Stories that matter: Student media in Trinity

Whether you have a pen or a camera in your hands, there is something for all artists in student journalism.

“Because your stories matter” was the tagline of last year’s National Student Media Awards, affectionately known as “the Oscars” of student journalism. Every year, the best and brightest writers and editors are recognised for their talent, passion and dedication and are nominated by the SMEDIA Awards. In 2021, Trinity College Dublin’s publications earned several nominations and took home six awards, including Magazine of the Year for TN2 and Short Film Script of the year for The Offer Signe Lury. 

Beyond awards and nominations, Trinity College Dublin boasts a broad and rich history of student media production. From current affairs in Trinity News and The University Times, to irreverent, “ankle-biting” satire in The Piranha, there are dozens of opportunities for students to consume stories made for them, and to get involved in creating stories themselves.

“MISC. is Ireland’s oldest student publication; the history of Irish culture, literature and politics can be traced right back to its pages.”

One such opportunity is found in MISC. magazine, formerly known as TCD Miscellany. Founded in 1895, MISC. is Ireland’s oldest student publication; the history of Irish culture, literature and politics can be traced right back to its pages. Former contributors to the magazine include writer Samuel Beckett and Senator David Norris. 

Sean Gordon Dalton, Senior Sophister student and current editor of MISC., explained his vision for the magazine: “As a student publication, the goal is to help bring less salient issues into the mainstream for students, or to provide more detail and new perspectives on existing issues.”

MISC. offers fresh perspectives on the political, cultural and social zeitgeist around the world; the last issue featured views on sex work, universal basic income, and the role of punk music in the Troubles. Gordon Dalton highlighted the balance MISC. strikes between academia and accessibility, “MISC. is more research based than the student newspapers, while also being more readable and approachable to students of every academic discipline compared to the academic journals.” 

Gordon Dalton also noted MISC.’s role in allowing students to have their voices heard on matters important to them and other students: “I have found that MISC. also attracts many students who are passionate about particular issues that they want to see in print.”

For those not suited to the written word, there remain many media groups in College beyond its traditional publications. One such group is TrinityTV, who assure that what they lack in size, they make up for in passion.

“TrinityTV is a relatively small society compared to other media in Trinity, and I think that’s what gives it its charm,” chairperson Ingrid Duggan told Trinity News, “It’s really easy to make your video project ideas come to life, just message us or chat to us in person and we’ll help you get up and running in no time.”

Established in 2009, TrinityTV focuses on “TV appreciation and production”, offering students a glimpse into the world of television production and helping them create their own projects through workshops and discussions. Last year, for example, TrinityTV spoke with actor Colm Meaney, and hosted an array of screening events.

“The social aspect is a huge part of TrinityTV, which is why we hold a range of social events, like coffee hours and our upcoming pub event, in addition to our video production and screening events,” Duggan explained.

Like MISC., TrinityTV strives for accessibility and inclusion. Last year, when restrictions meant that most students did not have access to sophisticated cameras and equipment, TrinityTV organised the Phebruary Phone Philm Phestival. Members were challenged to create videos using only their phones. Post-Covid, Duggan is excited to once again facilitate students’ talent and hobbies in person. 

And if television isn’t your style, and you have more of a face for radio, look no further than the top floor of House Six for Ireland’s only fully student-run radio station, TrinityFM (TFM). Every weekday from three to twelve, students can tune in to their peers covering a range of shows, from discussions of current affairs to music hours.

“We are looking for absolutely anything and everything on TFM, we’ve gotten such a diverse range of shows in our last cycle and we thrive on that variety,” Hannah Quearney, the station manager said, explaining the diversity of content TFM aims to foster. “From hyper-specific music shows to podcasts to travel shows to radio plays, we want it all.”

TFM emphasises communication and support both on and off the air, “The committee is very strong, as we are all friends before being committee members. We all want what’s best for the society, as well as being able to provide a good experience to all of our broadcasters and members.”

“Despite a lack of journalism courses in Trinity, its extensive media outlets exceed that of most colleges around the country.”

This is certainly the experience felt by members. Eva O’Beirne, co-host of one of TFM’s longest-running shows, “Are You Two in Love Or?” corroborates Quearney’s sentiments: “I got to know some of the senior members of TFM when I was in first year…They’ve always been great TFM truly helps people to get comfortable with both the technology behind broadcasting and sitting in front of the microphone. The studio is a pocket of peace on a very busy campus.”

A good creative environment

Despite a lack of journalism courses in Trinity, its extensive media outlets exceed that of most colleges around the country. Between publications and other forms of media, the college offers over twenty student-run groups focused on writing, broadcasting and filming. Alumni of these groups range from the familiar names in your Leaving Cert English poetry, Eavan Boland and Brendan Kennelly, to powerful figures such as former president Mary McAleese.

The students behind these groups are not surprised by the demand for student media outlets. Arianna Owens, chairperson of TFM, said: “There is a good creative environment within Trinity, and students want to express themselves creatively through their media as much as they can.”

“It is one of the things I like most about Trinity, the students’ willingness to put themselves out there and create art or media that reflects who they are.”

TrinityTV’s Ingrid Duggan noted that the accessibility of opportunities in Trinity plays a factor in a “myriad of media-focused groups” on campus: “Student media is more accessible and a lot easier to get involved with than traditional media. Where else could you easily write for a newspaper or host your own radio show with no experience? Because of this, there’s a much wider and diverse range of people getting involved with student media than mainstream media.”

Opportunities in student media

The students behind MISC., TrinityFM and TrinityTV all agreed on the importance of such media outlets in third-level institutions.

MISC.’s Gordon Dalton emphasised the necessity of publications made for students, by students, “Much of student media focuses on student concerns, and students are the best people to articulate those concerns.”

“Publications like MISC. or Icarus give students a platform to express their own creativity or relate wider issues to the student experience. Without student media, we would not have those opportunities.” He encouraged all students to “jump in” and explore the possibilities and opportunities available to them in student journalism.

O’Beirne praised student-run media, not just for the bespoke content it offers consumers, but for the self-developmental and fulfilling experience it offers potential creators. On getting involved with groups like TrinityFM, O’Beirne advised, “Make the mistakes, learn from them, expand your skills and your knowledge. Test yourself, research more. There’s nothing wrong with trying something new.”

“It’s important for us all to get experience as well as learn how to express ourselves creatively. To become confident with your voice, your opinions it’s something that will stay with you forever.”

Owens highlighted that getting involved in groups like TrinityFM can enrich a student’s experience beyond their course, “It gives students an opportunity to break out of the confines of their course, and perhaps see a future career avenue they may not have been aware was a possibility for them. We have had STEM students do postgraduates in journalism, and students whose disciplines do not lend themselves to broadcasting careers work for some of the top radio stations and television networks in the country.”

“Student media’s power lies in its ability to show students what else is out there, and how they can find a job through their passions and society involvement.”

Ellen Kenny

Ellen Kenny is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News and a Senior Sophister student of Politics and Sociology. She previously served as Assistant Editor and Features Editor