Thursday 23 November 2017

Comic Dara fights to save student paper


STAND-Up comedian Dara O Briain is among a number of high-profile media figures who are battling to save the University Observer student newspaper from closure.

The Observer is one of two student newspapers at University College Dublin (UCD), and is funded by -- but is editorially independent of -- the Students' Union.

But there is now a motion before the Student Council, calling for the cessation of annual funding of €50,000.

The latest edition of the Observer carries an open letter from O Briain, a founding editor, urging students to oppose any attempts to close the paper.

"Right from the start we said that while this paper would be funded by the Students' Union, it would be editorially independent from it, even if that independence often led to clashes with the Union. Even though we had our clashes however, the paper has kept going for 17 years now, making it something of a college institution.

"Now though, some within the Union want to take this part of college life and shut it down. They are proposing a referendum to be voted on by yourselves, to remove their obligation to fund a newspaper for you.

"They want you to help them to kill off this paper."

In the same edition of the paper, an editorial claimed the union is also proposing that funding for the campus radio station, Belfield FM, should end.

"The motion, which was put forward at Students' Union (SU) council on February 8th, proposes to remove Article 16 of the UCDSU Constitution, which guarantees the running and production of student media outlets within the university.

"If the referendum is passed, it would mean that various student media outlets on campus would cease to exist," the editorial stated.

There were also contributions by other former editors in support of the paper.

UCD Students' Union President Paul Lynam claimed the Observer is not worth the funding it receives.

He said: "I would support the motion that the paper be put on a separate footing from the union, and certainly it is hard to justify why it needs €50,000 a year.

"Other papers, which are to my mind superior, in other universities, operate on far smaller budgets." He also accused O Briain and the Observer's editorial team of making misleading statements and of scaremongering. The Observer's current editor, Paul Fennessy, said: "There has been some talk but nothing is confirmed and until it is confirmed we will operate on the basis that the threat still exists, but I have had no contact with the union since publication."

Sunday Independent

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