by Monim Wains
The very first issue of The Poor Print was published in Trinity Term 2013. To celebrate our tenth birthday, we’ve asked past Poor Printers to provide retrospective editorials on their time with the newspaper. Here, Monim Wains reflects on his time as an executive editor from 2019 to 2022.
I think I have to begin with the fact that writing this piece makes me feel quite proud of Oriel. As far as I know, we are one of the few to have a college newspaper, and it speaks to Oriel’s community that we have been able to keep it up for a whole ten years! I arrived at the college in October 2018, and graduated four years later. Throughout that time, The Poor Print was a wonderful constant. I wrote for the very first issue in that very first term, and continued as part of the editing team from then on, contributing something to all but a handful of issues. My time coincided, regrettably, with COVID, a daunting challenge for any team of students trying to keep a small newspaper going while the world frankly had far bigger things to worry about.
But that constancy is what endeared me to The Poor Print the most. In the midst of hectic Oxford terms, with the world going completely haywire, The Poor Print was a regular outlet. As a contributor, it was an excuse to draw or muse or think deeply. As an editor, it was just fun to be impressed. The sheer talent pouring out of Oriel students’ ears was matched only by their belief that what they sent in might not be good enough. ‘The Poor Print Paradox’, as I will call it from now on, was when I would encourage someone to send something in, they would bashfully refuse, I would (inevitably) insist, and the next issue would have something incredible in it! Even more surprisingly, it often wasn’t the people you would expect on paper; some of the best poets were mathematicians, some of the best artists were comp scis, and it was anyone’s guess who would send in the next deep analysis of the politics of the world.
So what did I see of this community, with The Poor Print in mind?
Well, on a cold December evening, with a deep layer of snow in the quads, I walked to my room in Island Site between interviews. My own Oxford interviews. I had just been in the JCR with some of the interview helpers, with a football match on TV, hot chocolate on offer as a preview to Tea and Toast, and a dreamy feeling that maybe I could be here if all goes well. As I walked through the tunnel, I saw a double page spread on the notice board. ‘Oriel has a newspaper? Nice! If I get in (fingers-crossed) I’m definitely signing up!’ Looking back through the online archives, it was probably Issue #25 – Resolution.
That was genuinely my first introduction to the paper.
All went well, and come October 2018, I found myself in the JCR Freshers’ Fair, with Michael Angerer beckoning people over to the newspaper’s stall. Here was a man of little sleep, an eye for pedantic pixel-perfect detail, and a seemingly infinite supply of Mozart balls in his room – which was in a set with my college dad’s room. Clearly, it was meant to be.
And let’s be honest, he could smell my enthusiasm, and I was quickly aware that I was likely to inherit his responsibility in a year’s time. Pro tip for anyone going for longevity in a college club: find an enthusiastic fresher, show them how things are done, slightly hide just how much work it will take, and all will be … well? (All the best to whomever is being currently trained as heir; it is honestly fun!)
Anyway, I learnt a lot from Michael, including the management of controversies. Many Orielenses are principled, and use The Poor Print to speak up about their issues. Inevitably, this can ruffle some feathers. I saw that the deans were a great support when this happened, and we are grateful to them for it. Over time, it became only a little surprise that we had students daring to discuss Hong Kong, Rhodes, Oxford’s own darker corners, and more. If anything could be said for the ‘importance’ of The Poor Print, it would be these pieces.
With Michael’s handover complete, it was my turn to join the team of executive editors for second year. (Saman and Martin, I could not have done without, just as Michael had Chloe and Fanxi the year before. The Poor Print cannot be run by one person alone!) I will not bore you with the details of the next few years, but will note two important things.
This first, unfortunately, was the shadow of COVID, which loomed large over my time. In general, I really liked the paper’s format, but beyond some behind-the-scenes changes to our editing software, I wanted to preserve what I had inherited from previous editors. Once the pandemic hit in Trinity of second year, that pressure only increased. Our constitution says that we are, foremost, a print publication, but that had to change for the terms where we were remote. Regardless, the fact that we could continue, with your contributions and interest, throughout even the pandemic, is remarkable. It is the Oriel community coming in strong.
Secondly, Mark Davies, one of the friendliest porters I have ever met, and the epitome of the spirit that has kept The Poor Print going. I would encourage you to find and read his pieces. They are well-written and thought-provoking. He was an invaluable bastion of support for the paper as we managed it through the years. I know only little hints of the effort he went through to balance what needed to be said, and what could be said in the paper. But he deserves a tribute all of his own.
Overall, he is an apt summary for the best of The Poor Print, if I allow myself a little grandiosity about this humble spread of A3 paper. The Poor Print, to me, is an illustration of Oriel and Oxford. It looks like an organised and well-put-together system (I hope). But it is in fact a continued effort of many people working overtime to just keep things held together for the value that we may provide. I saw this in editors past, whose legacy I could only hope to live up to, and look forward to the next years of this paper, as you, now, carry it on.
Oriel College’s student newspaper is yours, after all.