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Vision's Eton Mess highlights all the worst aspects of student journalism

It all suggests that the journalists who wrote this article were looking for the story, looking for any excuse to link back a complicated set of events to issues of snobbery and race.

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The more controversial the headline, the better the article. If there's an appropriate simile that can be snuck in there too, or even the recycling of a stereotype, then that's all the better.

York Vision's latest headline story, 'Eton Mess: Outrage as students "black up" for Halloween', is almost too good to be true. It's got class prejudice. It's got reference to the most infamous school in the world. And to top that that off, it's got reference to racism.

The piece has even been picked up by the Sun, as members of the editorial team will be all too quick to remind you. It's also now been picked up by the Daily Mail and the Huffington Post.

But should this really be the marker that student journalists aspire to? If you shout loudly, if you perpetuate stereotypes for the sake of getting another hit and riling people into making comments, if you moralise about the misdeeds of others, these would appear to be the virtues of the student journalist.

That certain students did wrong and should be punished for vandalising and causing damage to property is unequivocal. That a group of what would appear to be four students chose to dress up and paint themselves in black on Halloween belies a moronic lack of judgement.

But this article is messy, disjointed reporting. The sub-title reports that "students black up and cause record £2,250 worth of damage." Presumably therefore those that 'blacked up' were the ones that caused the damage. Yet the article goes on to say "In a separate incident, some of the students have also received one of the largest ever fines at the University of York". So are they separate incidents or the same incident?

The article mentions a Radley boy (being so helpful as to detail the amount the school fees of Radley per term) who didn't black up (good), but did cause damage (bad). Towards the end of the article it says that "the 'riot' continued" into York and one student was told to leave the city walls. But which students were involved in this so called riot? Were they 'blacked up' as well?

There are so many holes and inconsistencies in this article. The headline is wholly disingenuous, with an indulgent and casual reference to Eton (only one of the perpetrators went to Eton and the authors don't bother to show this is relevant). The tone of the article and the quotes from other students commenting are unbalanced, reductive and self-righteous. It all suggests that the journalists who wrote this article were looking for the story, looking for any excuse to link back a complicated set of events to issues of snobbery and race.

You could say that this article stimulates debate on topical issues of class and race, and that this is a good thing in itself. But as Edmund Burke mused: "It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare." This isn't a nuanced, sophisticated piece of student journalism. It recklessly hints at the reductive assertion that because some of the perpetrators went to public school, public school folk are inherently more likely to be racist or commit vandalism. If you set the terms of the debate in a simplistic and generic manner, its only going to encourage further division and further anger, undermining the opportunity for an open and potentially worthwhile dialogue.

Student journalism shouldn't just be judged by how highly an article ranks on the "Most Viewed" tab, how many comments it gets, or whether it gets picked up by a national outlet. Such a culture lends itself to these kinds of provocative, unhelpful articles. If the student journalists who wrote this article really cared about issues of class and race, they wouldn't have written such a vacuous piece.

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39 Comments

George Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

"If the student journalists who wrote this article really cared about issues of class and race, they wouldn't have written such a vacuous piece"

Who says they do care? Don't journalists try to write what they believe their readers want to read? The public schoolboy angle has undoubtedly made this story more interesting for a lot of people and isn't that the idea? If people didn't want to read it, it wouldn't be written.

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Callum Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Agreed.

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Shut up Callum Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

^

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LIZARD KING Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Down with the shark king! The reign of the Lizard king is upon you!

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Esme Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

How interesting that The Sun and The Daily Mail got involved, because they are both such literary masterpiece's.
Yet again, an example of Vision creating absurd stories based on very little evidence and/or facts.

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N>V Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Perfect representation of current sentiments, good article.

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impartial news fanatic Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

To be honest, if you really dislike capitalising on sensationalism, why are you writing a comment article about it...capitalising on sensationalism? This is clickbait just as much as he original article is.

Why are you directing even more traffic to the article if you think it is so damaging?

Also, it would be prudent to note that the writer's dad is the principal of a private school

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Dan Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

I am still amazed YUSU let the article run. It is bad enough that students can be identified in the picture by others from the student community at York, but the Daily Mail is actively encouraging people to 'out' these students. To what end? Hardly because of its stance on racial equality I am sure.

Poorly written sensationalist article that throws a lot of mud at a number of people gets picked up by gutter rags and seriously runs the risk of causing a big problem for a bunch of young people.

Whether they meant offence or not, the potential consequences are disproportionate. They are young. They made an error. They do not deserve to the attention they are now getting.

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hang_them_all Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Dumb kids do dumb thing

Shitty newspaper writes shitty article

Shittier newspaper writes shittier article about aforementioned shitty newspaper's shitty article

ding dong, move on, more news at 11

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Daniel G Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

"Student journalism shouldn't just be judged by how highly an article ranks on 'the most viewed' tab, how many comments its gets or whether it gets picked up by a national outlet."

Personally, I'd say that's dead wrong. I think that's where Vision and Nouse really differ. Vision is and always has been committed to publishing pieces that interests students. On the other hand, at my time at York, Nouse appeared to be more concerned with boring news they thought students should be interested in, unnecessary high brow fluff , and, without fail, an amateur piece on the Israel Palestine conflict. Every issue.

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Daniel G can suck it Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Is it really that absurd to ask for impartial reporting?

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Bill Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

The irony of course is all the accusations of reverse snobbery are coming from a snobby, elitist "typical low rent, tabloid gutter snipes" angle.

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idiots Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Why do people always prefer to talk about classism than racism?

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Sour Grapes? Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

The irony of course is all the accusations of reverse snobbery are coming from a snobby, elitist "typical low rent, tabloid gutter snipes" angle.

This of course is a prevailing attitude that seems to occasionally that Vision shouldn't be allowed to exist because it's a tabloid and tabloids are for stupid, racist, boob ogling poor people who should be forced to read the big papers so they might actually learn something.

In this article Adam Seldon actually seems to suggest Student Papers shouldn't try and be successful and get web traffic or national stories.

Which is basically code for "They win awards and we don't but we're a nice broadsheet and they're muckraking pseudo-murdochian swine so we still win".

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Callum Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Why does it matter that the authors father is the Head Master at a Public School?

In no way is he defending these people's actions, he is simply underlining the absence of linkage between them being at a public school and them 'blackening up'.

Yet another unfounded attack on the products of the private school system.

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Tim Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

@Callum - sorry to be a pedant, but the majority of people who went to private school would not consider themselves 'products of the private school system'. Lazy phrasing that slightly undermined your (correct) point above.

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Josh Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

A bit hypocritical when nouse did the same thing a year ago with a racial equality incident at York, if there's a story there's a story!

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Boring fourth year Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

I don't want to give the authors undeserved credit, but I can't remember the last time an article in a student publication caused this much of a stir.

Sure, it's controversial and badly written. But it's got us talking about he bigger issues of race and class... Maybe that was the secret plot all along?

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What a load of crap Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Typical- you're trying to stop facts being unpublished because 'there's a higher moral ground for journalists to aspire to?'

Give me a break.

The Etonian fucked up, and is now using Daddy's money to try save his arse.

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Sam Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

I remember when I came to the Uni 4 years ago, York Vision was actually a good paper. A little more tabloid than Nouse but they were usually well-written pieces about subjects that students would find interesting.

But they seemed to have become the trashiest, sensationalist collection of terrible journalists I've seen at a student paper. Most of their web articles are just blogs where some pompous narcissist talks about themselves or just milking a non-story until I can't bear to listen anymore (Helena Horton anyone?).

It's a shame really, because while they're getting views and shares from both students and non-students, they're sacrificing their integrity. They are just like the Daily Mail, albeit judgmental in different areas. They'll probably all be rich and successful one day because this is what newspaper culture has become.

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Lewis Dunn Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

"But should this really be the marker that print journalists aspire to? If you shout loudly, if you perpetuate stereotypes for the sake of getting another issue sold and riling people into making comments, if you moralise about the misdeeds of others. These would appear to be the virtues of the print journalist."

Fixed that for you.

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Alistair Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

'if you moralise about the misdeeds of others'...

Irony?

As said above, this article is as much link-bait as the previous one, capitalising on a different story.

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ANGRY SOPH Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

YES AGREED! YOU GO !!!

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SHA Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Sam, spot on. The article is one of the worst written (certainly the worst written front page piece) I have read during my time at York. Given the apparent seriousness of the article and the fact that there were at least four "authors" contributing to it (excluding sub editing and any other editing done on it), you'd have thought they would be able to come up with something decent. I wonder how many of the authors and other people involved are doing English or humanities degrees. I'm not a big fan of public schools either but blaming that for any of what happened seems farcical.

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Mid-Tier Film Fanatic Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

I see a battle erupting between all the student newspapers like in Anchorman. Maximum points for the first person to trident someone through the heart.

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Pot calling the kettle black...ed up Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

So, this is coming from the paper, that in reference to a scandal on expenses, and the misuse of York funds, plastered a massive picture of a Yacht all over their front page, with a tiny subtitle saying "Actually, there is no evidence any of the money went towards buying anything like this". I'm not condoning Vision, but I think Nouse are probably the wrong people to criticise shoddy journalism.

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NoBro Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Completely agree with the opinion expressed in this article; as somebody who read the article in utter disbelief at the lack of professionalism it's refreshing to know we truly are in a community of intelligent people, (mostly) who are able to see past the overt sensationalism.

Another glaring issue is how the background card was played at the first possible opportunity; makes for some alarming double standards when 'racism' is a no-no yet classism is completely permissible.

Thank you Nouse, keep on delivering!

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Richard Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Unlike this sorry excuse for a 'web exclusive', this is a major story picked up by nationals because it's an incredible scoop. Let's run down the list of 'exclusives' by this author:
- piece on religion
- piece on Syria
- piece on the US elections
- piece on capitalism

How did you manage to crack those ey? All your stories represent the worst kind of student journalism. 20 year olds pontificating about issues they know little about, writing for an audience that has no interest in hearing what they have to say on global politics.

If I want to read about those issues, I go to columnists on the Guardian or the Telegraph or the Times. Why? Because the authors have authority and experience to discuss these things and have years of experience as a reporter in the field they are covering. You don't. You write for a student paper, so you should be writing stories for students. They are your USP. At the very least your commentary should be on issues that effect students, not barking rubbish about US politics. The only reason you seem to be doing it now is to slag off your rivals who had a genuine scoop that went national. Vision's front page today shows they understand their audience and get what a story is. Maybe the article could use tidying up, but the at its core is a real gem. Stop harping on from the sidelines and provide your own scoops if you think it's so shoddy. Expenses, uni course closures, exam misprints, SU nutters saying nutty things, AU social initiations, sexism in religious societies, funding fuck ups in halls committees. They're out there. Might mean you have to leave the desk though.

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YUSU Bastard Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

I have a joke for you all:

Student Journalism

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you're ridiculous Richard Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

It is obvious Richard that you are not impartial.. you're probably writing for Vision, bad for you:p however what you fail to understand, and for that I'll blame your poor education, is that journalism is not only for the many. Nouse has different sections and aims to satisfy all interests. I dont think that Nouse should apologise to you just because youre politically apathetic..

Keep it up Nouse, this is good journalism!!

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Tom Payne Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Oh the irony of being lectured on good student journalism, by the author of a comment piece entitled 'A tragedy for Britain and Syria, inflicted by our own parliament'.

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Scoffdog Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Student journalism at York has sunk to an all time low with this "scoop". Seldon is bang on.

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Andy Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Since when are any newspapers impartial? Every paper has some angle, and this one does as much as Vision. I'm pleased we have the diversity of two distinct papers, but you can't go to either for impartial news.
This is what sets broadcast media apart, as it is regulated to be impartial and to put forward arguments equally.

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Helena Horton Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

@sam

I didn't contribute to this article so I have no idea as to why people keep bringing me into it (and I know I am bringing myself into it now, and I wish I didn't have to but you wrote something inaccurate about me so...)

I don't 'milk non-stories', I barely even write news and if you look at what I've written at York I've written far more about food and fashion and shoes actually than about news...

I care about feminism, yes, and campaign but that's not about journalism, I care about stuff so try to raise awareness the only way I know how. This has seemed narcissistic (which I really, really regret, I wish people focussed on the cause rather than my character and I wish that I'd ran both campaigns better but I was 18 and it was the first time I'd ever been involved in politics- I was and probably still am so naive) but I really don't understand your comment about 'milking non stories'.

I'd like an explanation so I can improve my writing, please :) (and if things that I've written and contributed to were 'non-stories' would they really have been reported in national press?) x

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Sam Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

Helena, nice response. Seriously. If it is you.

I was only mentioning the fact that your attempt at banning the Sun from campus last year plagued our newspapers for months. You might not have written the articles but your campaign contributed to a dumbing down of student journalism. Not necessarily your fault but it happened all the same.

My issue with your comment though is your apparent modesty. Maybe you are a modest person, I don't know, I've never met you. But the Sun campaign and subsequent campaigns have appeared (and I stress the word appeared) to be centred around you purposefully on your behalf. As though all these feminist issues were designed to promote you, rather than any cause you associated with.

The thing is, you are actually a decent writer when you put your mind to it. That mental illness article you wrote was very good. Not only informative but revealing too. You should write more articles like that. You're obviously not a dumb person and I hope you to choose to write intelligent articles in the future, which you're obviously capable of doing.

Good luck :)

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James Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

I've only met Helena once but from that one time she seemed very friendly and modest. Being portrayed by the actions of your younger self is never a good thing for anyone.

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Burke Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

This is pompous. But lovely to see that you don't care about "most viewed articles" whilst desperately latching onto York Vision's success.

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Tim Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

@Andy - Are the BBC impartial? No. (Is there such a thing as impartiality? Not really). Vision were aiming to reflect the view of the student body and get a bunch of hits in the process - they just misjudged people's attitude to class on campus (and managed to divert debate away from 'blacking up' and race).

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Therapist Posted on Friday 7 Aug 2020

@tim

the BBC at least makes an attempt at impartiality. The vision article was just shamelessly biased.

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