This weekend, in Loughborough in the English Midlands, a few of my colleagues and their peers are getting together for the Student Publication Association‘s annual conference.
At the helm of the conference are sessions on honing the journalistic craft, alongside awards, networking and the ability to celebrate the work of these student publications up and down the UK.
The timing of their meeting comes at an interesting time for media in Britain, as The Independent, once the UK’s youngest newspaper, ended a 30 year run in print to become a digital only publication.
In addition, there are continued talks in Parliament about the future of the BBC, as its Royal Charter comes up for renewal next year, as the publications owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation continue to make headlines ahead of Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking.
Indeed, student media in the UK too has not had it easy recently, something observed in my writing and coverage of British media, from censorship of The Badger, the student newspaper of The Badger at the University of Sussex in southern England in the beginning of the academic year, to the threat of expulsion raised by University College London against one of its students, Rebecca Pinnington, for something she wrote for Pi Media, the university’s student media hub.
Yet, aside from the questions surrounding the future of media in the UK, and the issues surrounding student media, there is a common thread between my colleagues and their peers. Indeed, it is the reason why people the world over go into journalism — they do it not to seek fame or fortune, but to do a service for their communities, large or small, irrespective of beat.
Many of those in attendance at that conference are either journalism students, or students studying a variety of subjects, including English Literature, History, Politics and Economics, hoping to either pursue an MA in journalism or go to a training course to obtain an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualification. They’ve done work placements at broadcasters, newspapers or web sites, and also worked in student media.
But irrespective of what they study, and the route they plan to take, they all have one thing in common — they believe in journalism and the Fourth Estate, the role it has in a democracy, and the role it can have to help millions of people cope better with the world around them. All they want to do is tell stories and make a difference. They want to be a part of journalism’s future, even as the industry itself around the world goes through changes.
I think of this as this week marks four years since I joined Kettle Magazine, a fellow SPA member (I also, for the record, hold a personal membership with the Association). Even though I am working 3,000 miles away from the UK, I have been able to receive a unique education.
The people I have met, who have become my friends, and the ability to help the next generation of journalists ignited the passion for why I wanted to go into journalism, and the sort of work I want to do. Its a reason why I signed up to be an SPA member, and why recently I renewed my membership with SPJ for another year. Its an education I am deeply grateful for, an education I hope to continue receiving, and an education I hope I can experience on the ground in due course.
They’ve also reinforced one other thing — irrespective of platform, and where the industry goes, there is always going to be a need for journalists. Indeed, even in this digital age, no matter what country your from, it takes one experience to remind you why you sought to enter this profession, and the rewards that come from it.
And that is worth celebrating, not just today, but every day.
Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism.
The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.