#StudentTakeover: Editorial comment - College students rise to challenge in takeover week

James Scott

James Scott - Credit: Archant

It has been quite a week here at the Ham&High with the introduction of no less than 11 new reporters to the team.

The swelling of the ranks, albeit on a temporary basis, came in the form of City of Westminster College and College of North West London students, who were given the ominous task of ‘taking over’ this week’s edition.

Our team, ranging in age from 17 to 20, have truly risen to the challenge, producing 25 articles for the paper and online, including columns, features and interviews.

The Student Takeover process with the two colleges, which formally merged together last year, started a year ago, but I came into the picture properly in early February as education editor of the Ham&High to add my ‘expertise’ to the shortlisting process.

Students had been tasked with writing a short pitch for a story idea involving either their identity or community.

Stories ranged from immigrating to the UK from Eritrea, to growing up on an army barracks, and even one budding footballer’s ambition to use the Ham&High as exposure to be picked up by a scout!

In the end we whittled down our shortlist to 20, and invited them to present their ideas to us in a daunting ‘Dragons’ Den’ style pitch in front of eight judges at City of Westminster College in Paddington Green.

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We were all taken aback by the passion and confidence shown by the students, and the task of selecting our starting XI was certainly an arduous one.

Despite slight apprehension in the office over whether the entire cohort would turn up – and on time – our faith in the younger generation was restored as the full squad turned up for mentoring sessions in the boardroom a fortnight ago.

Teaching teenagers everything about the world of journalism in two days was potentially the tightest deadline I’ve written to, but I was heartened by the inquisitive nature of the students, a skill they honed in later interviews.

The sessions were by no means all about the world of print media however, with commercial education manager Elaine Allen giving the students a lesson in the world of sales and Archant’s video guru Tom Vince adding another layer to the team’s already impressive aptitude for this form of media.

Upon returning to our Finchley Road offices a week ago, they were promptly sent back out to gather stories of their own.

In the run up to the weekend we had students quizzing traders at Camden Market, grabbing a word with runners at the Paddington Recreation Ground and discussing the arts with the team at Jacksons Lane in Highgate.

One of my proudest moments of the trip was seeing students hold their own in interviews with Cllr Angela Mason and Cllr Abdul Hai at Camden Town Hall on hard-hitting topics such as knife crime and racial inequality.

In the latter interview, Cllr Hai discussed the lack of a voice given to young people, especially given that the clamour for the voting age to be changed to 16 was rapidly quelled in the House of Commons as MPs failed to take a vote on the matter in November.

I hope that this week’s edition has gone a small way to giving young people in Camden a bit more of a voice in the media, especially in the run up the council’s elections to be the borough’s next youth MP – voting for which closes on March 29.

Thank you to both colleges for allowing the students to take almost a fortnight out of their studies to try their hand at journalism – they are a credit to you.

And finally thank you to the students – Jessiara Marriott, Joshua Okakpu and Carrie-Jayne Crawshaw from the City of Westminster College and Valentina Romagnoli, Corey Golzey, Filimon Okbay, Kadeeja Warsame, Jamie Jones, Tadhg Ormond, Jamal Jadunandan and Paulina Mazulyte from the College of North West London – names of whom you will see dotted all over this paper.

You can find out more about what the students have been getting up to via their blog at archantstudenttakeover.co.uk.