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Queen's newspaper The Gown still hits the headlines as it marks 60th year

Past and present staff come together for special celebration

By Amanda Ferguson

Published 15/04/2015

Event organiser Orry Robinson pictured at the exhibition which marks the Gown's 60th birthday
Event organiser Orry Robinson pictured at the exhibition which marks the Gown's 60th birthday
Current Gown editor Kylie Noble

It's been breaking new ground and launching the careers of journalists for 60 years.

Today the team behind The Gown - the independent student newspaper founded in 1955 by medical student Richard Herman - is celebrating six decades of news, features, sport and opinion at Queen's University Belfast.

Among Gown alumni is Ireland correspondent for the Guardian and Observer Henry McDonald and BBC Northern Ireland journalists Maggie Taggart and Mark Carruthers.

Other journalists who learned their trade there as students include former Belfast Telegraph editor Ed Curran, our religious affairs correspondent Alf McCreary, and writer and socialist activist Eamonn McCann.

BBC broadcaster and Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross cut his teeth at The Gown, as did Irish Times cartoonist Martyn Turner.

Current Gown editor Kylie Noble, a final year English and Politics student at Queen's, told the Belfast Telegraph it has been an honour to be at the helm of the newspaper for the last year.

The 21-year-old from Ederney, Co Fermanagh, shared some of her highlights while in charge.

"Last year a big story for us was covering the motion brought to Student Council which sought to ban the sale of the poppy in the Students' Union shop," she said.

"We were the only media permitted to report from council, meaning that all mainstream media had to come to The Gown for information.

"The Irish unity referendum was another big story. We were the first media outlet to break the story, the night before freshers' fair.

"The referendum garnered media attention across the country and I was interviewed by Mark Carruthers on BBC Sunday Politics Northern Ireland about the paper's coverage of the referendum.

"We were the first media to report on a bomb alert in QUB's Lanyon Building in the autumn term and the first, I believe, doing live reporting on Twitter from the Mairia Cahill support protest in opposition to the supposed speaking of Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald at QUB."

Despite the eventful agenda this year, Ms Noble pointed out "the paper doesn't only cover news". "We also have features, arts, opinion, lifestyle and sports sections," she added.

In just a few weeks' time Kylie's year as editor will be over but there "will be fresh blood at the helm very soon".

"In my year as editor I have increased our presence on our website, Facebook and Twitter as this is the means most students get news," she said. "A few of us took part in video training with the view of implementing that into online coverage but it has been hard to take off the ground on.

"The Gown is entirely independent and it is quite remarkable that students for six decades have been able to voluntarily keep the paper going for all these years and I've heart many more generations will do the same."

Gown staff past and present are gathering today in the Naughton Gallery to celebrate the 60th anniversary and view a selection of the student paper's most striking covers from the down the years.

The exhibition runs until May 3.

Journalist Henry McDonald was a Philosophy student from 1985-88 and wrote for the renowned student newspaper, as well as co-editing it.

"The Gown was independent of the students' union so it could be equally critical and inquiring about the union leadership as it would be in relation to the university authorities," he said.

"We also had to raise finance to get the paper out. That meant going cap in hand to businesses around Queen's for paid adverts. This was a wake-up to reality, experience that demonstrated that good journalism doesn't feed on pure air, you need the finances to get your material out there."

You can follow The Gown on Twitter @thegownqub

Background

Past and present staff of The Gown are gathering today to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the independent student newspaper. It was set up in 1955 by medical student Richard Herman and has been covering events around Queen's ever since. The newspaper is renowned for boosting the profiles of numerous students who went on to high-profile and successful careers in journalism.

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