Interview Editor, Claudia Jacob, speaks to Eve Bennett, founder of ‘The Meridian Magazine’, a recently created student publication allowing young people shed light on political stories from all four corners of the globe. The publication has also recently expanded into the podcast market, and Eve has a YouTube channel with over 230k subscribers, where she vlogs her life at Oxford University. Currently, she’s in Berlin working for a German newspaper as part of her year abroad.
She explains that having finished her tenure as the Deputy Editor of Cherwell, Oxford University’s student newspaper, she felt there was a journalistic hole in her life. Most students tend to write about “student life or things that impact students”, leaving a gap in the market for a publication that allowed students to cover political stories. She points out that young people who don’t go to university don’t have a student outlet which will publish their stories – “If you pitch to the Guardian, they only ever really take pitches if it’s got something to do with your personal experience…it’s very difficult to write about political conflicts because they have political editors.”
She adds that the idea for the publication was borne partly because of Covid-19: “Everyone on Twitter is always complaining how they’re really struggling to get work experience because of Covid” and so ‘The Meridian Magazine’ gives people an outlet to publish pieces and get invaluable work experience; “it’s a big collaborative student effort”. When I asked how she tracked down her editorial team, she explains that she put out a call on Twitter – “I got over 500 replies!” she says, overwhelmed by the heartening response from so many talented young journalists.
One of the biggest USPs of ‘The Meridian Magazine’ is that its editors are assigned to each continent. Eve wanted the publication to cover “international politics”, and so the editorial board was formed based on interests and expertise. “Some people had done a PhD in African studies, or were from New Zealand, hence were really interested in New Zealand politics”, which is how the publication has become so diverse. Eve explains that “I was very adamant that the majority of the pieces that were being written for The Meridian, were from students with a background linked to what they were writing [about]”. “The idea of a line that literally goes around the entire globe in the logo”, summed up ‘The Meridian Magazine’ perfectly.
I asked her whether her background in Modern Foreign Languages has made her more sensitive to a Euro-centric bias. She points out that many of the German newspapers she’s been reading “don’t even have that many German stories”, whereas when she’s tried to find stories on Latin America in English publications, “there’re usually about two articles written a week…and they’re from a very British viewpoint.”
Doing ‘The Meridian’, however, she’s noticed the differences in the way that people who aren’t from the UK approach different political issues. She’s adds that although the team had hoped to have a similar amount of content for each section, “we get a lot more for the UK, we also get quite a lot for Asia and for America. Africa and the Middle East not so much and Latin America, barely at all.” Getting contributions relies mostly on the Twitter algorithms and the editor’s connections. Unfazed, Eve insists that: “I would rather we had two really good pieces on the Middle East a month…than having people who don’t really know that much about the Middle East, writing about it just so we can fill a quota.”
Eve emphasises that the publication is currently run entirely by volunteers and is completely non-profit. Editors will be recruited on a rolling basis “to keep the publication fresh”. She adds that being proactive really is the best thing you can do if you’re interested in pursuing a career in journalism. “A key example of that is ‘The Meridian’ – I thought there was a gap in the market so I filled it.” She recommends doing your own column or starting up a blog; “who cares if 3 or 4 people read it! Ultimately, it’s about building your portfolio and not being too disheartened if your work doesn’t get published – when an employer looks at your portfolio, they’re not going to care where you’ve been published, they going to care what you publish.”
She adds that the publication is open to pitches from anyone from anywhere – “you don’t need to have written anything before!”. So why not give it a go? Student journalism is alive and kicking and ‘The Meridian Magazine’, headed up by Eve and her team, is right at its forefront.
Image: Eve Bennett