Palatinate at 75: still going strong, against the odds

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You’re reading this in Palatinate, a student newspaper which, as you may have heard, is in its 75th year of existence. When Palatinate was first published in 1948, 681 issues ago, on black-and-white paper and adorned with a quote from Shakespeare play The Tempest just underneath the masthead, the world – and Durham – was a very different place. 

In March 1948, the world was still reeling from the war, Gandhi had died just two months prior, and computers and vinyl records were still months away from being invented. But some things never change; the US and Russia (then the USSR) weren’t exactly getting along, Durham’s Cathedral and Castle were just as imposing as they are today, and Palatinate’s first article on its first front page started with the sentence “I like men, but I frankly detest the undergraduate specimens; insincere, affected, self-assured and bombastic, they grate upon the very fibres of my feminine sensibilities”, proving that Durham men have never changed. 

But here we are in 2023, with Palatinate still chugging along, even still being printed every fortnight in the age of the Internet. Yet getting to this point hasn’t been easy; a search through Palatinate’s huge (albeit disorganised) archives reveals how students have consistently persevered against the odds to keep Durham’s student newspaper alive. 

Students have consistently persevered against the odds to keep Durham’s student newspaper alive

Those struggles have never been better publicised and represented than in the last 3 years; the pandemic nearly bought Palatinate down, and not just because of the lockdowns. Back in 2020, Durham Students’ Union, who Palatinate have always relied on for funding and support, chose to pull all print funding in the midst of the pandemic.  

At that point, a lesser student newspaper may have just given in and moved exclusively online; many national publications were doing the same thing, after all. But that wasn’t in the spirit of Palatinate. Instead, students and alumni rallied together to support and fund the paper into the future, and despite the SU still not restoring print funding to this day (any chance you could try to change that next year, newly elected SU officers?) we continue to march on, undeterred and as defiant as ever. 

Even as Palatinate’s relationship with the SU continues to fracture, we have continued to thrive. If you could believe it, the SU used to somewhat like us (previous SU Presidents even had a “President’s update” column in print editions, as recently as 2020!), but that relationship deteriorated to such a point that, just a few months ago, the Editorial Board voted to pursue independence from the SU.  

Over those 75 years, this paper has featured some truly impressive journalism

As of right now Palatinate continues to be a part of the SU – I’ve written many an article from our office in the SU’s (arguably underappreciated) Dunelm House – but if/when that changes, I know Palatinate will continue to succeed as it always has.  

And yes, it’s incredibly important that Palatinate’s print edition continues into the future. The internet has provided a new, more convenient news outlet – one which Palatinate has embraced – but it doesn’t replace the presence, impact and opportunities that a print newspaper offers. 

To quote former Editor-in-Chief Tash Mosheim in a 2020 editorial, “Whilst Palatinate is able to bring you these stories online, as a student paper, the presence on campus that our print edition offers us… is unique, and often, the first way that many students engage with Palatinate at all.” That is the main appeal of Palatinate’s print edition in the modern day; it’s a huge in-person presence for the hard work of our editors and contributors, efforts which have continued non-stop for 75 years. 

Over those 75 years, this paper has featured some truly impressive journalism – effectively calling out and exposing the University on their latest scandal for decades – and although that is sometimes mixed with questionable ideas (for example, the 2000s-era annual feature ‘Fittest Fresher’, in which editors took photos of posing 18-year-olds in suits and dresses and ranked them in order of attractiveness), Palatinate has long been a crucial outlet for accountability in Durham, a paper whose history has been weaved with tales of defiance, hard work and dedication in the face of adversity. 

I know that whatever happens next, this paper isn’t going anywhere. Here’s to the next 75 years. 

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