Palatinate 75 years on: will print live on into the future?

By Emily Doughty

Journalism is changing. Since the beginning of Palatinate 75 years ago, we have moved from a time where the only news you got was from your daily newspaper to a 24/7 live coverage. You are expected to get your political analysis of a situation the minute it breaks. And this bears the question of how print can possibly keep up.

Print is significantly more expensive than simply posting something online, something that is starting to have a knock-on effect on the financial future of student journalism. Across the country we are seeing student papers receive less funding and less support from their Student’s Union. Palatinate saw its funding for print slashed in 2020, leading to a call for independence that has continued to this day. 

Frontside, the student paper of the London School of Economics (LSE), has recently found out they will receive no funding in the next academic year from their student’s union, a decision which they are currently trying to get reserved. It feels like wherever you look, both in Durham and in the wider country, the future of student journalism especially in print is at risk. 

However, before we start ringing the death knell on print copies or student journalism in general, I think it’s worth looking back and around about the importance of Palatinate to Durham and how the situation is not as dire as it seems. 

Firstly, lack of funding is not a new problem. Looking in the pages of old copies of Palatinate, financial worries were always on the mind of the editors at the time, with constant calls for funding in most editions. While it will always be a worrying problem, some comfort can be taken in the fact that student journalism has been able to remain, pushing out amazing journalism despite this. 

Newspapers, especially in their physical form, are a way of connecting Palatinate to their readership

And when you think of Palatinate, what do you think of? It is unlikely to be the social media posts, the website or the occasional article shown in lectures. It is the physical paper, stuffed into your hand by a long-suffering section editor every other week. It is in the front page image, the latest chess puzzle and the match report.  

Newspapers, especially in their physical form, are a way of connecting Palatinate to their readership. You need to seek out the website or Palatinate’s social media for online coverage, but it feels at times like the print version is everywhere in Durham. If it is through the controversial puzzles which pop up on Durfess, the comment pieces which spark wider debate or the front page news stories that bring to light a wider issue. 

There is still an appetite for print in Durham, far exceeding the national reality. This is because, at its heart, Palatinate is a publication for students. Not only is its writing directed at the students it serves, but it is also written by the students themselves. For the hundred, probably bordering on thousands, of students who have contributed to Durham in its 75 years, having a physical paper to show for all your hard work is special. When we are old this is something we will look back on, not on the website. 

But in 75 years, when I will be (shock horror) 95, what will the paper be like? Will it be delivered to students in holograms, or inserted straight into their minds using chips? Will all the section editors be replaced by an AI ChatGP concoction that can push out 200 articles a minute, better than anything we could produce now? Will we even still be printing the paper? 

It’s hard to say. However, when Palatinate started 75 years ago I doubt the first editors believed print would continue as long as it did. I doubt that they even thought the paper would last this long. But here we are nearly a century on, still handing out physical papers every two weeks. 

Student journalism is still alive and is still thriving – I think it can survive for another 75. 

Illustration: Anna Kupstova

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