Portsmouth’s official student newspaper recently changed names from Pugwash News to The Galleon, and the first issue of our newly rebranded iteration is available now.
Consequently, I’m the gaming and technology editor for the paper. If you’d like to make any contributions (any at all) then, by all means, get in touch.
The proposed name change presented us at the paper with an interesting dilemma. It was all done very democratically, with all of the paper’s editors coming together to cast a vote which ended 14-6 in favour or something like that. Some students understandably wanted the decision to be more of a campus-wide vote, giving students the chance to decide whether their paper changes its name or not, and then be given a vote on what that new name should be. Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?
However, I’d like to defend the manner in which this decision was taken, while pointing out some of the potential problems that true ‘democracy’ presents us with.
We are a young team, first established in 2007, and admittedly the paper has a long way to go before it can consider itself on par with most other university-run publications. One of the things that had the potential of holding us back in the long term was the Pugwash name itself. Regardless of its stated ‘official’ origins, one cannot deny its potential connotations. It sounded light-hearted and potentially immature, giving a false impression of our paper’s high aims and standards. We want to sound professional, we want to be professional, and I don’t personally believe that was the intentions of those who originally established the paper, who may not have seen it as a long term project. Long term is exactly what this current team wishes it to be, so we feel it was the right time to give it a more professional name, layout, and improved writing standards. Regular readers will be familiar with the recent problems that Pugwash News has had, and you could say that this new direction is a way of putting that behind us and making a fresh start.
Consider then, had we opened up this vote to all 22,000 students of the university, who we must after all see as our primary demographic. Will the majority of students understand our strive to give the paper higher standards? Frankly, are the party-loving first years mature enough to take this subject matter seriously? The most likely problem we would have had, though, and I’m being totally honest here, is that a lot of the current generation of students simply wouldn’t have taken any interest. Many of them only read the paper when they or someone they know/team they support are name-checked within its 30-plus pages. They couldn’t care what it’s called precisely because ‘Pugwash News’ sounded less exciting than a night in with a law textbook. Ironically, it’s only when a major change such as this happens that they suddenly start to claim it’s ‘their’ paper.
With this important change, we are telling our student peers that we do care about their paper. The Galleon‘s readership has already shot up higher than Pugwash News ever managed, and that’s after barely five days in circulation around various university buildings. It was democratically decided upon within the team, and if we had believed everyone was as passionnate about it as we were, with the same contextual knowledge of its history, then I’m sure the vote would have been opened up to everyone.
If you are a student, and you do disagree with the change, or think it’s actually pretty good, then I do hope you give us feedback. There are obvious ways to get in touch; you could even use this blog (although it is certainly not officially affiliated with The Galleon). You can’t expect to participate in democracy otherwise. The entire Galleon team encourages its readers to let us know if you’re not happy. Tell us what we can do better!
Until then, enjoy your new paper. For non-Portsmouth students, I would be interested to know how things are different at your university? How old is your campus publication, and has it had similar problems to Pugwash? After all, it may not be long before it’s being challenged by this young upstart known as The Galleon.