact that drinking tea and coffee has on our bodies. Politics questions the Chinese government’s handling of Covid-19, and asks how we ought to commemorate victims of the pandemic. There’s also some stories closer to Durham – Music looks at how University musicians are handling this period, while Visual Arts covers Durham Art Society’s activity during lockdown, and Sport reports on the success of DU men’s hockey.

Nothing right now is the same as what it should be

It’s not the same as a physical newspaper, of course – just as facetime isn’t the same as going for coffee with a friend, or a zoom call isn’t the same as a tutorial, or a livestream of a play isn’t the same as a night at the theatre. Nothing right now is the same as what it should be. Obviously, for many people their lives have completely turned upside down – key workers such as NHS or supermarket staff are giving their time and energy, not to mention risking their lives, for the benefit of everyone else. However, those who are lucky to be able to isolate safely are finding all sorts of creative ways to recreate everyday life as much as possible. Things are the same – we can still talk to friends, take exams, attend socials and produce newspapers, but not in the way we used to. Everything is the same but, for better or for worse, different.

As we go into probably the strangest exam period of our lives, I hope everyone is as safe and well as it’s possible to be. Best of luck with upcoming assessments, and please take care of yourselves.

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