The Spike or Victoria College Review 1938
The outstanding achievement of the student body at V.U.C. this year has been to produce, with the essential regularity, a weekly that not only castigates intellectual indifference but, by the quality of its output, justifies the editorial dogma that students are qualified to hold and express political opinions. Senile "Smad" had given us doubts about that. However, when the Students' Association (goaded perhaps by a review in "Spike" last year) called upon a number of people to produce a successor to "Smad," these had more faith; in producing "Salient" their faith has given rise to good works.
The value of the publication is enhanced by the fact that "Salient" is not merely skimmed over; for on Wednesday evenings the Common Room has often attained an unaccustomed quiet while many "Salients" were being thoroughly read.
What is the function of a college newspaper? Those responsible for the policy of "Salient" state it to be "first, to link the University more closely to the realities of the world; and second, to comment upon rather than report in narrative style the activities of the College Clubs." By its articles on local and international issues the paper fully carries out this policy. No doubt there are many who think "too fully"—in fact, four of seven critics in No. 12 say, in the words of Mr. Bullock, "There's too much outside stuff." We disagree; more "inside stuff ' if you like, but it is the great merit of "Salient" that it has dealt intelligently, if not always impartially, with current controversy. Moreover, the reporting and critical discussion of College activities has reached a standard far above that of any other College magazine we have read. With regard to reports of meetings the principle of "commentating" has been introduced—lectures being submitted to criticism by an opposing opinion. While this method has its uses, it is not always fair to the speaker unless his views are also reported directly.
For example, to one who did not see Dr. Sutch's lecture-film, the "commentation": "The Left in Spain" (No. 5) is a stupid enigma. On the other hand, for reporting in good English, tempered with criticism, the account of the Plunket Medal is admirable.
The von Luckner interview was, of course, the scoop of the year; it had the further merit, as a number of people pointed out to us, of presenting a picture of the Count more personal than any which appeared as biographical blurbs in local newspapers. That it inspired a Kennaway cartoon in "To-morrow" was some measure of its significance as a contemporary record of a much disputed event.
No, perhaps the staff have not held the balance between external and internal matters quite where the mass of students expect, but few will deny that the balance represents more nearly the relative importance of the two. As to impartiality, the Editor has dealt forcibly with that matter in No. 8; those who disagree with his view have received sufficient invitation to provide a corrective by expressing their own.
In this latter respect the correspondence columns of any such paper are of vital importance, and it is gratifying to find a few points in articles and reports have been hauled out for criticism. This type of discussion may well be one of the major features of "Salient" in the future.
Descending to more particular points, the editorials call for first comment. It was originally intended, we believe, to give each week one editorial on external affairs and one on College matters. The rule inevitably has not been adhered to, the former type predominating, but all the chief concerns of the College have been competently discussed. One point, however—many of the editorials, informative discourses on foreign and local affairs, lose their effect by being too long; people will read editorials if they are short, the long ones are shuffled over.page 47
When it was decided to issue "Salient" every week we doubted whether there were students available to produce it regularly and still maintain a high standard. The system of handing over control to "guest editors" periodically has relieved the strain on the regular staff a little, but the latter deserve credit for unfailing devotion to the job. No doubt a sense of team camaraderie has assisted and requited them somewhat in their work. We do not suggest that the present staff has developed into a closed ring, but we give warning of the danger of clique control in an "organ of student opinion."
"Salient's" special numbers—particularly those on Spain and China—are ambitious tilts at the most pressing questions of the time; they are commendable for their vigour and sincerity, yet there is something lacking about them. Perhaps the subjects of discussion are too big for adequate treatment in a small paper. Consular and combatant interviews are good copy. Yes, but we still feel that the student opinion on these matters has not yet been representatively expressed. The old story of "Only the Left is militant," we suppose.
We would have liked to have seen more film reviews in "Salient," but apparently the dearth of socially important films this year has limited their importance to the editorial policy. Those on "Dead End" and "The Plough and the Stars" are good "afterviews," but there is scope for preview work. "Salient's" independence should give added value to its film opinions.
It is the literary section of "Salient" which is most seriously lacking in quantity and originality. That the columns of their excellent weekly have been often eked out with lifted verse is a reflection upon the training and ability of 1,000 V.U.C. students. In a world top-heavy with international and social crises, in a year torn with political conflict, students of V.U.C. have found little urge to express their opinions about it in concise and effective verse. Pointed satirical verse is not easy to write, but as the standard of Extravaganza songs has shown for some years, there are those at Victoria who can pen it. Such verse, because of its brevity and conciseness, is often an apt weapon with which to point an opinion.
It is good to see some lino-cuts in a Victoria magazine at last. Their symbolism is brutally purposeful and effective, and compensates a little for what is lacking in the verse. The simple montage of the design for the Chinese number is symbolical art of a high order. The hand responsible for these lino-cuts is discernible in much of the efficient layout—a notable characteristic of a paper which has to be assembled always in a hurry. We have, however, personal cause to deplore some bad errors which appear to have arisen from failure to check proofs against manuscript!
Looking back, one realises that "Salient" is not entirely a product of this year. "Smad" was a stage in its evolution, by disuse it retrogressed and was discarded. "Student" was, let us say, an illegitimate ancestor; while the still-born quarterly of the old Literary Society was to have been christened "Salient"! These all fell perhaps on unfortunate times—at all events "Salient" has arisen in a period when hardship is less personal and freedom, locally, greater. Now that "Salient" has established a standard it is in a good position for future development as a journal to record and mould opinion both within and without the University. (That unfortunate rumpus over white slave traffic at least showed the degree to which its influence extends). Its future, of course, depends upon the vigour and ability of the editorial staffs to come.
One last point; accustomed to the circulation figures for "Smad" and "Spike," we marvel at a distribution of over 600 among 1,000 students. Surely at least 900 students read "Salient." But when 100 students in the thousand write for "Salient" it may truly and worthily be described as an organ of student opinion.