1972-75 Conflict and takeover

1972b

Grey’s Column and Geordie’s Marra were briefly resurrected in 1972, and continued to make occasional appearances in the paper, as did topless pictures, but the Courier increasingly became a campaigning newspaper, with special editions printed to support student demonstrations against Government cuts to higher education.

Attempts at censorship, and a general lack of cooperation, further damaged the relationship between the Courier and the SRC, and in November 1973 an Extraordinary General Meeting of the SRC was called to discuss the Courier, which was once again accused of bias and a serious decline in standards. Although the motion of censure in the editor, Richard Elsy, was defeated, the meeting gave rise to a proposal for a sabbatical editor. This suggestion gained much support over the next two years, and the University eventually agreed to fund a sabbatical editor on a trial period, for the year 1975-76.

In the weeks following the meeting the Courier continued to come under attack from the SRC, Soc Soc and even the Chronicle, and in December Elsy was replaced as editor. Since 1948 Courier editors had been elected by the SRC (on the recommendation of Courier staff) rather than the general student population, and on this occasion Soc Soc took advantage of having a majority in the meeting to elect a Soc Soc member, Steve Langdon, instead of the Courier candidate, one of the news editors.

1974For the remainder of the academic year the paper was run by an “editorial collective” and was largely filled with articles promoting socialism. The sports and culture pages survived, however, and crosswords were reintroduced (clearly, the proletariat needed their puzzles), but the paper faced increasing levels of outrage from other students. The editorial collective proudly published and rebutted letters attacking the socialist Courier on the letters page, but another EGM was soon called, where it was decided that in future editors should be elected by a cross-campus ballot.

The final issue of the year included a full page article attacking former editor Richard Elsy, who, with support from the Athletic Union, Agrics and Medics, had just defeated a Soc Soc candidate in the Presidential election.

Alison Laidlaw, who had often helped the editorial collective produce the paper, took over as editor the following year, and the socialist features were dropped. Mark Scrimshaw, a member of Soc Soc and the SRC executive, resigned from his position on the Courier‘s editorial team in protest at the new direction of the paper, prompting another war of words in the letters page. In January 1975 Scrimshaw and other socialist members of SRC tried to censor a Courier article criticising their actions at the NUS conference. According to the Courier‘s account, they physically threatened Courier staff and confiscated copies of the paper, threatening to burn them. Elsy, now the president, was accused of trying to use this “Courier incident” to remove Soc Soc members from the SRC, but ultimately only one was forced to resign.

The 1975 elections were particularly fraught, with Soc Soc members running as a “United Executive” slate for three sabbatical positions. All three were defeated by “moderates”, however, and the Courier published a full page article mocking the departure of the socialists from the SRC offices. David Baines, a news editor, was elected the Courier‘s first sabbatical editor.

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