Why is it so vital that TCS stays in print?

Image credit: Front pages from 1999

The Cambridge University Students' Union has recently decided to slash its funding of The Cambridge Student. If passed through CUSU Council, this move will force the publication to become online-only. What's so wrong with that? Read on to find out, in the words of those who know best.

Zoe Trodd, Co-Founder of TCS

When we founded ­The Cambridge Student in 1999, it felt like a brave experiment. We wanted the university community to have a smart, provocative, engaged broadsheet-style newspaper, one that looked outward beyond the Cambridge bubble while also challenging the campus community to new ways of thinking. Even back then, before Facebook or Twitter and just a few months a­fter the Guardian went online for the first time in early 1999, we hoped that one day TCS would have a digital presence. Over the years I have carried on reading TCS online, including during the 11 years I spent in the US, and have been grateful for that digital access. But I would be devastated if TCS was no longer piled up in porters’ lodges. When the ‑ first issue appeared off the press in October 1999, as the last great student newspaper to be founded in Britain in the 20th century, I walked round every college to check it was there in each porters’ lodge. I watched that week how fast the piles disappeared in comparison to Varsity. At one point I chased an abandoned copy as it blew across Parker’s Piece, in horror that this precious object was loose in the wind. I slept with each copy of that hard-won first term under my pillow each week. And I have kept that ‑ first run of issues from our founding term in a box that travels with me, from country to country and apartment to apartment. Holding the physical object, seeing others holding the same thing, was part of Cambridge’s imagined community in 1999 and it should still help cohere that community of readers as TCS prepares to turn 20 in 2019. Here’s hoping our brave experiment of the 20th century – a pile of free and well-written words to open, touch and carry around – survives well into the 21st.

Tristan Jones, Founding Director of TCS; CUSU President, 1999-2000

I was one of the team that founded TCS – indeed I think it was my idea, picked up and expanded and made real and fabulous by Zoe and others. I recently returned to Cambridge to give a careers talk and was delighted to see TCS still very much alive, sitting in piles waiting to be united with its readers. I had a very strong sense that those of us involved at the start, and over the years, have built something lasting, now an integral part of Cambridge life. To go online only would, I fear, be to remove TCS from the institution. Its physical presence is what brings it into people’s lives, what makes it part of the furniture. If you lose it then, in years to come, you will want to leaf back through its pages and ‑ and yourselves unable to do so. Please don’t do it!

Tom Whipple Interviews Editor, 2003 & 2004; Science Editor, The Times

When I arrived at Cambridge, I was awed by the student newspapers. I had never conceived that people my age could produce something that so resembled a “proper” paper – with columnists, features, op-ed and news. As a mathmo I presumed it was not for me, but TCS took me in, gave me a chance and introduced me to serious journalism. It launched my career and the career of many of my contemporaries. Including, as it happens, my wife – with whom I now work on The Times. Anything that undermines its quality and seriousness of purpose would be a tragedy. It is not impossible for an online-only publication to succeed, but without the clear format of a paper, the clout that having a physical copy gives in getting decent interviewees and the discipline of having to fill something once every week for fear of printing white space, it will be a lot, lot harder.

Thomas Williams Editor-in-Chief, Michaelmas 2004 & Lent 2005

When I edited TCS, we barely had a website. Facebook had only just arrived, and the web wasn’t the dominant medium that it now is. Times have changed, but a physical printed paper is still something special. Someone sees a pile of them in the porters’ lodge, idly picks on up to check the cuppers results or do the crossword, and ends up reading about the latest news about CUSU or the university in a way that just wouldn’t happen if they had to actively seek it out online. Stopping the print edition of TCS would relegate it to just another website, and would be a very sad day indeed.

Nicholas Tufnell, Editor-in-Chief, Michaelmas 2012

I am very sad to hear that The Cambridge Student print edition is facing closure. Editing and overseeing both digital and print versions of TCS provided me with the experience necessary to go on to write for the BBC, the Observer, the Guardian, Bloomberg and WIRED magazine. Print allows for a slower paced, more considered and more investigative approach to journalism. Its focus - perhaps now more than ever - is on quality over quantity. To lose this would be a tremendous shame. I hope CUSU will reconsider.

Tonicha Upham TCS Director, 2015-16

It is devastating to see print journalism being sacrificed as a dying art form not worthy of saving. TCS is alive and kicking in its print form. Print journalism, and specifically the flavour of print journalism provided by TCS, still has its place in Cambridge, and indeed is vitally important, not only for the quality journalism which it provides but for the immense solidarity of its successive editorial teams and writers. Journalism is an impenetrable world open only to a privileged few with contacts. To reduce opportunities for involvement in student journalism is to deny students the chance to develop their skills and ‑ nd a foothold from which they can forge a career.

Elsa Maishman, Editor-in-Chief, Lent 2016

TCS exists for Cambridge students, and has changed the lives of thousands of them over the years. The experience of reading, writing, illustrating, designing and editing a print newspaper is a different world to that of online publication, and one that CUSU should not be allowed to rob us of.

Amelia Oakley Editor-in-Chief, Easter 2016

So long as there are national newspapers and magazines still printing, it’s absolutely vital that students can get the necessary experience. People engage with TCS online, but they fall in love with journalism through the many diverse skills and experiences that print media offers.

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