It’s time to break up these insular journo-circles: They are the real Cambridge bubble

Jack May 25 June 2015

There’s a new inconsequential student publication in town – hadn’t you heard?

For those of you who have been otherwise occupied, getting on with your lives following the end of term – rather than half-heartedly trawling through the dregs of social media on the look for banal entertainment to clog the void before your Summer job starts – a new centre-right magazine, Blue Specs, has been set up; presumably to counter the also recently-established Stepford Student. Its editor and founder is Hesham Mashhour, who I have never met but is of Get Real fame and controversy, apparently.

Out comes a catty and unnecessarily personal (in this author’s humble opinion) “news” article concerning its launch, from this publication, followed by a navel-gazing opinion piece about student journalism; its outlets and future.

My question is, does anyone outside these Cambridge journo circles actually give a damn?

This kind of insular, in-fighting journalism, plus the cult of ‘BNOC’ status (was there ever an acronym which so readily made your hand itch to slap the person who uttered it) perpetuates the existence of the true ‘Cambridge bubble’. And no, it does not encapsulate all students, no matter how we may have semi-consciously employ the term in our bizarre ‘Cantab’ vocabulary – many of us do perfectly well at keeping in touch with the happenings of the 'real world' whilst we’re here.

The true Cambridge bubble stretches from the student publications along Free School Lane, diffuses and regroups at the Union, brushes alongside the ADC – another much written-about, little world unto itself – and encircles various official student political groups and campaigns.

It comprises a few minibus-loads of individuals (mostly pretty darn privileged men, I’ll be honest with you) who appear to spend much of their time either loudly and publicly having ~stimulating~ ‘debates’ with one another (for example, the free speech/no-platforming issue which will seemingly never die, agreement will never be reached, please let it die I beg of you), circle-jerking, or using their oh-so-fascinating opinions and epiphanies to write ~provocative~ ‘think-pieces’. They promote each other, they quote each other and they all end up on Students of Cambridge.

It is petty. It is insular. It is alienating.

Never mind secret all-male societies, the gathering of journos is much more grimly mysterious… Image: wsilver

It is a battle of the egos about which literally no onlookers care unless procrastination has reached dire levels.

These individuals, many of these self-professed ‘BNOCs’ (shudders), are a minority in Cambridge amongst the student body, yet they constitute much of the “news” whilst both governing and occupying most of the platforms. With the ensuing result that cultural, political and journalistic output increasingly resembles personal vanity projects and small-group collective vendettas.

Attempts to engage with the wider student body (beyond their own clique), or to seek to be as relevant for as many as people as possible, are usually half-arsed and condescending if they happen at all, with the possible exception of CULC during the election. As an outsider, I can dispassionately say that they really did seek to reach beyond their own circles with their campaigning.

What’s worse than the sense they give that they’re not aware of their rather narrow experience and restricted portrayal of Cambridge life is the possibility that they are aware, but don’t especially care about their general clique-iness. “You all have the opportunity to get involved – get involved if you want to, we’d love to have you on board!” – goes the cry.

Perhaps there is some truth in that, and it it may be that other people just don’t put themselves forward, but it is hard not to feel that much more could be done to ensure that we aren’t always hearing from the same names all the time; that we do get better representation of the wide-ranging opinions and experiences we may come across in our smaller college contexts at a University-wide level. Far more could be done to ease the impression that platforms are only readily available to members of particular friendship groups and well-connected, fervently self-confident – bordering on narcissistic – individuals.

Until this happens we will continue to get the stories, stances and irrelevant catfights of a select few insulated groups paraded in front of the rest of us: the quiet and diverse majority. 



Read more:

News | Troubled Get Real editor launches new rightwing magazine