Editorial #838: Here’s to Palatinate

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Exposing sexual assault, investigating declining student mental health, and reporting on Covid-19 measures with a live newsfeedPalatinate has brought you the essential stories you need to keep informed in Durham. 10 months ago, when asked by the Editors and SU where I’d like to see the paper in five years, I told them I’d hope Palatinate would stay an intrinsic part of Durham student culture. Regardless of whether they were aspiring journalists, I’d hope students would feel it was vitally necessary to pick up our paper. Based on our coverage and battle with the SU to remain in print this year, I hope for this now more so than ever before.

Our news exclusives, comments on the student experience, PalatiDates, puzzles and satirical pieces highlighting the mistakes, missteps and misjudged decisions of the bodies that run Durham, are unrivalled – you will not find the compelling content elsewhere. And I still, along with everyone who signed our open letter in September to #keepprintingPalatinate, want to prove to those who believe print is dead, that there is an appetite for physical newspapers.

We know – just by looking at the news desert wasteland in the US – that if you don’t have local papers, you don’t have trust in the media. Palatinate has shown how crucial journalism is. We notify students about key decisions the University has made on their academic and social lives. We offer levity and fun in our interviews, reviews, cartoons, and illustrations. We get our sources verified and we always make sure to hold those in power to account.

This issue – of enabling the freedoms of the press to prevail – has defined my two terms as Editor

Yes, it is unquestionably true that digitisation means many of the stories Palatinate publishes can be accessed online.  In fact, because there are not enough students in Durham due to the lockdown and commandment to remain home “wherever possible”, we chose not to print this term – and thus you will be reading our 838th edition in a purely digitised form. 

But we shouldn’t let Covid be an excuse to cut our paper. Students do not always like voluntarily reading from a screen, we spend too long on them anyway. We don’t want a newspaper to be at the mercy of digital obliteration just from one mistaken push of a button. We want to read a selection of stories that a team of editors consciously put together for us, rather than solely searching on a website and then stumbling across them. We want to be connected to Durham’s history, something you can’t satisfactorily feel when quickly downloading a paper onto your device.

We shouldn’t let Covid be an excuse to cut our paper

This is my final editorial, and perhaps you will think I have wasted my opportunity to write about a problem that has yet fully been covered, with an issue I’ve already argued for. But this issue – of enabling the freedoms of the press to prevail – has defined my two terms as Editor. When I look back on the job, I will remember the legal threats, the frantic stress of trying to source the £9,000 needed to print 11 editions a year, and the constant thought that I’d be remembered for losing Palatinate its printed papers. I can’t imagine I’ll miss averaging 9 hours a day on my phone, having to prove to the SU that print is inherently valuable and that taking away our print edition when they may have the funds to pay for it, is harming their reputation more than it will harm us – for we will always find a way to pull through. But forgive me for harking on.

Without a doubt though, my memories of Palatinate will not be tainted by Covid-19 or bureaucracy. For after all, I fell in love here, with the paper and the people. I will fondly recall the months of late night Zoom meetings, socials and laying up sessions Palatinate gave me. I joined in my second year because I loved writing and I wanted to make new friends. Maybe in tagging along to the Swan before actually joining the Editorial Board I broke some rules, but I’ll always be grateful to the Music and Profile Editors who encouraged my keenness and introduced me to the paper. 

I would never have known how to make anything closely resembling a newspaper if it weren’t for Tim, Toby, Max, Imogen, Tom, Jack, Faye, Millie and Hugo. I’m confident I would not have made it through the last 10 months without Tim and Imogen especially, my fellow Editors-in-Chief. They are meticulous, adept and their work ethic is unequalled. Thank you to them, the entire editorial board – working with you has been a privilege – and you, our readers, on whom our whole operation depends.

And so with that I leave in the hope that if Palatinate is asked to prove its worth as a printed paper, editors, journalists and students will rally together to prove print is not dead. To my successor, if you ever need one more voice to add to your fight, you know which side I’ll be on.

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