Illustration by Imogen Edmundson.

Lucy Heywood, 2nd Year History Undergraduate, Editor-in-Chief

Access is a topic that is often discussed at Oxford, but scarcely truly championed and worked on. It’s really easy to throw the word ‘access’ around, and to complain about the lack of it (and we all know I love to complain). For many people, it seems to be a word that is tacked onto their hustings speeches or their tweets. At the end of those speeches and social media posts, it’s tucked neatly away in a dusty drawer and forgotten about until the next student elections roll around. If there’s one thing that I really want to be able to say at the end of my (all-too-short) time as Editor-in-Chief, it’s that I haven’t fallen into that trap.

I’m aware that my journey isn’t the same as everyone else’s—it’s an incredibly personal experience, and could easily have been completely different. The best way to get the ball rolling when it comes to access is to expose yourself to as many different experiences as possible, and then help to amplify them so that those who need to hear them do hear them. Here’s what some of The Oxford Blue team had to say about discovering their voices through student journalism:

Ruben Martin-Ward, 3rd Year English Literature Undergraduate, Junior Opinions Editor

Having been burdened with avid imposter syndrome during my first two years in Oxford, exacerbated as an autistic person with social anxiety, I was initially wary of participating in student journalism. The idea of having my work publicised at all made me panic. My executive dysfunction, dyspraxia, cluttered speech patterns, and state-comprehensive school background (where my individual needs were inconsistently accommodated at primary school) cultivated a sense of inadequacy and low self-image. Yet I applied anyway, partly because I wanted to flex my muscles after avoiding extracurricular university activities.

As an outsider, I was interested in The Oxford Blue as a student outlet because it seemed to align most explicitly with my values. One of the reasons I avoided student journalism (going beyond my anxieties) was my perception that it would satisfy the establishment consensus, courtesy of Oxbridge cultivating the majority of UK political leaders. Not only did this dissuade me from airing my views, but it also reinforced my belief that student journalism would not favour someone with my personal needs and difficulties. However, whilst establishment narratives persist in Oxford, there is a pushback in corners of student journalism where everyone’s experiences are favoured and welcomed. One of these corners is the Blue, and I feel proud to have embrace such a welcoming, open and empathetic community. 

Zariel Konadu, 1st Year Human Sciences Undergraduate, Podcast Host/Writer

Interested in journalism and the interpersonal element of podcasts, entering first year, I have admired how The Oxford Blue makes the effort to address the deeper issues affecting the student body and wider society. Making sure that the views highlighted in our publishing do not channel through the same pipeline is fundamental to the variety that reflects the perspectives of our readers. It is an ongoing mission that maintains the integrity of the cause. Being an ethnic minority in an industry that, on the surface, appears narrow-fielded and inaccessible, I understand that fulfilling an ethos of equal opportunity in any enterprise does not mean only the visibility of diversity but the voice of it. No longer is it a privilege but a duty.

Evie Craggs, 2nd Year English Literature Undergraduate, Senior Opinions Editor

It took me a whole term to psych myself up to apply for a role at The Blue as a Junior editor. It was incredibly scary. I felt inadequate, fearing that my constant spelling mistakes, my state-comp school grammar knowledge (which is non-existent), and lack of editing experience would mean that I would fail. My little previous experience with writing had already been plagued by editors who were less than forgiving. I pushed through because I felt, and feel, that I have something to say.

The truth is, it’s really difficult, and imposter-syndrome is constantly chasing me down, and only increases with each role I take or article I write. But as a queer individual, all I see in the wider media is negativity about my sexuality and my community, and wanted it to change. ‘Be the change you want to see’ and all those rubbish cliches sometimes do have meaning, and have been an encouragement to me. At The Blue, I am so grateful to be able to tell my own, and others’, stories.

Thomas Evans, DPhil Student, Senior Features Editor 

In many ways, Oxford student journalism is an alien concept to me. I’m a state-educated, post-graduate student with no previous experience of Oxford University. There was no school newspaper or career advice. It’s not really surprising when you look at the statistics of class profiles of those involved in the profession, in which where you went to university and who you know play as large a role as anything. I was also worried about entering a space which I thought was out-of-bounds to postgraduates. But I really enjoy writing and learning from people from different backgrounds, and I thought I’d give it a shot, even if I did think I’d look like the personification of the Steve Buscemi meme.

I’m so glad I did. The Blue is an incredibly welcoming environment if you’re just getting started. In my first role as a Junior Editor, I was guided and helped by undergraduate students far more knowledgeable than myself, who were happy to give up their time to point me in the right direction. A focus on identity and representation isn’t just talked about in our columns, improving access and diversity and demystifying student journalism is actively sought out. I think that my background, both in-terms of social class and being a postgraduate, brings something different to the table, and I’d like to encourage as many people from those backgrounds to join our team.

Sophie Benbelaid, 4th Year French and Russian Undergraduate, Senior Columns Editor

The very thing that attracted me to The Oxford Blue in my first year was the image it projected of being open, welcoming, and accessible. There was no element of exclusivity and, as a new paper, didn’t have the reputation of being unattainable with which I perceived other Oxford student papers as a fresher. My private secondary school education was facilitated by a full bursary, just as my education at Oxford is by a combination of bursaries and scholarships, and this paired with being a 2nd generation immigrant made it easy for the voice inside my head to deter me from applying for roles in societies or clubs.

What started as a few articles at The Blue to test the waters turned into me gaining the confidence to become columnist and editor and developing a stronger voice in my writing. Whether it’s working my ethnic and cultural heritage into what I write, or encouraging my columnists not to shy away from theirs, I am proud to be working for The Oxford Blue where everyone’s individuality is embraced and, indeed, admired.

Thripty Dutt, 2nd Year Law Student, Podcast Senior Editor/Host

Oxford is intimidating. It’s a lot for anyone, but especially coming from a working-class, state school background it was overwhelming. As a student who rusticated it was even more intimidating returning and I never thought I’d take part in any society, let alone journalism. There are big Oxford newspapers that people read on the street outside the Tesco, [and] it all seemed so far away and private. When imposter syndrome is eating away at your brain, it feels like the last thing you can comprehend is having a platform for your thoughts and opinions. In all honesty, it’s what you need.

Reading articles from The Oxford Blue about student experiences just like mine, written by people just like me, provided a sense of community that I felt was lacking. It inspired me and allowed me to get involved myself through conversation, and voice my thoughts to others that might have felt the same way. Working for The Blue’s podcast has not only been rewarding but reassuring. It reminds me that I do belong here despite my background, and that my thoughts, opinions, and beliefs are just as valid as any other.

Being at a modern, independent newspaper, I’ve been able to express my creativity as freely as possible and get away from the intensity of my degree when needed. It’s given me the opportunity to be the type of Oxonian I never thought I could be. Working for The Oxford Blue‘s podcast team has been some of the most fun I’ve ever had 🙂

Imogen Edmundson, 1st Year English Literature Undergraduate, Illustrator 

In many ways I am very lucky, having been very involved in the writing side of student journalism before university. However, being at a state-comprehensive secondary school which lacked the resources to make a student magazine anything more than a hobby—I am still convinced our readership consisted entirely of select members of the English department and perhaps one bored parent. So applying to be on the creative team of The Oxford Blue felt incredibly daunting. I submitted my portfolio fully expecting a rejection.

Having only produced a handful of illustrations thus far, I still regularly doubt that my work is up-to-standard, just as I doubt that I am up-to-standard as an actual student of the university, but illustrating for The Blue has proved to be very rewarding and has introduced me to a warm, welcoming environment. I am grateful for my place on the creative team, just as I am grateful for my tiny student magazine at secondary school which gave me the spark of self-confidence and the trust in my creative skills to apply in the first place, and is, for me, a testament to the power of student-led schemes.