A decade at The College View

Róisín Phelan

Credit: Sonja Tutty

When you walk through the doors of the Henry Grattan on a Wednesday afternoon, a gust of wind will follow behind you. Usually this gust will flick open the first pages of the freshly published copies of The College View, placed on a picnic table. 

Twice a month crisp stacks of these papers line the halls  of Dublin City University. 

The College View was first published in 1999 and has been adapted and changed in several ways since, however one thing has remained consistent. 

The paper has always been run by DCU students, who for the last decade have worked tirelessly and voluntarily on each issue. 

Editor-in- Chief for 2018/19 Callum Lavery noted that, “unlike in student newspapers in UCD or Trinity, I think it’s important to remember that College View journalists and editors aren’t paid and they have no financial incentive so all the work is really done on their own back.”

Current Editor-in-Chief Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque says that the papers existence relies on teamwork.

“The entire operation would be impossible without each and every position”.

The editorial team writes and edit stories, source and create images and illustrations, design the pages, record podcasts and distribute the paper across campus. 

This workload comes alongside and is often prioritised over their academic studies.

Unfortunately, the physical paper is not as popular among students as the team would like. 

“I think other courses don’t often understand just how much of our time is consumed working on the paper. That’s partly our fault for not always being totally transparent with how our operation works. That’s also due to a general poor level of media literacy,” said Kelly Palenque.

In the last decade, The College View has covered several stories that were both important to the student body and on a national level. 

Last year, the paper broke the story of hazing and inappropriate conduct at the Accounting and Finance society’s meeting in October 2018. After The College View’s coverage of this story it was immediately picked up by national papers across the country.

In 2017/18 the paper broke the infamous Shanowen Shakedown story.

Editor-in-Chief at the time, Shauna Bowers said, “had The College View not first reported 27 per cent rent increase, which was then picked up by national media, then it is unlikely that we would be aware that there is a gap in the Residential Tenancies Act in relation to purpose-built student accommodation.”

Bowers said: “We broke a number of stories during my tenure, including that the college was putting on-campus accommodation on websites such as Expedia during the academic year instead of giving them to students, that the SU at the time used the official DCUSU Instagram to share images in which they were dressed in traditional Muslim clothing and were accused of cultural appropriation.”

In 2016/17 the paper broke a story about St. Patrick’s accommodation. Editor-in-Chief at the time, Aaron Gallagher said: “Some of the students were living in squalor conditions and it turned out that they had actually raised the rent by something like 38 per cent…there was an amazing reaction to the story, the Irish Independent picked it up and it actually resulted in the rent going down, an example of journalism having a real impact.”

President of DCU, Prof. Brian MacCraith said over the last ten years, The College View has “played an important role in the lives of DCU students, not only by informing them as readers, but also by providing an experiential learning opportunity for those studying journalism”, as well as those who don’t study journalism but have explored and developed their writing talents at the paper.

I have taken great pride in watching many of those writers go on to excel on a national or international stage…” While it may be an uncertain time for the future of print media, the central role of a journalist in reporting the news in a truthful, unbiased and apolitical way has never been more important,” said Prof. MacCraith.

For as long as they have both been in existence in DCU, The College View and the Students’ Union have worked alongside one another. 

Gallagher said that this relationship has always been one surrounded by tension but that this was “only natural.”

“I think there was always a bit of tension when we were there between the SU and the news paper because they might not like what we were writing, but it just meant that we were doing our job right,” he said.

Gallagher said this tension is often caused because, “DCU is quite a small university so the people that you’re writing about you might actually know them or some of your friends might be friends with them”.

Gallagher said it is the job of The College View journalist to work on behalf of the student body. 

“You’re a journalist, you’re a student journalist, but you’re still a journalist and you need to write impartially and objectively and if there’s something not right you need to call it out.”

However, the paper itself has also come under criticism in the past. 

In March of 2019, a Twitter account became active entitled “TheViewOfCollege” [@view_college]. This account tweeted and retweeted comments about The College View paper for approximately two weeks. The account became active on the same day as the 2019 Student Union Election results, which The College View had covered.

The creator of the account was unknown and all tweets were anonymous.

Some examples tweets from the account are, “Imagine have integrity when writing a news article #canyouimagine  #WhoIsReference,”, ”Donald Trump is more accurate than the college view tbh #HonestOpinions and “Propaganda is my favorite form of carb.”

This account was followed by some members of DCU’s Students’ Union and several society committee members who were of prevalence at the time. Some of which engaged with the account or produced their own tweets of a similar nature.

The editorial team, which consisted of 39 people then, were encouraged to not respond to or engage with the discussion on Twitter to avoid spurring on further discourse.

Editor, Callum Lavery and Deputy Editor Gabija Gateveckaite did not publicly respond to this account or to any of the discussions surrounding it and The College View online at the time.  

Several other section editors did not speak out on the situation until they had come to the end of their time in DCU and in The College View.

However, Gataveckaite has since spoken about the impact the account, and the online discussion had on the moral of the team. 

“It was hard, it was very hard I think it definitely crushed the morals of the reporters who were there, I hadn’t heard of it happening before in The College View maybe it had maybe it hadn’t,” she said. 

She told The College View that the Twitter account was “a result of a lot of underlying issues that student government have against the paper.”

“This goes back to young people not really understanding first of all how basic news gathering works, how basic reporting works. Obviously a lot of reporters are young and they’re bound to make mistakes but student government representatives almost didn’t have a care for not just the process but the end goal”, Gataveckaite said. 

She said this is an example “of what is going on in wider Ireland now…you know we’ve never seen so many Government bodies that are so resistant to journalists that just give out the status quo, that are so “nothing to see here” and I think that’s sad.”

Gataveckaite said that it worried her that “some student representatives thought that they were above being held to account, above being critiqued, above answering questions and seemed to think that they somehow had control over the paper…and if they don’t want to answer those questions that says a lot more about them than it does about us.”

Áine O’Boyle filled Gataveckaite’s role when she became Deputy Editor for 2019/20.

When asked about the attitude of the student body towards the publication she said: “I think that often people forget that The College View is run voluntarily and that we are students too. Often there can be underlying assumptions that reporters in The College View are out to get people and just want a good story, when in reality all that we want at The College View is open communication and dialogue between the various groups in DCU to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and that the opinions of everyone are valued within student life.”

In the past decade, several journalists from The College View have won numerous awards and gone on to have successful careers in Ireland and abroad.  

Previous editors Lavery, Bowers, and Gallagher all agreed that their experience in the paper benefited them after graduating. 

Lavery said: “I’m just really grateful for my time that I spent in my final year overseeing the paper and I think it really stands to the people that are involved in the paper and to DCU itself.”

Bowers said: “I don’t think I’d have the job I have now, nor the inquisitive nature necessary for journalism had I not been Editor..it was probably the most educational experience of my time in DCU. Between having confrontations with lecturers, senior DCU staff who were unhappy with stories about them, having to deal with advertisers who wanted to pressure us into providing positive coverage and even just navigating the friend/colleague balance.”

For Gallagher, “there’s only so much you can actually learn in your lectures, journalism is a very practical vocation, you need to actually put into practice what you’re learning in your lectures there’s only so much you can read in textbooks, but that actual experience of implementing what you learned is so valuable.”

“It was a great testing ground, you know, people may say “oh student journalism, nobody actually reads it” but it’s a great learning ground for making mistakes and honing your trade”, Gallagher said. 

Michael Cogley was Editor-in-Chief of The College View for  2014/15. He said that it was an excellent place to hone his craft and that it was as important to his craft as his Journalism degree.

The College View provided an excellent platform to build your confidence and get a taste of real journalism. It is the ultimate starting place for budding Irish journalists.”

Cogley said The College View is “so important to ensure students have a voice…it is vital that the paper receives as much backing as possible from the university.”

“Student journalism is paramount to DCU,” said Cogley.

Róisín Phelan

Image Credit: Sonja Tutty