I study at Royal Holloway, in Egham, 26 miles away from my fellow colleges in Bloomsbury. Every month or so, a towering stack of copies of the London Student is delivered, deposited on the floor of our Students’ Union, a single hall of residence, and a bar at the bottom of campus. And there they remain, until the next issue arrives and the remaining obsolete issues have to be recycled in their hundreds. Rinse and repeat for six months, and it is apparent that the paper has entirely failed to engage our college. Me and about ten other journalist and political hacks (or ‘masochists’) here read it, only to each time end up shaking our heads in either disappointment or disbelief. What is the point in being ‘Europe’s largest student newspaper’ if all that huge pile of pulp does is sit unread in a lobby?
I find it astounding that, despite having ULU funding, a salary exceeding that of many professional journalists, and no other commitments, Ms. Izaakson has yet found it difficult to publish her minimum obligation of ten issues at a bare minimum of quality. What is she doing with her time? Alongside my studies I am the voluntary Editor-in-Chief of a free student paper, which receives funding solely through advertising. Yet despite our limited resources, we will have published nine issues by the end of the academic year, and have so far managed to avoid ‘accidentally’ reprinting the same sponsored article on two consecutive pages, or, say, contributing to the scrapping of over 2,000 students’ votes.
No-one will deny news is moving online, but perhaps Izaakson should listen to the people reminding her that a newspaper is still not a personal Twitter account. The London Student website is low on her list of priorities, and remains poorly-designed and poorly-maintained. (Check it out!) One of the last articles she published on the site was also published as a personal Facebook note (which she sponsored with her own money). Of the five ‘news’ stories on its front page, three of them are about Ms. Izaakson’s increasingly insecure job, and all are by the same person, a loyal writer named Lauren Miller. Three of the four comment stories featured are also about this farce. Articles from the actual paper (that hefty volume supported by those fifty contributors Izaakson uses as a human shield when she is blamed for the paper’s poor quality) rarely get a look in. Most of the college tabs link to stories over a year old, and the most recent story on the RHUL tab is nearly two years old. The reputation of the Editor is being prioritised over other students’ voices being heard.
How long must London’s student journalism suffer for this one ex-student’s wounded pride? The time for Izaakson to leave gracefully passed some time ago, and in a blaze of ignominy she is now resorting to destructive factionalism, incorrectly accusing random students of being members of organisations that don’t even have an agenda against her. She has bizarrely accused SURHUL President Doug German of being a member of the NCAFC (National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts), a fact which is not only laughably incorrect, but also irrelevant. She also accused another student here, Joe Rayment, of being a ‘leading member’ of the group, when he is not even a member. In defending herself from accusations of inaccuracy, she apparently cannot help but embarrass herself further.
ULU President Michael Chessum, and a so-called ‘clique’ under his sway, have been accused of unfair discrimination by the paper. The article in question cites ‘copy errors’ as the foremost cause for the upcoming vote of no confidence in Izaakson, despite the fact she is dyslexic. This is a serious allegation, but firstly: it is preceded by four allegations of misconduct and bias, clearly ordered in the official motion. Secondly: it shouldn’t be hard in a federal university with a population bigger than Dundee’s to find a proofreader or two. That is unquestionably the Editor’s responsibility.
Accuracy is important, and, ironically – in the article defending Izaakson’s copyreading skills – my college was named as ‘Rolloway Holloway’. Mistakes happen, but if you’re going to pay attention in any article, that one might be top of the list.
Perhaps writing this article will cause me to be lumped in with the rest of this mysterious ‘ULU/NCAFC clique’. I am not a member of NCAFC, but I’ve been to the ULU building a total of two times, so perhaps that makes me guilty. And although I endorsed Oscar Webb in the now-annulled London Student campaign, this was only after being personally contacted by him and preferring his manifesto. I have never met him, and I have nothing against Katie Lathan. I have no vested interest in this election other than wanting the standard of journalism at the paper to improve, drastically. Unfortunately, whatever the March election results, they have been irrevocably voided, largely thanks to what the London Student allowed to be published. It is tantalising but irrelevant to demand their release, and doing so would simply bias any subsequent democratic process.
I won’t lie and say this isn’t funny any more, because it is. But nonetheless, I urge the ULU Senate to submit a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Jen Izaakson on Thursday 4th April. And then I want a second cross-campus ballot.
Thomas Seal is Editor-in-Chief of The Founder, The Independent Student Newspaper of Royal Holloway
A recent poll on The Founder’s Facebook page showed that at the time of writing over 70% of those polled think Jen Izaakson has not done a good job as Editor-in-Chief.
Vote here: https://www.facebook.com/TheFounderNewspaper