#LeadLUU: Meet the candidates vying to be the next Editor-in-Chief of The Gryphon

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Why do you want to be Editor-in-Chief?

On a personal level, I’ve enjoyed working for The Gryphon over the past year and writing for it the year before that. I think working with The Gryphon is one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had at university. I know the number of copies of The Gryphon has been declining steadily over the past couple of years, as, I think, have the online views. If I were Editor-in-Chief of The Gryphon, I’d be the person to get the number of views back up and give people a paper they want to read again.

What makes you a better choice than the other candidates?

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Mark and James – I think they’re really good editors. But I feel the ideas they have will continue to take the paper in the same direction, whereas I offer real change.

The students’ union often has a clear political or social agenda. Do you think The Gryphon should also have an editorial agenda?

I don’t think we ought to have an editorial agenda. I believe we have a duty to speak for the entire student body. If there is an agenda being pushed by the union, I’d like to see a debate piece debating both sides of this issue in the first few pages of The Gryphon so people can see what’s going on and question why they should think one way about it or another.

You state under your manifesto pledge to ‘Challenge the University’ that the paper did not reflect the anger of students over issues such as the university’s refusal to divest from fossil fuels. The paper ran that story as a front page headline. So if you think the paper is failing in this regard, what would you do differently?

I think you’re right, it does do it to a point. But it used to be more explicit, it needs to happen more often and it needs to happen in more depth.

You talk about implementing a system wherein members of clubs and societies could edit pages in the paper under your supervision. There are over 250 clubs and societies at Leeds University. How will you accommodate them all?

I understand that concern. Well, I imagine the first time I run this out, if I get elected, not all of the 300 societies will apply straight away. I feel like a lot will wait until they see the initiative running, so I would call for people to apply at the start of the year and then I’d go through and pick which I think are most interesting for students.

You pledge in your manifesto not only to have copies of The Gryphon placed in every halls of residence, but in every flat in the halls system. This seems largely impractical and very costly. So how will you be able to achieve this financially and practically?

There’s 7,700 students in halls. There’s 1,492 flats, so I need 1,492 copies of the paper. We print 2,000 copies of the paper each week, about a quarter of which are not taken. This means that we have 1,500 in circulation and I’d say about 500 of these are taken by first years. So we’ll have 1,000 papers available to be delivered to flats, which means that we only need to increase production by 500 copies a week. Production costs are £750 a week at the moment, so it would probably cost £850 altogether, maybe less. It’s £500 for a full-page advert in The Gryphon. We find it very difficult to fill these advertising spaces. If you can tell student letting agents and other businesses that you can get the newspaper on to the doorstep of 7,700 students who have never been to Leeds before, that will generate a lot of revenue. Also, in terms of delivery, I’m looking to put aside maybe one day week for delivery.

Finally, in a sentence or two, why should people vote for you?

People should vote for me because I believe I offer a real alternative to the current declining Gryphon which the other two candidates do not.

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I’ve been an editor here for two years, I was a writer before that and I can’t imagine a job more perfect to come out of university and throw myself into wholeheartedly. Secondly, I genuinely do feel I’d be good at it because of the ideas I’ve got – I’ve been thinking about my manifesto for a year now.

What makes you a better choice than the other candidates?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that all three of us are good candidates, we’ve all been editors for years. What separates me is the variety of my experience. I’ve been a Sports editor and I’m currently an Arts editor, so I’ve been involved with both the newspaper and In the Middle. I think this gives me, maybe not an edge, but a different aspect that the other candidates don’t have.

The students’ union often has a clear political or social agenda. Do you think The Gryphon should also have an editorial agenda?

No I really don’t. I’m quite opposed to us having that sort of hardline political agenda. I really do believe that a paper serves a purpose and that purpose should be to inform and spark debate. We shouldn’t be dogmatic because, again, that will prevent us from attracting a wider group of writers and editors.

The first pledge on your manifesto concerns reviving the Sports section in order to ‘ensure this beloved section’s survival’. You single this element of the paper out specifically. Sports features a mixture of university-related and professional stories, it features stories of a wide variety, it features stories about both male and female teams, it features a list of upcoming fixtures at the university. What exactly is wrong with the section and how would you revitalise it?

I want to say there’s nothing wrong with the section in terms of the amazing content that the editors produce week in, week out. What I’m talking about is the immense pressure that they have been put under due to things like a lack of writers, which has led to pages being cut. There’s so much potential with those editors and that section, but they’ve been put under an immense amount of pressure. This is because the Sports section hasn’t been publicised in the way that it should have been. To give you an example, when we did a Give it a Go and introduced the sections, Sports weren’t able to advertise themselves as the unique opportunity they represent. By time they got round to saying they had tickets for various sporting events, people weren’t paying attention as so many other sections had already done this. I’ve just edited my manifesto so that it pushes for Sports revival/expansion because I wanted to make it clear that this is an amazing section that I have a lot of respect for. It’s just about this expansion – essentially helping accumulate more writers so there’s less pressure on the editors.

Your last manifesto pledge states that you will “Maintain The Gryphon’s reputation for high quality journalism, tackle big issues and attain high-profile interviews”. I have a number of questions about this: a) what will you do to maintain the high quality journalism? b) can you provide examples of the sorts of ‘big issues’ that you plan to tackle?, and c) do you have any high-profile individuals in mind for potential interviews?

In terms of maintaining the quality of journalism, it relates back to briefing your editors well – making sure they know it’s ok to go after the bigger and more controversial stories. As an example of those bigger issues, if it’s an important issue then editors should know it’s okay to write pieces where the university is being held to account. I don’t have any high-profile interviews in mind yet for next year, but on the Arts section we are currently trying to get an interview with Russell Brand when he comes to Leeds.

Finally, in a sentence or two, why should people vote for you?

People should vote for me because of my prior experience in editing both news and magazine sections of The Gryphon, as well as my commitment to ensuring a sports expansion, online and print harmony, a Gryphon that works for and listens to you, and maintaining quality content.

Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 10.25.45Why do you want to be Editor-in-Chief?

Because, after starting off writing for Arts in my second year and, since then, becoming associate editor for In the Middle, I began to realise just how important The Gryphon is to university life. I did theatre performance as an undergraduate, so journalism was hardly at the forefront for me. In this respect I feel my passion for The Gryphon is a lot more natural and I’d like to carry this on. I have some good ideas I’d like to bring forward.

What makes you a better choice than the other candidates?

I’d argue that I’m the most experienced, having written for a number of sections. More than just being the editor of one section, I’ve been the editor of six sections making up half of the newspaper, so I’ve seen how working as a team and managing people has changed depending on the role.

The students’ union often has a clear political or social agenda. Do you think The Gryphon should also have an editorial agenda?

It would be the prerogative of the Editor-in-Chief, but the paper is a platform for the students. Whilst we must be careful not to tread on anyone’s toes, I wouldn’t want to censor the paper either. Whatever direction you want to lead the paper in, you must be confident that you’re doing it right.

You talk in your manifesto about hosting new workshops and events. Who would be running these/featuring at these events? External speakers typically cost money and The Gryphon is already strained financially. How would you afford these further costs?

The idea of this is to expand The Gryphon and grow the society. This is the first year we’ve had a proper committee and it’ll be good to carry it on and utilise it next year. For events, we might need some marketing and P.R. which will be a great opportunity for students to develop their skills. Through the showcases and events we’ll be able to raise funds which, as well as helping finance the print issues, will help improve the quality of the events we’re able to host.

You say you want to allow greater coverage of events on and off campus through live tweeting and breaking news features. Given that The Gryphon already live-tweets events and posts breaking news features, how will you improve on what is already being done?

It’s really just a case of pushing this even more. We live-Tweeted the American election and I’ve live-Tweeted the Oscars, but if we could go out into the community and live-Tweet something like Leeds’ Light Night then you’re going out into the wider Leeds community and increasing our outreach. You can go on a journey with the journalist and hear their first thoughts, but this can then be developed in print as well.

One of the main features of your manifesto talks about how you wish to engage more with the wider Leeds community. I spoke to a third year student last semester who did not even know that there was a student paper at Leeds University. Do you not think that you ought to be far more focussed on engaging with the student community before looking to branch out into the rest of Leeds?

I think part of the student experience is knowing your local area. I think it’s really important to give back to the community that you’re living in for three years. We have stuff like the Freshers’ Guide which is great for interacting with the student community, but I want to emphasise the wider community because there’s so much out there and you have a great chance to attract more people by letting students know what’s going on around Leeds.

Finally, in a sentence or two, why should people vote for you to be Editor-in-Chief of The Gryphon?

People should vote for me because I’m experienced, I’m an active member of the Leeds community, I’ve been here for four years I’ve loved it so much and I’m passionate about it. I really want to represent the students next year. You should boogie with McDougie.

Interviews conducted by Liam Kerrigan

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