Where it all began…
The College Tribune has come a long way since it’s inception in 1989. The day-to-day running of the paper would certainly be unrecognisable to those involved 30 years ago, with a rich history of progression over all these years. But why did students, national journalists and UCD authorities invest so much time, effort and resources into publishing an independent newspaper in UCD?
Back in the late 1980’s, Sunday Tribune Editor Vincent Browne was deeply passionate about holding our institutions to account for their actions. The sprawling metropolis of UCD seemed like a fitting ground to launch a student publication designed to keep its authorities in check. Browne launched the Tribune in February 1989, with Editor Eamon Dillon at the helm.
Surprisingly, the College Tribune was set up with not just the consent of UCD, but the encouragement of it’s executive. Former UCD President Art Cosgrove was president at the first editorial meeting, along with other student journalists and Browne.
According to Browne, Cosgrove and himself were “of the view that holding institutions of power to account is one of the central purposes of journalism…”
In its early days, the Tribune focused on hard-hitting, news-based, print journalism. Volume 1 had just three issues (presumably due to production efforts, costs etc.), with each containing campus-based news coverage. Since then, the Tribune has meandered from such bold efforts to a more light-hearted ‘super-tabloidy’ format. The paper today lies somewhere in between all of our history to date, taking influence from each era of the paper, creating a kind of features-style-newspaper-hybrid…thing.
In a 2008 statement for a 21st Anniversary Tribune book, Browne summarised the initial purpose of the Tribune: “The surest way of knowing whether the College Tribune was doing its job was how much the college “authorities” disliked it, deemed it “irresponsible”, and wanted to shut it down. That’s the test. Go to it”
Conor Capplis – Editor
History of Production
The 33rd volume of the College Tribune is diligently willed into existence in a bright room located in the basement of the Newman Building, its walls are adorned with tinsel and the windows are decorated with signs telling everyone that it isn’t the ‘leap card office’. However, the history of the Tribune hasn’t always been as glamorous as it is today.
While the Tribune’s design now takes place on a light and compact laptop, our first editor, Eamon Dillon recalled how the printing process took place in 1989, where handwritten articles had to be tediously keyed in and saved onto floppy discs before being printed onto bromide paper. The final draft had to make its way to the Navan Chronicle on the back of a bike once it was glued to the necessary cardboard sheets.
Office space in UCD has always been at a premium, starting out in a “foul stinking hole in the Arts block”, Gary O’Shea recounts how smoking was “not just permitted but encouraged” in the dank smelling office. Soon however, the Tribune was to move up in the world as, during the reign of Bernard Cantillon, they took over a space that resembled something other than a “broom closet”, all thanks to constant pestering of the Head of Campus Services.
In her early years, the College Tribune kept close ties to the Sunday Tribune, whom our founder, Vincent Browne, was the editor of. The Sunday Tribune helped keep the UCD paper ticking over whenever it came into a sticky patch or two… allowing the student journalists to make use of top-of-the-line laptops when an occasion required the big guns. Luckily, as time went on and modernity finally caught up to the Belfield campus, the Tribune managed to secure the newest technology, starting the slow and painful circle of technological decline once again!
Hugh Dooley – Reporter
The Hot Takes: Reporting Since ‘89
2019 marks thirty years of College Tribune of journalists keeping their ears to the grapevine in order to break the news. Here’s a few interesting ones:
One of the biggest scandals that rocked UCD in recent years was that Katie Ascough had been impeached in October of 2017 as reported by Rachel O’Neill, that year’s editor. The report marked the culmination of the ‘Ascough Fiasco’ and gave the details of the biggest campus referendum in recent UCD history. Ascough was impeached by a margin of 69% in favour to 31% against.
While it may seem a given in 2019, UCD’s Gay and Lesbian Society was given official recognition in 1990 after 2,300 students and staff signed a petition which was tabled as a meeting of UCD’s academic council, as reported by the Tribune. The article also featured a section which addressed some common misconceptions surrounding the subject of homosexuality.
One article which swept UCD was ‘The Great Dramsoc Swindle’ which told the harrowing tale of an ex-DramSoc auditor who admitted to stealing £780, roughly €1,000, from the society’s funds to Tribune reporters, Peter Lahiff and Richard Oakley. The article details an interview that the “disgraced society head” gave to the Tribune. The article displays the opportunism of the early volumes of the Tribune perfectly.
When the ‘Cult of Christ’, a fanatical Christian cult, set up in Ireland an unlucky UCD student fell folly to what he described as the cult’s “warmth and friendliness”. The student described, exclusively to the Tribune of how he worked his way out of the grip of the controlling cult. He recalled how found himself attempting to convert both friends and family, and how he was treated like a criminal by the organisation following the split. (The leader of the cult, one Pastor Butler, appeared to be performing a Roman salute during a speech on the following page.)
1996 was an eventful year, as twenty-eight students were arrested at the Freshers’ Ball in what was dubbed as “the largest offensive against drugs the college [had] ever seen”. The security manager at the time hoped that the arrests sent a message that UCD was a drug-free zone. The piece also informed the public about a first year student who was arrested for allegedly dealing drugs in the Students’ Club prior to even receiving his student card!
Hugh Dooley – Reporter
30 years is a huge milestone for us. As Ireland’s only independent student newspaper, we have relied upon advertising to bring in the bulk of our revenue, meaning it hasn’t been easy. To celebrate this occasion, we are announcing some projects planned for the coming months.
A special once off anniversary podcast is in development. The podcast will feature a number of Tribune writers and editors, past and present. Discussion topics will include things like the origins of the Tribune, notable stories from over the years, a comparative look at the paper then & now, etc.
Another exciting project in development is digitising of all the physical Tribune’s from the last 30 years. The tribune is in talks with UCD Library about potentially uploading every issue onto the website, a task very much easier said than done. This project should provide students with access to a rich history from UCD over the past 30 years. Should the next couple of months go to plan, UCD’s history will be just a few clicks away.
We’ve come a long way since chaotically running the Tribune from under some stairs in Newman and I think it’s time to honour those committed students by working on the legacy of the paper. Projects like these help leave it in a better position for the students of tomorrow.
Conor Capplis – Editor
Making Us Look Good (Design)
We’ve come a long way from the laborious manual design of the newspaper. Thankfully, College Tribune Volume 33 is designed on Adobe InDesign, the epitome of newspaper design software. It’s sometimes easy to take for granted the technology at our fingertips today; and looking back on the labours of the Tribune’s fledging years, I sure don’t envy those guys.
The Tribune’s design has been tailored around the style of content. This can be seen from volume to volume, with some designs catering for short news reports and columns, and others designed around the full-page feature article. Today’s design tends to have a mix of both.
In its teenage years, the Tribune began to find it’s unfiltered voice, and wasn’t afraid to speak up! The outrageously tabloid-like design fostered a comedic and young vibe, which became a mark of the newspaper’s signature look.
Our fresh design this year was laboured upon during this past summer by myself and my buddy Sam McSherry. Studying Visual Communication in IADT, Sam’s expertise helped materialise the ideas we came up with. Since then, I’ve been producing the current volume from the original design. Anybody interested in designing with us, pop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Conor Capplis – Editor
Alumni Editors: The College Tribune’s Finest
Since the foundation of the Tribune, our editors have gone on to achieve lofty positions in major journalistic organisations across the country. Richard Oakley, editor in 1997-1998, was appointed editor of the Sunday Business Post in July of this year. Meanwhile Roddy O’Sullivan, 1993-1994, is the current Duty Editor of the Irish Times. More recently, now working for the Irish Times and the reporter who recently broke the surprising news regarding Scouting Ireland, Jack Power, was the editor for the 30th volume of the College Tribune.
Not all of our previous editors have continued to work in journalism, however, many have found excellent success in other fields such as Eoghan Rice, currently head of communications for Trocaire Ireland, or current Green Party Councillor for Killiney-Shankill, Una Power. Ryan Cullen, the Tribune’s editor in 2011 is now a stand-up comedian and co-host of ‘Clear & Oblivious: An NFL Podcast’
Our contributors have been no less successful, the lofty title of Tribune contributor has been applied to current EMEA Director of CNN international, Blathnaid Healy and Sarah Binchy a radio producer at RTÉ Radio.
Hugh Dooley – Reporter
The day-to-day running of the paper today is fairly straight forward. The Editor (that’s me) alongside with the Deputy Editor (Alex Lohier) lead the whole operation. It’s our jobs to organise meetings, interviews, manage other writers, source advertising, edit articles, design the newspaper, and generally spend far too much time behind the desk in the Tribune Office.
The structure of the Tribune is fairly regimented. Each section is designated a ‘Section Editor’, who’s job it is to take charge of those pages, under the supervision of the editors, and organise other writers known as ‘Contributors.’
This is all very exciting, I know. But student journalism is really where the fun can be had before entering the big bad world. College newspapers rarely experience major censorship, so this really is the time to have your fun with it.
Each person who contributes to our newspaper, in even the smallest of ways, is doing their job to support campus free speech and student journalism. As an industry that’s gone through difficulty in recent years, student journalism can sometimes struggle to stay afloat. Thankfully, the Tribune has a highly dedicated team to thank for us still being here to voice the independent student voice in UCD.
The behind the scenes socialising is by far the best part about being involved in a student newspaper (yes even the Observer are allowed to have fun too). Whether you’re working with another student on a story, or just stopping by the office to hog the couch, getting involved is a lot of fun. I highly recommend any writers in UCD to get involved with us, we’re always looking to hear new ideas and expand our team.
Conor Capplis – Editor
What the future holds…
From its inception in 1989, the College Tribune wanted to report on UCD activities, stories and news. More importantly, it wanted to hold the university accountable for what it stood for and for what it promised its staff and students. At some stage in the late 90s, the paper veered towards a tabloid-style publication. Nowadays, we have a balance of both, blending some award-winning journalism with lighter, more laid back writing.
But what does the future of the College Tribune resemble? Personally, I would love to see it steer towards a heavier focus on reporting and investigative journalism. Having come halfway through my term as Deputy Editor, I know this to be both challenging and time consuming, albeit entirely worth it once a story comes together. I say this for two reasons. Firstly, these types of stories are much more interesting and relatable to our readers, which would improve the Tribune’s popularity amongst the student body, whilst simultaneously providing it with some fascinating reading material. Secondly, I believe it to be our responsibility, alongside other Irish student newspapers, to dig around and hold our universities to their word. Many of the stories which break from student publications are often deemed too small to be covered by bigger papers; until the full extent of the story unfolds that is.
I also see our website and social media channels gaining importance as platforms to voice student news. We have seen massive growth in this area this year, and I believe this will continue for the next few years.
Most importantly, I see the paper reaching new heights. The current design, team, content and social platforms are arguably (in my biased mind!) at their all time best. The foundations are strong for future volumes of the College Tribune; let’s see what exciting times the future holds for it.
Alex Lohier – Deputy Editor