Ayomilekan Adegunwa and Rose Henderson are our Editors in Chief for TT23. They are both second years at Worcester College studying PPE. I sat down with them to discuss their paths in student journalism, their opinions of the student journalism scene, and their plans for the future of the Oxford Student this coming term.
MH: What made you want to be Editor in Chief?
AA: I enjoy student journalism and I’ve been doing it pretty much since I started Uni, so the natural progression was to keep on going and eventually when you keep on going you run out of roles and you’re Editor in Chief. I enjoy it and I do think they are things where I’ve thought this could be done better, and so I want to actually try and make some of those things better.
RH: I really enjoyed being Head of News. I found it really fulfilling having a large section and being in charge of doing that. Similar to what Ayomi was saying, as I learned more about the paper, there were more things that I didn’t necessarily want to change but that I also wanted to have a say in how it’s done and be involved in how these things are run. So when I reached the end of Head of News, I thought it would be a really fun challenge to have a go at Editor in Chief.
MH: So far, what has been your favourite section to work on?
RH: Mine is an easy one, since mine is News. I started as a section editor for News and Comment, and then became Head of News which I really enjoyed. I think it’s quite fun how none of the articles are very long, so it’s not the same as like when I was writing Comment articles and you’re spending days on it.
AA: Not to be a copycat, but I think I’d also say News. I’ve done bits of other sections but it’s the section I’ve spent the most time with and it’s the section I have the best idea of what I want it to look like as well. It is also the backbone of the paper, obviously it’s at the start of the paper, and I just think it’s important to have a good News section and that’s like the foundation of the paper.
MH: What, in your opinion, sets the OxStu apart from the other papers and magazines in the student journalism scene?
RH: News wise, not to bang on about News, but I think we’ve done a really good job at being first to a lot of big stories and reporting on them in an objective way, which is really important that we can continue that. Martin, our new Head of News did a good job at this last term, with doing deep dives into things people might not be aware of, so we did that with the Killer Robots campaign. I also think we’re really strong with the other sections of the paper, so I think we were the first Oxford paper to have an Identity/Pink section and I’m really keen on getting the Identity section back up and running this term. So I think we do a great job of having a really wide range of other things and whether that’s people’s opinions of Oxford things or on international things, we have a really wide range of topics.
AA: Obviously I would say this, but I think our standards are quite high, and I genuinely mean that in a good way. The things that get published in the Oxford Student are good journalism and good, quality writing. It’s very rare as well that we have issues with our stories, which is a testament to our editors and our writers, that we write good stuff and very well-researched pieces, that aren’t just thinly-veiled attacks. I do think as well, our vibes are just pretty good. I’m sure other papers probably have good vibes, but our vibes are better.
MH: How did you get into student journalism and what made you choose the OxStu?
RH: For me, I’d randomly met one of my old teachers from school, and when I was at school I’d done quite a bit of debating but I’d come to Uni and the Oxford Union wasn’t really for me, so I stopped doing that. My teacher suggested that I should really think about doing student journalism, saying it was a very equivalent thing of learning new skills and meeting new people. Sometimes I’d get a copy of Cherwell or the OxStu, and I just thought that the OxStu had slightly higher editorial standards and then there were already a couple of people at Worcester who were involved. So I applied over the summer for News and Comment and now here I am.
AA: When I was younger I’d been interested in journalism and writing, so it was one of the things that when I came to Uni, I told myself I really wanted to do. I joined all of the contributor groups just before arriving. I wrote for the Oxford Blue a couple of times but didn’t take an editor position because I didn’t really know how it worked or anything. Then I wrote a piece for the Oxford Student and just in Trinity of my first year decided that I was ready to actually be an editor. I chose the Oxford Student just because it felt more well-organised. It also of course has a print edition, which I think is quite cool to have and I appreciate more the more involved I’ve become in it.
MH: What has been your favourite article to write so far?
AA: Off the top of my head, I think it’s got to be my “Falling Out of Love With Economics” article from the end of last term. Because it’s a topic quite close to my heart in a very superficial sense and it was just fun compared to doing News pieces or Profiles or the Sport pieces I’ve done. Writing a feature about why I dropped part of my degree was just quite fun, and also something I’d been intending to write at some point, because I have quite a lot of strong opinions about economics and getting to say some of those was definitely why it was my favourite piece so far.
RH: I think my favourite was probably my Comment piece, which was about career pressure to get internships and get this high-flying career. It was quite cathartic to write and really nice to have random people who I vaguely knew message me saying they really enjoyed my piece, like that feeling that this has actually gone out into the world and people have read it. My favourite sort of journalistic piece though was the one about the SU VP for Women resigning, which involved obtaining the transcript sheets from student council meetings, and that was just quite exciting and time-pressured making it feel like it was going to be big breaking news.
MH: What has been your proudest achievement in the OxStu so far?
RH: This is a recent achievement and this is maybe speaking too soon, but I am very pleased with the amount of social media pieces that have gone out in the past few weeks, because that was something I was really keen on changing and last term it was only mainly News pieces which went on the Instagram. Everytime I see an Instagram post, it’s just a minor victory and I’m so proud.
AA: Maybe just being Editor in Chief itself. It feels like a good culmination of all the things I’ve done before and all those evenings spent doing stuff and the interviews and everything. I think that has to be my proudest achievement, like being in a position where I can actually help the paper even more and have more influence over the direction and stuff.
MH: What changes are you planning for this term?
AA: What are we planning, Rose?
RH: Social media for me has been a big thing. I really wanted to regulate how often we do that stuff. Then, something else which I wanted to do and has already happened with Martin being so good, is having a News team with more clearly defined roles and people knowing what they’re supposed to be doing. That happened without really having to do much, so Martin was a great appointment by us. I think the difficulty with having termly editorial roles is that people have great ideas and we can implement them for a term, but then new people come in the next term and over the summer there’s a big turnover and all these great ideas don’t really go anywhere. So I suppose, making sure as well we have processes in place to make sure that these ideas can stay in a meaningful way.
AA: I think there are also some nice little changes, so the design of the paper will be tweaked and adjusted. We’ve also just changed our banners for social media and made sure the colours for social media match up with those in the print edition. Massive shout out to Blane for basically doing all of that. I think these little design tweaks add up to a more coherent design for the whole paper. In terms of big changes, one thing I’m really keen on is hopefully creating a newsletter, as something that can be improved is that there is a lot of good writing in the paper but it could be more widely read than it is now. Something I’m passionate about is getting more people reading our stuff, which is kind of what the idea of the newsletter is for.
MH: Do you hope to work in journalism after Uni?
RH: I actually don’t really know and it sounds like a bit of a cop out whenever I say that to someone. Sometimes, on really good OxStu days, I’m like I could do this for the rest of my life, but then there are other days when I’m like actually not. So I’m currently undecided.
AA: I’m leaning yes. I enjoy it, which is obviously why I do it now, but I think student journalism is very different to real-life journalism. A lot of actual journalism is, in my opinion, quite bad, disingenuous if you like. A lot of establishments which one could find themselves writing for, take editorial stances which, at best I disagree with and at worst are just immoral.
MH: What do you do at Oxford outside of the OxStu?
RH: I am the Housing Rep at the Worcester JCR, which I’m in my last term of now. I was on the Scottish Society’s committee as the Treasurer, which was fun because ScotSoc is only new, it started this year, so that’s been fun to discover other Scottish people. Then I also sing in a few Choirs occasionally.
AA: I play American football, which is quite unusual. I occasionally play Bass at Christian Union events, which is I think probably the most rogue thing I do with my time. I do so much on the OxStu that there’s barely any time for anything else. I also do my degree, although sometimes I forget that.
MH: And finally, since you’re both at Worcester, what made you choose it?
RH: I’d come here on an Open Day, and me and my mum had been around some other colleges, mostly the more central ones. And even though they were so pretty, they felt quite claustrophobic in a way. Then we came into Worcester. It was just so big, and obviously everyone says they love the grounds, but I think it was that good balance between being far away and also central. Plus they also take a reasonable amount of PPE students each year.
AA: I filled in some of those ‘which college should you apply to’ forms, because I didn’t want to spend loads of time picking a college only to not get in. Worcester came up on the list a couple of times, so I looked into it and it looked pretty cool, so I applied.