Today I read on a friend’s Facebook status that UniLife, the student magazine at the University of South Australia (formerly Entropy) has died. This is more significant than you might think.
For those of you who don’t know, I got my leg-up in music journalism writing for Entropy back at the beginning of the century. When I started writing for Entropy, I wrote mainly metal columns, occasional show reviews and, when the office got them, metal releases. I still have the majority of the Entropy issues that my work appeared in. But besides music journalism, there were essays of mine, some fiction I think, and various letters on various topics that irked me at the time (and make me shudder to read now, of course).
I was writing fairly regularly for Entropy, when it was under the editorship of Rod Magazinovic (I think, maybe it was Chris Tamm? Someone verify this for me!) that it won awards for being the best student magazine in Australia. It really was a driving force of good journalism, insightful work, and literature and political consideration that was never matched by any of the other student rags in Adelaide. All the other student papers I ever saw were utterly juvenile in comparison.
So, today when I learned that the successor to Entropy, UniLife, had died, I was quite frankly shocked. While in my opinion UniLife was a far inferior publication, in both format and the last lot of content that I saw, for it to have died due to lack of funding is absolutely terrible.
Many people would say that it ought to be expected, and that with the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism (unlike mandatory student association membership when I studied), that it’s amazing Entropy/UniLife lasted as long as it did.
But the thing that makes me sad is the fact that the death of the student paper deals not just a blow to one’s cultural life and sense of belonging as a student – and the voice that it gives the students to “talk back” to the powers that be – but all of the opportunities that die with it.
For context, many of the people on the Entropy team that I worked with, I am still friends with – even now many, many years later. I got my first break writing for a “real” publication, FasterLouder, when my former editor at Entropy, Rod Magazinovic (who was the music ed when I first started writing for the student rag), headhunted me and asked me if I wanted to write for him again. Of course I wasn’t going to say no!
A student magazine provides amazing opportunities for students. It is not just comprised of writing – and getting your work published in a student rag is an incredibly verifying experience if you’re a writer – but also art, photography, solid arts criticism (books, music, art, festivals, theatre, film); it provides a great way for students to interact with and discuss or intervene in the political and student climate of the day; and it provides those who are keen the fabulous opportunity to be involved in a solid team, to plan, run, design, and manage the project from start to finish. It’s work experience of the kind you just can’t get anywhere else.
For a writer like myself, whose first love is fiction but whose secondary (and, now, almost primary) love is critique, there was no better way to flex one’s muscles and test one’s mettle than by writing for the student paper. Without my time at Entropy ten years ago, there is no way in hell I would be the editor of Metal as Fuck now. More to the point, I wouldn’t have been able to get such an early head-start into music journalism, the experience of which now enables me to write my music journalism course and mentor budding music critics.
Some might say that with the state of the internet now, as compared to ten years ago, it oughtn’t to matter whether you get have such an opportunity within your tertiary institution. However, what I got during my time as a freelancer for Entropy wasn’t just knowledge of the trade, but it was the cultural flow-on effects. The fact that I am still friends with those whom I worked with back in the day – some of whom now write or shoot for me at MaF – speaks volumes. The networking you get out of it is just one tiny element of such papers’ brilliance.
To see an award-winning magazine like Entropy die like it has, from lack of funds, is devastating. Students need a voice – and Entropy/UniLife was that voice. But even more than the voice that students need, is the opportunity to be involved in a project that can have positive long-term flow-on effects, as it did in my case.
If you care about this issue, I encourage you to put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, and tell the University of South Australia what you think.
CC letters to UniSA Vice Chancellor Peter Hoj, University of South Australia, 55 North Tce, Adelaide 5000. Email Peter.Hoj@unisa.edu.au.