[Kealie Mardell | Print Editor]
Hertfordshire Students’ Union and Trident Media hosted their first Student Publication Association conference on Saturday 21st February. Student journalists visited Herts for the second South East Conference, featuring workshops and industry speakers.
The Student Publication Association (SPA) is made up of student media outlets coming together to share training, advice, and to recognise their successes.
Attending from SPA was Chair Sophie Davis, Digital Media Officer Aubrey Allegretti, and regional officers Katrina Chilver (Midlands), Marion Legran (London), and Jem Collins (South East). Delegates included representatives from Le Nurb, The Edge, The Badger, The Stag, Wessex Scene and Inquire Live.
“I was really pleased with how the day went,” said Sean Howlett, Volunteer and Societies Coordinator at Hertfordshire Students’ Union. “One of the main concerns with hosting an event like this is whether people enjoy the day. Fortunately they did, and I was really proud of the Trident lot!”
After an early start, travelling delegates were greeted with coffee and pastries in Hutton Hall. Starting the event was Julie Palmer, speaking about local news. Palmer began by explaining her own journey into journalism, entering what was previously a male dominated field of sports journalism, before becoming the first female editor of the Hertfordshire Mercury.
Palmer spoke about the importance of local news outlets, who are often trusted more than national papers as they can build a sense of community with their readers.
#SPAsoutheast It’s all about finding out who your audience is and delivering to them @MercuryJulie — Trident Media (@TridentMediaUK) February 21, 2015
Through a question and answer session with the delegates, Palmer affirmed that “this is not the end of newspapers, it’s an interesting time to get involved in media,” although the way in which news is printed is changing.
Brilliant start to the day with a talk from @MercuryJulie echoing my love of local news for making a difference. #SPAsoutheast — Katrina Chilver (@katychilv) February 21, 2015
Following the conference, Palmer thanked the organisers and said: “What the students do in putting together their publications is a huge achievement and I take my hat off to them.”
Creating shareable content
One important aspect of student media is the need for online success. Brenda Wong, campaigns executive for StudentBeans.com, delivered an engaging talk on creating shareable content. She revealed that student readers want content that is fun, identity-reinforcing, useful, inspirational and timely.
“People engage more with things they can relate to,” said Wong. She identified the three elements of going viral and increasing audience engagement as content, social media and SEO (search engine optimisation).
#SPAsoutheast “If your content is good and your headline is good, people will want to read it” @brendaisarebel — Trident Media (@TridentMediaUK) February 21, 2015
With social media, the key is to “make it visual” using photos and graphics. On SEO Wong advised “sprinkle keywords here and there,” but that ultimately there is no secret formula for success.
‘There is no secret to going viral,’ says @brendaisarebel. #SPASouthEast pic.twitter.com/QalF6zcpBL — SPA (@SPAJournalism) February 21, 2015
The discussion also looked at the potential issues surrounding click-bait headlines. Wong advised avoiding them, although she acknowledged that they do work. She said: “You want to be as truth and honest about what you write as possible.” There’s no use in a shocking headline without the content to back it up.
Echoing Palmer’s feedback, Wong said she had “an excellent time” and that “the future of journalism is looking bright”.
Still buzzing after my @studentbeans talk for @SPAJournalism #SPAsoutheast (credit: @TridentMediaUK) pic.twitter.com/Qj2NBroSdr — Brenda Wong (@brendaisarebel) February 21, 2015
Throughout the day delegates were taking to Twitter in a quest to win a bottle of wine, awarded to whoever sent the most tweets using #SPASouthEast. By lunch, the competition was heating up, with quotes of the day flying and all eyes on the prize.
Le Nurb Nerds are on tour at #SPASouthEast today! Free food! pic.twitter.com/tFi88qitQv — Le Nurb (@le_nurbonline) February 21, 2015
Crunching the numbers
Exploring another potential aspect of student media, Duarte Romero-Varela said: “Data journalism is behind some of the biggest stories of our time.” He explained that it’s important for journalists to learn about data because it’s essentially unavoidable, and you should be able to analyse it yourself.
His presentation took some interesting turns, drawing comparisons between data journalism and punk culture, and using examples relating to PornHub, masturbation and selfies.
.@Duarte_RV has come up with a right gem here.. #datajournalism #SPAsoutheast http://t.co/aqX9fho6tA pic.twitter.com/GNbFwQuiQj — SPA (@SPAJournalism) February 21, 2015
`Romero-Varela advised that the best places for student journalists to find data is through local authorities, social media, and free online resources.
The final speaker of the day was Laura Garcia, freelance multimedia journalist. Following Garcia’s advice on securing those journalism jobs, “if you want it enough, you are going to get it,” the group’s motton soon became “never give up, never surrender.”
Inspiration for journalism from @lauragrb #SPAsoutheast pic.twitter.com/NjhAgThJdH — Shelby Loasby (@ShelbyPLoasby) February 21, 2015
Sharing entertaining tales of her own experiences and advice for others she warned that freelancing can be exploitative, but that you have no choice. The quest for work experience (usually unpaid) can be down to part luck and part shameless questions. You won’t get it you don’t ask!
“If you play enough cards, something will out. It’s statistics,” she said. Once you’ve secured work experience, make the most of it: “Bring the skills and willingness to learn.”
#SPAsoutheast “Journalism is great, it’s not a boring job. It’s really exciting” @lauragrb — Trident Media (@TridentMediaUK) February 21, 2015
Alongside the presentations from industry speakers, delegates also had a chance to discuss the issues facing student media outlets, and to give feedback on each other’s work during a publication swapshop.
There are some amazing student newspapers around. It’s great to see the hard work of editorial teams from other universities. #SPAsoutheast — Katrina Chilver (@katychilv) February 21, 2015
Before the day came to and end, culminating in drinks at Hertfordshire’s own EleHouse, it was time to count up the tweets and award the sought after bottle of wine. I’m proud to share that the highest number of #SPAsoutheast tweets came from yours truly, tweeting from @TridentMediaUK, winning a bottle to share with Team Trident.
Hertfordshire’s South East Conference was an incredible opportunity for student journalists to come together, reinforcing the importance of a group like SPA.
South East Regional Officer Jem Collins, said:
“It was great to see so many people from so many universities coming together for SPA South East and I really hope everyone took something valuable away from the day. All of our speakers have been in touch to say how wonderful they thought the delegates were and we’ve also had great feedback from the people attending, so thankfully it seems to have gone well! The team at Hertfordshire have been absolutely fantastic and on behalf of the SPA I want to thank you so much for helping to make such an excellent day. We’ll definitely be doing more South East things, so stick with us.”
Digital Officer Aubrey Allegretti, also said: “It was an awesome chance to get together with other budding journalists to socialise, network and learn from one another. We’re hoping to put on plenty of events like this across the UK to help train and bolster student media on every university campus!”
In April, SPA are hosting their national conference, SPANC, at the University of Southampton where delegates from across the country are invited to attend for industry meets, training, practical and breakout sessions, before ending the weekend with the Student Publication Association Awards.
Hertfordshire Students’ Union and Trident Media hope to be involved in further opportunities with SPA, and would like to thank everyone who came to our South East Conference!