Time Capsule: Give your soul to The Oxford Student

People often say that you get sucked into student journalism. One term writing for your paper(s) of choice becomes two, becomes a year, becomes three, and suddenly you’ve spent what feels like months of your life in a cramped office for the sake of the next print edition.

This has been a recurring theme in my conversations with OxStu alumni over the past year: Editors-in-Chief staying on for multiple terms after their tenure is up; photographers, illustrators, and sub-editors fulfilling the same role for the paper for almost their entire degree; alumni returning less than a year after graduating to be interviewed about their professional lives.

Such dedicated team members can only be found through regular recruitment drives. In the modern day this mostly happens via social media, but in days gone by the OxStu was no stranger to an in-paper advertisement for new staff. Some of these were rather out of the box and eye-catching, as we shall see.

A fairly common tactic for early contributors’ ads was to stick a random piece of pop culture onto the page and attach the paper’s contact details below. These could be anything from a film screenshot to a picture of instant noodles. It was for some reason a recurring conceit in 1994 to feature ads with Marilyn Monroe’s eye in them.

Fake celebrity quotes were a mainstay in early OxStu print editions. A reader who didn’t know any better might have genuinely thought that Kylie Minogue’s press team authorised an enthused endorsement of the Ox2 Culture supplement. Naturally, these jokes figured into recruitment for the paper, with one particularly memorable seal of approval coming from the office of President John F. Kennedy himself. Never mind that he had been dead for thirty years.

These advertisements were not just circulated at the end of term, since contributors often came and went between print editions. It was typically the pattern that the ads would begin fairly witty but still professional in the first few weeks, and around fifth week all hell would break loose as the Editors-in-Chief desperately sought out fresh blood for the paper. This could take the form of individual section vacancies, such as the Sports Editors crying out desperately for women contributors, or a more general demand for Oxford students to give their souls over to the paper.

To end this journey through the OxStu’s most spirited recruitment ads, we’ll turn to a horror-themed bulletin that emphasises the familial experience of student journalism: you can’t leave, even if you want to. Those going on years abroad will be forced to write travel columns. Finalists who nominally step away in their last term will be coaxed back to review plays once exams are over. The ghosts of OxStu alumni will haunt the SU, once the paper is actually old enough to have its editors die of natural causes.

Image credits: Charlie Bowden (1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10); Public domain (2, 4); Rainer Zenz (3)

Image descriptions: An advertisement for contributors for The Oxford Student (1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10); Marilyn Monroe (2); a cup of instant noodles (3); John F. Kennedy (4)