Hello again.

Today I thought I’d talk about what, for me, is one of the most annoying aspects of university, student journalism. In particular, the Tab. If you don’t know what the Tab is, it’s a student ‘news’ site composed of a weird mish-mash of stupid articles trying to be taken seriously, stupid articles being stupid, self-important garbage, and Buzzfeed-style ‘listicles’ (lists posing as articles) and quizzes that link back to universities in some way. It’s pure rubbish (although there are some good articles, they are very few and far between).

In each section of this blog, I’ll attempt to dissect one example of each type of trash. All the following articles are taken from the Tab’s national branch i.e. the stuff that is meant to appeal to students all over the country.

How the Tab views its audience.

Let’s talk about the first thing I mentioned in that long list of awfulness and that is the crap articles trying to present themselves as proper journalism. This article is about the newly-elected president of the NUS (an organisation I will most likely be writing about in the near future), Malia Bouattia, declaring that university should be free for students. Yeah, no shit she’d say that! This is simply not news. Anyone with half a brain would’ve been able to assume that the leftist leader of an organisation, which, if it was any more left-leaning, would fall over, is behind the idea of subsidised higher education.

So this is merely the headline, and it’d be unfair to judge the article solely on this alone, so we must look beyond it, and see if any additional insight or interesting points are provided by the author.

Helpfully, the author, Tom Jenkin (who is deputy editor of this god-forsaken organ) has included a link to Bouattia’s Guardian article very early on in the article. However, he may as well not have bothered because he seems to have taken out a significant chunk of it and put it in his own article. This would perhaps be fair game if it hadn’t taken up half the article. Half the article is not the Jenkin’s own words. What kind of journalism is this!? That’s a rhetorical question because we already know that it’s the really bad kind. Seriously, just link Bouattia’s article and tell people to go read it, rather than using it to pad out your distinctly lacking attempt at journalism.

Standard journalistic practice for the Tab. Source: https://codepen.io/wbarlow/post/i-made-this-on-codepen


Now let’s have a look at what Jenkin himself has actually managed to write. He mentions that it was recently announced that universities could soon be able to charge more than the ‘already ridiculous’ £9000-a-year. I would agree that this is a bad thing, and most students would also agree. However, this was already reported all over the media days before this article was published. The Tab article was published on the 18th May, whereas most major news outlets reported the anticipated rise of tuition fees on the 15th or 16th. So it’s not really news, Jenkin hardly provides any real opinion, and there’s no proper insight provided into the whole issue.

But Jenkin then actually succeeds in providing us with additional information that is not derived from Bouattia’s article, that the NUS has boycotted the National Student Survey. Apparently it’s an irritating survey which students are prompted about repeatedly and makes students feel more like ‘customers’ than ‘learners’. I, personally, have not experienced this, maybe because I haven’t signed up for NUS extra, but I’m focussing more on the style and content rather than the actual argument here. This point actually isn’t terrible, as it leads on from Bouattia’s argument and also shows Jenkin’s own opinion on the matter. Yet it’s the only (very brief) part of the article which really showcases these qualities. The rest is just quoting/paraphrasing Glorious Supreme Leader Bouattia.

Basically, all Jenkin achieves in this article is providing a condensed version of a much more professional article from a much more respectable outlet. What is the point of its existence? To try and make the Tab look more like a real newspaper that caters for students and their political standpoints. In all honesty, just read the Guardian if you want more student-orientated actual news (or better yet, read multiple news sources so you can gain different insights into an argument, rather than restricting yourself to one viewpoint).

And I’m meant to read what this man writes with a straight face.

Now let’s get on to the type of article that’s a bit more fun to take the absolute mick out of, and that is the moronic articles about stuff no-one really cares about.

This article comes to us from the chief reporter of the Tab, Jack Cummings. As you can see, it’s really hard hitting stuff, detailing the story of a dog which learnt how to skateboard. The trials and tribulations that this furry, four-legged version of Tony Hawk went through must have been so difficult. I can’t even imagine.

This is bollocks.

The only thing I’ll give this article is that the dog’s pretty cute, but if I wanted to look at cute dogs doing funny things, I’d google it, not read the bloody paper. The sad thing is, that this article is much better presented and written than the previous ‘serious’ article we discussed. However, that means that the chief sodding reporter has actually spent a certain amount of time and effort writing this article, especially as he’s gone out and actually interviewed the dog’s owners. Jesus Christ.

He may as well have interviewed the dog too.

Now, the counter-argument to my cynicism is, that not all articles should be serious, and we need some light-relief, which mainstream news outlets don’t provide (even though they do). I’m not sure if I can totally get behind that point of view. If you want light relief, go on websites like Facebook or Imgur. If you want news, go to a news website. It’s all well and good trying to cater to multiple audiences, some people want puppy stories, others want news, but the problem with that is, that you actually have to be quite good journalists to do it properly.

If you are going to do articles like this, leave it to any random student, because they could easily manage it to the same standard. Get your chief bloody reporter (who I assume is either full-time or paid a decent amount for his services) to try and report on stories that actually mean something to students. Don’t waste your time and money on doing journalistic research on a story that basically boils down to cute pictures, because that’s what people are going to be looking at. The text content of the article itself will come a distant second in terms of drawing interest.

Now, although I’ve covered primary reasons for why the Tab is cack, there is still plenty to discuss in terms of the other elements which make it truly terrible. I’m going to leave that for a part two, continuing on from this post, which will come out very soon.

Hope you enjoyed, and please feel free to leave any feedback. Remember to stick around for part two!

See ya!


NB: Throughout these two posts, please bear in mind I’m not ripping on those who have written one-off articles for the Tab. I’m criticising those who run the organisation and their misguided attempts at providing news and entertainment.



One thought on “Students Can’t Do Journalism: Part 1

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