On Wednesday afternoon, bathimpact received a rather unexpected phone call from The Sun newspaper. Intrigued as we were, it did not take long for us to suss the nature of the call: the national tabloid wanted another story which grouped students as tactless and stupid; another bit of evidence of a generation gone wrong.
In this case, it was a hurried push for our paper’s photographers to stalk the numerous Halloween parties taking place across campus and the city in hope of finding a picture of offensive costumes. In particular, anyone dressed as Jihadi Johns or Ebola victims. In exchange, they were offering significant financial incentives and, if good enough, a front page slot to match.
We immediately informed the Students’ Union who, in turn, contacted sports clubs and societies to warn them of the paper’s intentions, before contacting other Unions and Guilds across the country. We were later contacted by another student paper that informed that they had also been phoned by the ‘news’ outlet.
It is here where we must clarify that our intentions were not merely a reaction to ‘political correctness gone mad’. Were we to receive any photos from any of our contributors or hear complaints of blacked-up students or ‘slutty’ Ebola nurses wandering around campus, we would most likely publish them. In fact, two years ago, in light of the Jimmy Saville revelations, we wrote a brief, non-judgemental piece highlighting that attendees at SCORE had dressed as him.
Whilst some might see it as ‘banter’, it is clear to many – even if you do not agree – that such a costume is liable to offend. It is a newspaper’s job to report the good, the bad and the ugly, even if it might lose us a few friends along the way.
We do, however, believe that had such hypothetical photos got into the hands of a national paper, it would not only reflect horrendously on the idiot in the costume, but also on the entire student population, in particular Bath’s. Whilst in the confines of a student paper we can present it objectively for readers to form their own opinion on, tabloids in particular have an interest in framing it as the ‘youth’ at large.
This year we have reported stories which highlight questionable actions and decisions, from chants on buses to missed construction deadlines by the University. We do this because it is news and we do it as fairly as we can. We even like to think that sometimes we create a conversation, whether you’re for or against our coverage. But the most important thing is that it is our news; certainly not The Sun’s.
We were glad to hear that no one has been caught out this year; common-sense and empathy prevailed. There is, ultimately, no story if it does.