Features Muse

The Women of Nouse: Female Editors Through The Ages

Elizabeth Walsh speaks to alumni about their time at Nouse and their journalism careers since university

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Image Credit: Little Brown Book Group

When deciding what I wanted to write about for this commemorative edition one thought continually resurfaced: the impact of female editors throughout Nouse’s history. During my three years with the paper I have found myself in awe of the strong female leadership displayed throughout many of the sections. It was the editors before me including Jenna and Emily who encouraged me to aim high including running for Muse Editor. I was humbled to feel that I was also able to impact a fellow member's experience on the paper this year when she told me that she decided to stay on as an editor because of a conversation we’d had at a social. It is my hope that in the years to come female editors can continue to champion each other and uphold the high standards of such an incredible paper. Women who have been editors for Nouse in the past have gone on to pursue stellar careers including as successful journalists and writers. I spoke to a number of Nouse alumni about their writing careers and how this paper influenced their aspirations to pursue them.

Over the course of Nouse’s 58 year history, many female editors have made their mark. Holly Williams, who was Arts Editor during her time with the paper, is now a freelance journalist and critic. In addition to writing arts and features articles for newspapers like The Independent she has written a novel called What Time is Love? which has recently been published by Orion. Reflecting on why she chose to join this paper specifically, Holly recalled how she loved writing and that Nouse seemed to provide the perfect opportunity to try her hand at journalism and feel part of a community. Starting out in her second year Holly noted that “I'd been really sick in hospital and was off for a term, and felt a bit lost when I came back. I wanted to make up for the time I felt I'd missed, and joining Nouse seemed like a great way to be part of something and meet lots of excellent people, as well as a chance to write.”

In response to my question about whether her experience with Nouse influenced her career aspirations Holly said “Absolutely: it made me want to give journalism a shot and it got me my first job”. Returning home after the end of her degree, Holly recalls how she landed a position as a reporter for her local paper. She credits this success in part to the strength of the portfolio she was able to build through her involvement with Nouse. When I asked what advice she would give to anybody looking to join Nouse in the future Holly said “Take it as a chance to cut your teeth, make mistakes and learn from them, and work out what you want to write. Also – cheesy but true – you'll probably meet friends you'll have for life.”

Testament to this statement, I spoke to a friend of Holly’s who was an editor for both the Music and Bar and Restaurant sections during her time at Nouse. Daisy Buchanan has built a successful and multifaceted career as an author, speaker and journalist. Her latest fiction novel Careering, which is based loosely on her own life as a journalist, follows the lives of two women at different points in their career trying to take control and harness their passion. I asked Daisy whether she felt that her time at the paper impacted her own career in a significant way. She believes it has had a huge influence, telling me that “Nouse is where I learned how to meet deadlines and people. It engendered confidence, curiosity and courage. Most importantly, Nouse is where I learned to write to be read. My first journalism job was on the teen mag, Bliss. It was crucial to be quick, funny, versatile, and to understand the importance of tone of voice. I think everything I learned at Nouse got me hired.”

As well as her career, Nouse also helped to shape Daisy’s university experience. She picked up on the social aspect of being part of the society and making strong friendships. A point I was particularly interested in was Daisy’s view that being a part of the paper boosted her confidence as it is something I feel that I can also relate to. Admitting that she struggled academically at times Daisy said “At Nouse, I had a lot of creative freedom, as well as positive responses from readers and other editors. I think this meant that when I left I felt that I was coming away with a really positive, nourishing experience that was even bigger and more exciting than anything I had learned on my course.” Nouse has certainly been a major highlight in the experience of those I have spoken to and hopefully will continue to be for editors who join in the future.

Eleanor Langford was also a Music Editor for the paper and is now a Lead Curation Editor and Political Reporter at PoliticsHome. Reminiscing about her time in the role she explained that the free gig tickets and those for festivals in the summer were a major perk of the role and meant she was very popular with friends when it came to handing them out. The role also allowed her to write more widely: “I studied politics at university — which I always knew I wanted to go into eventually — and liked that I could write about something that was different from my day-to-day studies. Now I write about politics for a living, so I'm glad I took some time to try something different before I settled on this specialism.”

In typical York fashion the geese made their way into Eleanor’s response when I asked about some of her best memories of Nouse. Alongside the late night bonding sessions in the office she noted “I remember vividly that there were two angry geese that used to stand around outside the office, and we'd have to text each other to warn them if they were by the door to prevent editors being pecked on their way in.” Is it even a prod week without the presence of geese? Campus wildlife aside, she credits her practical knowledge to the often long stints in the office: “Everything I know about InDesign I learnt by watching other people in that office. The nights often ran late, there was plenty of music and cheap snacks, and we'd bond over layout challenges or word counts.”

Excuse the cliché, but from across the pond I was lucky enough to speak to Mia de Graaf who now lives in New York and works as Deputy Editor for Health at Insider. When I asked why she chose to join Nouse she told me that “I'd been working as a features assistant at the Telegraph Magazine in my school breaks, and I'd heard York's student papers were top notch. When I got to freshers week, I went to the fair and met Henry Foy (then Nouse editor, now Brussels correspondent for the Financial Times), who sold it. It sounded creative, challenging, and fun, and like a place where I would meet people as excited about journalism as I was.” I had a similar experience in that Alice, the then Features Editor, made a real effort to explain to me the difference between Nouse and Vision as well as the roles I was interested in, meaning that I left with a determination to become a part of it.

Nouse had a direct impact on Mia’s career progression thanks to a chance encounter on campus. She explained that in her second year former Editor Heidi Blake (who was then at The Telegraph) visited the university. They met as Heidi walked past the Nouse office and mentioned that she was looking for news researchers for a Telegraph project. Mia reflected that this was a big job as she started to apply to big national papers and do the NCTJ.

When I asked what her best memory from being in Nouse was, she was able to pinpoint a specific night. Her highlight was the first election she attended where she met people she is still  in contact with today. Summing up her experience with different people she met through the paper she said “They have all, in different ways, supported and inspired me, and made my journalism experience, then and now, brilliant.” Along with the practical experience, and inevitable bonding encouraged by late nights in the office, the influence of long lasting friendships seems to be a key takeaway for many who pass through the iconic Nouse office door.

Women have, and will continue too, bring creativity and a strong influence to our well respected paper. Some of the best ideas and initiatives have come from strong female minds and I’m almost certain this will continue even after the current team moves onto their next stages. As a  fresher I remember being nervous to join and almost gave up after the first year. But, sticking it out and making the effort to meet people meant that Nouse has been a huge part of my university experience that I wouldn’t change for the world. If you are reading this and have been considering joining the paper, whether you’re in first year or starting a masters, why not? You never know what doors the experience could open.

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