Student Publication Association Regional Conference inspires young journalists

  • The Student Publication Association was formed in 2012 at the University of Southampton to provide a support network to online and print publications
  • It is the largest student media association, representing student publications and journalists across the UK and the Republic of Ireland
  • The conference is held every year, in collaboration with Forge Press, to provide journalism students with advice and networking opportunities


The Student Publication Association Regional Conference for the North West took place at Sheffield’s students union on February 16th. Attendance was good, the speakers were even better and there was free tea and coffee, what more could a student journalist ask for? 

The day started off with an inspiring talk from Sam Walby and Joe Kriss from Now Then magazine, who admitted that they are not trained journalists but started magazine whilst studying at university in Sheffield after realising that there wasn’t a magazine they wanted to read. 

Their magazine covers arts, culture and politics ‘in the broadest sense’. They spoke of a democratic deficit in Sheffield, how difficult it is for the public to hold power to account when they don’t know which power should be held accountable. 

Their advice to aspiring journalists was, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” 

Next up was Robyn Vinter, editor in chief at The Overtake, who boosted all of our confidence by settling all of our worries about freedom of information requests. Reminding us that because we’re at an early stage of our career with very few by-lines, it is the ideal time to be doing some investigative journalism, making sure that we’re practising within the law, of course. 

Jessica Murray, Sophie Halle-Richards, Georgina Morris and Lauren Ballinger on the panel about the importance of local journalism.
A panel of local journalists took part in a Q&A session

After lunch, there was a panel on the importance of local journalism with Georgina Morris from the Yorkshire Evening Post, Sophie Halle-Richards from the Manchester Evening News and Lauren Ballinger from the Examiner Live, who stood in for a panellist who was ill on the day. 

The panellists discussed their reasons for going into journalism, particularly local journalism. Sophie Halle-Richards said: “I realised local journalism was ideal for me after studying at Sheffield.” Adding, “The national newspapers don’t have the rapport with your local community.” 

They all had some tips for keeping contacts on side. Lauren’s advice was simply to be nice. Georgina said to treat people with decency and respect. Sophie said that knowing what tone to use with each contact comes with experience. 

Next the topic moved onto the decline of local journalism, to which they all agreed that social media is helping more stories reach a wider audience that may not have been reached before. Despite fewer papers being sold; digital technology is creating more jobs, which is reassuring to a room full of trainee journalists. 

Last on the bill for the day was Jem Collins, founder of Journo Resources and Alex Ekong, a freelance music journalist with their workshop on how to pitch to an editor as a freelance journalist. Their workshop was interactive and engaging and got everybody talking about embarrassing stories from nights out, the most popular story was about a group who were driving down to London for a night out, they got hit by a lorry – everybody was fine so once they got to London, they went out anyway! 

The event was organised by Jessica Murray, the Student Publication Association’s Northern Regional Officer. She said: “We had a great turnout and everybody was really engaged with the speakers throughout the day. It was really nice to celebrate some of the great journalism being created in the North.” 

I hope we can expand on this event even more next year

The Student Publication Association National Conference takes place in York on April 5th-7th. The conference will have more than 40 talks and workshops and there is the opportunity to nominate your friends (or yourself) for awards such as best feature, best student photographer and best human rights story.