Editors-in-Chief Charlie Bowden and Emily Hudson

In conversation with the Editors-in-Chief

Emily Hudson (4th year, Oriel College) and Charlie Bowden (2nd year, Jesus College) are our new Editors-in-Chief for Michaelmas 2023. As associate editors, we are tasked with helping them to implement their paper-wide vision for one term.

In this interview, we sat down with them to find out what that actually is. We discovered along the way that they’re keen to improve access to the paper and to student media more widely, that they both *actually* like their degrees, and that they have a debilitating obsession with podcasts.

Martin Alfonsin Larsen: Why did you apply to be Editor-in-Chief?

Charlie Bowden: I didn’t apply to be Editor-in-Chief necessarily thinking that I was going to get it; I knew that because I had only been on the editorial team for one term, I was essentially [throwing] my hat in the ring. From what I saw in the paper in Trinity, things felt organised and stable, and I wanted to continue the environment that the previous Editors-in-Chief Rose and Ayomi had cultivated. I also had creative ideas, specifically with the podcast, that I wanted to try and make a reality. 

Emily Hudson: I also didn’t entirely think I would get it. But I thought that if I did, I would be a good person for the job, as I’ve been on paper for a long time so I really have seen how it works over the years. I wanted to make sure it carried on a good road, and I felt that I was in a good position to do that. 

I also thought it would be good for me because I do a science degree, to try and get more scientists involved in the paper. By being Editor-in-Chief, it shows that it can be done, because lots of scientists worry about scheduling, and if they have the time to get involved in something like this. So I’m trying to keep the paper accessible while maintaining it on the good road that it’s been on.

By being editor-in-chief, it shows that it can be done, because lots of scientists worry about scheduling, and if they have the time to get involved in something like this.

Tara Earley: It can sometimes feel like student media is a bit of an elitist landscape. Do you have any plans for improving access?

CB: Freshers’ Fair was this week, and we’ve been demonstrating there that the paper is as welcoming as possible. There were benefits and drawbacks to being surrounded by SU-related societies, rather than the student media ones. But one of the benefits was we were standing on our own, and proving we’re a space that is editorially independent. The paper was obviously a welcoming space before we got here – I joined week three of Michaelmas, kind of on a whim. And the team was really welcoming in my first term, and that was ultimately the reason I came back. So we’re just trying to build on what’s already there.

EH: Something I’ve always liked about OxStu is the atmosphere of working. You don’t necessarily have to want to be a journalist; different people are here for different reasons, and we welcome all purposes. It’s much less focused on what people can give to the paper, but more what the paper can give to them.

I’m quite fortunate to have gotten to Oxford from a state school. I think setting an example that it can be done, and trying to maximise the involvement we have from people from disadvantaged backgrounds is only a good thing; the more diversity in the voices we’re able to amplify, the better, and that’d be a better representation of the Oxford student body as a whole.

MAL: What would you say are both of your biggest journalistic influences?

CB: The two journalistic realms that I engage with the most are entertainment and political journalism. They’re two very different worlds, but sometimes they can interact, and I’d say that bringing those different realms together is something that I’ve been impressed by, whether it’s for an entertainment publication like Pitchfork or even something more mainstream than that. When journalists are able to make incisive commentary on both things at the same time, that’s something that inspired me to try and pursue that myself. 

EH: My experience runs somewhat in parallel to Charlie’s, in that my gateway was through my subject in science journalism. I’ve been reading pop science magazines like the New Scientist since I started school, and I really liked the way that they tried to make those subjects engaging to the general reader. Science communication is very important; it can be done well, but it can also be done badly.

I also really enjoy English literature and analysis, and bringing that analytical mind to all subjects. Having been politically engaged for a long time, I think it was only natural that I was going to want to share my opinions somewhere. My influences are much more about reading in general; reading articles is what I do in my free time, and I like to stay engaged with issues of the world in all areas.

When journalists are able to make incisive commentary on both things at the same time, that’s something that inspired me to try and pursue that myself.

TE: What would you say has been your proudest moment at the OxStu so far?

CB: I’d say that it’s the article I did last term on the coronation, and how Oxford reacted to it; on the ground journalism, as opposed to writing up a press release. As part of that, I collaborated with other journalists, and we were each able to focus on things that we particularly wanted to discuss. It was really rewarding to talk about something that was felt throughout the whole of the UK, rather than just inside the Oxford bubble. 

EH: The funny answer is when I won Best Chat at the OxStu awards; I thought it was the culmination of a long term of being really funny. 

More seriously, there’s three articles of mine that stand out to me, because in all of them I stepped into a field I wasn’t immediately involved in. The first was the House of Lords article I wrote, which had me going through PPE reading lists, and just getting stuck into something that I don’t necessarily have a background in. That’s something I like about journalism in general; you’re able to become an expert in a very specific thing. 

Second was the article on space ethics. I very much had it on my mind, because people like Elon Musk were talking about colonising Mars. And thirdly, my article on superconductors. That was, again, topical, and following the way that science was changing through that, I found it really interesting.

That’s something I like about journalism in general; you’re able to become an expert in a very specific thing. 

MAL: You’ve been in the role now for a couple of months, but in term time, it’s just been a week. What part of your vision are you most excited to execute as an editor in chief of the paper?

CB: For me, the podcast is the most obvious thing. There were talks about it in previous terms, and it took a lot of work. I think it was only because we had the summer vacation to get it going that we were able to recruit a proper team and prepare everything. It hasn’t come out yet, but I’m sure that when it does, it will really deliver and be able to show yet another side to the publication. It’s now not just in journalism on the page, but showcasing the people behind it, why they make the decisions they make when they create their journalism, and hopefully some harmless fun along the way.

EH: The podcast also helps to further our aim of making the newspaper accessible, because if people can hear about how we go about getting involved in the paper, they might realise that it’s nowhere near as scary as they might think. I’m also excited to be training a new team of editors, who will hopefully take over and continue the work we’ve done. I’m excited to see where it goes next, and our main goal is to get more people in.

TE: What’s the biggest thing that you’d like to change as Editor-in-Chief within the paper?

EH: A lot of the changes I wanted to see I was able to achieve last term as associate editor. Those major changes were having more in-person meetups between the team and also sorting out the distribution of the paper. But I’m glad to say that the team all now regularly meet, and the paper will hopefully arrive when we want it to. I’d like to launch the podcast, keep the environment as informal as possible, and add a thing or two to our newsletter.

CB: I would agree – I don’t think there are major things that we’re really seeking to change. I know we had discussions about moving around some sections or changing the remit of sections, but we ultimately decided that the selection that we have covers a breadth of topics that relate to the Oxford student body, and we decided we didn’t really need to change them. 

Your student journalism experience is what you make of it; you only have to be involved to the extent that you want to.

MAL: What do you think distinguishes the Oxford Student from other student publications in the media landscape?

EH: I haven’t worked on other student publications, so I can’t say for sure. But something I really do enjoy about the OxStu is how friendly the environment is, and how the intensity is what you make it. I think that helps accessibility; it makes it less scary to get involved in, because people can try it out without committing to a whole term of work. I also think that the fact that we’re in print and online regularly, and that we’ve got a great news team that breaks stories as they come out. That’s what distinguishes us.

CB: Linking to that, I think there are so many ways to get involved. We have an expanding creative team, which will help to incorporate a more artistic side to the paper. Obviously we’ve got the podcast, which is another way to get involved. In terms of print journalism, even though we have a full team for the term, we still want to hear a variety of new voices. When people come up to you because they’re interested in talking about one specific thing, and want to do that article well; I think that’s really special. We’re trying to reach out to those people as much as possible to show them that you don’t have to have a permanent commitment to be a part of this paper. You don’t have to take so much time out of your week to do that; the multiple layers of involvement of the OxStu set it apart.

TE: Emily, you mentioned the news. We were wondering what your thoughts are on how best to cover student politics, and more specifically, organisations like the Union, OUCA, etc.?

EH: I think one of our goals in the paper is to make sure that the news we produce is relevant to the majority of Oxford students. Perhaps the Union does get a bit too much coverage, but I think it’s important that issues that affect any group of students are treated with dignity and sensitivity, particularly in relation to controversial figures coming to Oxford.

We understand that may be distressing for some students. So it’s good to get the information out there, so students can prepare themselves, and so that student groups that might want to protest can do so in an organised way. 

We can’t deny there’s student politics here, and people will be affected by it. This is, to some extent, the training ground for future politicians. If they want to act like politicians, we should treat them like politicians, and hold them accountable if they do things that affect others. That’s my philosophy towards any individual who does such things.

CB: I broadly agree. As someone who was on the News team last term, sometimes you do get a bit sick of the student politics, especially because it often does seem to come from similar groups. But we do have to report on it. As Emily said, sometimes we care more about them than we probably should, because there’s so many societies in Oxford, and sometimes it feels like we’re only focusing on a select few who do things that make headlines often. But we try to treat whatever we’re reporting on, and the people that it might hurt, with dignity and respect. I definitely don’t want it to become the only part of our news carousel, because there’s so many different elements to Oxford life that we can report on.

If they want to act like politicians, we should treat them like politicians, and hold them accountable if they do things that affect others.

MAL: What advice would you give to someone who’s just joined the paper?

CB: Voice what you’re interested in, whether you’re looking to be a freelance contributor who writes when you have time, or a section editor. This is a space where you can discuss and explore things that you want to pursue. We’ve got something like 50 people on the paper in all this term, and this isn’t just a training ground for journalists. People join the paper for different reasons, and this should be a space for people to write about things that you care about, and things that interest you. Your student journalism experience is what you make of it; you only have to be involved to the extent that you want to.

EH: I would add that even if we’re in charge, there is no real hierarchy. We respect everyone’s opinions, and anyone can come forward with thoughts or suggestions. This is a paper for everyone, and I really want the input that goes in to reflect that principle. It’s a space for students to do what interests them, and to explore writing. Anyone who joins the paper should have fun with it. This is an extracurricular activity; no one’s marking your work. Try your best to enjoy what you’re doing and get to know others on the team, because there’s plenty of like-minded individuals. Make the most of it.

TE: Finally, outside of the OxStu, what do you enjoy doing?

CB: A lot of my interests beyond the OxStu relate to my academic interests in history. I’m part of a podcast group that interviews academics about their research, and I’m also the secretary of my college’s History Society. 

I came to know the journalism that I enjoyed through experiencing pop culture and political journalism, and I try to keep updated on those on a regular basis. I think it’s important to stay aware of issues that might not necessarily affect you, but still matter to someone. I don’t want to say journalism is taking up my life, but I definitely enjoy engaging with it beyond my OxStu commitments.

EH: I can say quite unironically that I really love my degree. I’ve got very varied interests, but I’m really glad I’ve been able to explore physics because that’s something that’s very hard to do as a hobby. Outside of the OxStu, I like to read articles on issues that matter to me, especially class-related articles, and analysis of the science world at large. I also really love music. I love making playlists – that’s more or less how I relax. And beyond that, I do actually also have a life – so far, at least! – so I am able to socialise with my friends still. And I’m going to make the most of my fourth year by doing just that.

This conversation has been edited for concision and clarity.