Editorial: The Gown and Good Journalism

Editorial By Aidan Lomas

“If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.” Those are the words of one of the Gown’s most notable readers; Seamus Heaney. After our brief hiatus, it’s time for the Gown to find the words and once again deliver quality student journalism. Whilst the Gown may only be a small spec in the wider world of journalism, I can nevertheless assure you that good journalism is more than achievable; it’s our mission.

Good journalism is often something without definition; it has meaning of course, but that meaning is sometimes lost. Some say that good journalism comes from unbiased, fact-based reports; with this I can agree. Others say good journalism is informative, educational, and guiding. It’s not just facts, but morals too; with this I can also agree. However, I would add that good journalism isn’t found in principles alone, but is instead also found in passion. Without a passionate drive to discuss and report on a topic, the news would be a dull, monochromatic landscape of half-handed stories. These stories would be less than engaging, boring even. Passion is to good journalism what petrol is to a Ferrari F40; it’s the lifeblood that provides excitement but also reliability. Take away the fuel, and the Ferrari becomes little more than an incredibly expensive – and incredibly impractical – chair. Take away the passion, and a newspaper ceases to be little more than a very dull, easily ignorable scattering of words. But, with that being said, passion can also act as a poison. “The centrality of good journalism to democracy is more clear to me now than it was in 2007” were the words of the Newsletter’s Sam McBride in his final article for the newspaper. Whilst passionate reporting can be a benefit to society, it can also be a curse. For the past five years, the poisonous side of journalism has been far more prevalent than its antidotal counterpart. From “fake news” allegations, to claims of ideological underrepresentation, the British and Irish media has been a battlefield of opinions and opposition versus factuality and fraternity. I will hold my hands up and admit to my own misguided engagement in this side of journalism. But, whilst our size may be small, our resources scarce, and our lessons learned, I am sure that the Gown will show once again that – even in just a small corner of the world – journalism can be a force for good in the post-Leveson, post-Trump, post-Brexit world we now inhabit.

Since my appointment to the editorship of the Gown, I have enjoyed frequent correspondence with previous editors of this newspaper. With some having served as long ago as the 1960s and 70s, the Gown’s history has been one based on little more than passion and the immense talent this can unlock. Many of our former editors, as well as former contributors, have gone on to enjoy and endure successful careers in the journalism realm. This career success hasn’t just come from well established talents, but also from a drive to report. One such example would be John Trew. John studied at Queens in the early 1960s, graduating in 1963 with a degree in Law. However, he told me that his primary passion whilst at the University was his editorship of the Gown. This passion led John to become editor of the Belfast Newsletter from 1974 to 1983; the same paper which Sam McBride is now leaving. 

After 66 years, it’s time for the Gown to go on into its latest chapter.

Editorial history isn’t the only thing the Gown shares with the Newsletter. Both papers have seen a contraction in the last few years. Fewer journalists means fewer stories. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Journalism was once, and can be again, a noble cause. Personally, I see nothing more virtuous than seeking to deliver news. Think of literally any historical moment after 1476; without the world of journalism you wouldn’t be able to. From the ascension of Kings to the devolution of Parliaments, journalism has been at the forefront of quite literally everything. But journalism can’t continue without journalist; we can never predict which jobs may be lost to the immeasurable expansion of AI, but we can defiantly hope that journalism as an occupation remains human and humane till the end. It doesn’t matter what prefix you attach to “journalism” — be it student, political, fashion or otherwise — journalism can only serve its original purpose if there are people to make it do just that. That’s why we at the Gown are looking forward with great animation to the academic year ahead. With passionate writers contributing to this paper, it’s certain that we’re going to deliver quality journalism to you, the reader. 

The reader, meanwhile, can also become the writer. You don’t have to seek out a career in journalism to become a writer at this paper; you simply have to be a student. Each week from now until summer 2022, the Gown is going to be on the search for talented and passionate students to contribute to our paper. If there’s something you want to write about, we want to read it. We aren’t, however, just looking for writers. If you have a passion in photography, a skill for social media, a flame for fictional writing, or feel your talents can be demonstrated in another way by working for the Gown over the next academic year, we want to hear why.

With all that said and done, it’s now time for the Gown to excitedly step forward into its latest chapter. We don’t know what the world will look like in the near future, but we promise we’re going to let you know as soon as we find out.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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