Ghosts of Woroni Past, Present & Future

I started off being too scared to contribute to Woroni.  I was in in constant awe of those people – more than people, journalists! – who were published in the reputable mag. It didn’t take me too long to get over that.

In my second year, I finally mustered up enough courage to submit a very mediocre opinion piece and the rest has been history; I was a sub-editor on and off for two years, Editor-in-Chief for one year and a constant reader of the paper. Over this time, I’ve seen Woroni evolve.

It seems as if Woroni has had unrivalled growth and vibrancy over the last five years. The catalyst for this coming-of-age for the student media organization was a fresh start and new approach to running the organization.

Rumour has it that a group of students met up with our previous Vice Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb in 2010, a meeting which would change the course of the paper forever.

There had been murmurs of discontent about the quality of the paper for a while. While it certainly had a rich history of fantastic content, it was harrowed by editors producing inconsistent papers, if there was one produced at all. Some blamed the huge workload and other strains placed on the Editors, others on the dependence and occasional censoring by ANUSA (as Woroni was funded by the Students’ Association). Regardless, after seeing more than one set of editors stop producing papers all together, there was a consensus that something needed to be done.

Chubb told the group, consisting of members of ANUSA and the Editors-elect, that the ANU deserved a paper rivaling the quality of the Crimson, Harvard’s daily rag. The students left the room with promise of a new office and more funding but also the demand that the paper have consistency from year to year.

This exact account of events may be a figment of this author’s imagination, but the gist is that everyone wanted to see Woroni become a professional media organization.

Regardless of however it happened, there was a huge push to reform Woroni. ANUSA and Woroni worked together to create a new, independent student media source. Ideas such as overlapping editor terms, having individual elections for eight separate editor positions, among others, were argued back and forth, but finally in 2011 the changes were approved.

And then: nothing. Business as usual. At least at first. Almost without noticing it, small things changed. Editions started appearing that weren’t filled with the Editor’s and their friend’s names under every headline. The website began to be  updated. Circulation improved. Then, bigger ideas such as Woroni radio starting happening. For once, the organization was able to build on itself every year rather than starting anew.

That’s not to say there haven’t been a few speed bumps along the way.  At least during my tenure as Editor, we had a few, including the standard turmoil between editors; setting up for the inaugural Australian University Student Media Conference, which was a great success despite causing us to almost kill each other, being threatened with punishment such as academic exclusion because we published a cartoon about the Qur’an. The last one was probably the worst, not least because Andrew Bolt came out and supported us.  Still through all the conflict and standard student organization bullshit, Woroni pulled through.

Woroni, or rather ANU Student Media, stands today as a leader in university student-run media organisations across the country. However, the journey began in 2011 towards a more professional Woroni has not finished. Many of the steps – changing the role of Editor to more of an organization Director, empowering sub-editors, expanding into new mediums – should continue to allow further expansion of ANU Student Media.

In the future, I’d love to see a board of 4-6 “Directors” who are elected on platforms of policy and direction for the organization, who then choose the most talented individuals at ANU to edit the content, lay out the paper, produce podcasts, record video, or whatever new idea is next. It makes sense to elect people on their ideas, which are easy to critique as an average student, than try to elect someone based on their technical skills, which are not easy to demonstrate to a large audience.

But enough about that. Congratulations to Woroni on its sixty-fifth birthday. There’s not many sexagenarians who are only getting better looking and more useful as the years go by.  Thanks for everything you’ve given me: a source of information, an outlet and an opportunity to learn and grow.

Here’s to another sixty-five great years.

Cam Wilson is the General Secretary of the Kanye Appreciation Society