Special Guest Blog: Courier 1969-72, Problems, Prebble and porn

This is the fourth installment in our Courier Special Collections Guest blog series. You can see the other two installments here; ‘1948-55 the early years‘, ‘Changing Directions 1955-62‘ and ‘1962-69 The Golden Years‘.


1969-72 Problems, Prebble and Porn

'Prebble Resigns as Editor', 1st March 1972

‘Prebble Resigns as Editor’, 1st March 1972

Rising printing costs forced the Courier to revert to eight pages in 1969, and for several years the paper suffered from staffing shortages. While it had always been difficult to find enough volunteers to maintain a high quality paper, the problem worsened in the early 70s, with the paper left without an editor at the start of the 1971-72 academic year. Stuart Prebble, who had recently joined as a news editor, was eventually promoted to the top job, but the paper remained generally understaffed for much of this period.

The Union itself was also facing difficulties, with a proposed merger between the SRC and Union falling through and an increase in violence and vandalism. The Courier was frequently attacked at Council meetings, with accusations of bias and a fall in standards commonplace. Both Grey’s Column and Geordie’s Marra were phased out in 1971, and the paper’s criticisms of SRC staff became more frequent and less subtle.

Under Stuart Prebble’s editorship pin-up pictures of female students remained a regular feature, and in November 1971, to “celebrate” the Courier‘s twenty-third birthday, the paper published a topless picture of a female student; this was, coincidentally, also the first anniversary of The Sun’s first topless page three picture. Several other topless pictures followed over the next few years, with the climax being the “Courier porn page” in May 1972 – part of an issue that also included features denouncing feminism and joked about rape.

Bumper Edition of the Courier which featured the Couier porn page, 5th May 1972

Bumper Edition of the Courier which featured the Courier porn page, 5th May 1972

Prebble himself had resigned by this point, in order to run for President of the Union free from accusations of using the paper to publicise his campaign. His noble intentions were undermined, however, when his resignation appeared as the front page story of his final issue in charge, prompting ridicule even in the Courier letters page. His successor, Dianne Nelmes, was openly critical of Prebble in the Courier during his time as President, until she herself resigned due to work pressures in November 1972. She also went on to become President, while several other members of the Courier team rose to prominent positions within the SRC and Union. Despite, or perhaps because of, this close connection between paper and politics, attacks on the SRC in the Courier became more frequent and more personal, while the Courier was increasingly criticised at Council meetings.

Courier letter page, 6th December 1972

Courier letter page, 6th December 1972

During her short time in charge of the paper Nelmes arranged for students of the new Newcastle Polytechnic to join the Courier‘s editorial team. The inclusion of the Polytechnic trident next to the University’s shield did little to mask the sidelining of Polytechnic news, however, and the scheme attracted criticism from both sides. After just four months the partnership collapsed and the Polytechnic students withdrew from the Courier to form their own newspaper in collaboration with local colleges.

Courier with the Polytecnic trident and Polytecnic news, 1st November 1972

Courier with the Polytecnic trident and Polytecnic news, 11th October 1972

This was the least of the Courier‘s problems. Financial difficulties necessitated an almost doubling of the cover price between 1970 to 1972. Staff shortages remained a problem, and on several occasions pages in the Courier were filled with articles reprinted from other student papers or Times Higher Education. Meanwhile the letters page became a battleground between members of the Courier team, the SRC executive and the Socialist Society. The Courier‘s relationship with “Soc Soc” had progressively declined since the late 1960s, with the society forming a rival publication – called, naturally, Pravda – in 1971. “Soc Soc” and the Courier fought for control of the SRC executive, with personal feuds and petty rivalries also thrown into the mix to create a tense and tumultuous atmosphere.

'Call to resign from Soc-Soc', 6th December 1972

‘Call to resign from Soc-Soc’, 6th December 1972


The above content is taken from Courier alumni, Mark Sleightholm’s Courier History site and is interspersed with images from the Courier Archive online website. Mark has begun documenting the history of Newcastle University’s Courier student newspaper, which gives a fascinating insight into reporting trends, recurrent stories and issues, and profiles of the different sections through the ages.

Special Guest Blog: Courier 1962-69, The Golden Years

This is the third installment in our Courier Special Collections Guest blog series. You can see the other two installments here; ‘1948-55 the early years‘ and ‘Changing Directions 1955-62‘.


1962-69 The Golden Years

'Great Day for Freedom Fighter', Martin Luther King is given an honorary degree at Newcastle University, 15th November 1967

‘Great Day for Freedom Fighter’, Martin Luther King received an honorary degree at Newcastle University, 15th November 1967

By the early 1960s the wind of change was blowing across the city. King’s College won independence from Durham to become the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1963, a modern campus was constructed around the old redbrick buildings, and in 1962 the Courier boldly proclaimed that “for the first time in its history” it looked “something like a newspaper”.

'University Bill is Reprieved', 31st January 1963

‘University Bill is Reprieved’, 31st January 1963

A new masthead and a greater use of photography, along with headlines that were much bolder in both size and statement, gave the paper a much more exciting appearance. The paper also reverted to its traditional Thursday publication day, and in 1964 began to experiment with occasional 12-page issues.

'It's Earp for President', example of the Courier with increased use of photography, 9th May 1963

‘It’s Earp for President’, example of the Courier with increased use of photography, 9th May 1963

There was little space in the new-look Courier for culture, and the arts reviews that had dominated the paper in the 1950s virtually disappeared, except for several rather weighty features on the University’s architectural wonders, new and old. After a few months the arts began to creep back in, and a short “What’s On” listings panel gradually expanded into a full page of film and theatre reviews.

The focus after 1962 was undeniably on news, however. The Courier began to conduct more investigations and campaigns, establishing itself as a mouthpiece for students. In 1968 the paper ran a series of features on the global student movement, and throughout the 1960s the paper held the Union, SRC and the University to account over issues such as accommodation and rent levels. Satire and sarcasm crept into the paper through the long running features “Grey’s Column” and “Geordie’s Marra”, the latter written in a Geordie dialect.

Geordie's Marra, 6th December 1967

Geordie’s Marra, 6th December 1967

This more aggressive approach saw sales of the Courier increase, but also had its downsides. In 1964 editor Jeremy Norman was forced to leave the Courier under a cloud, after publishing an article criticising the actions of Newcastle’s NUS delegates at the NUS conference.

Criticism of Newcastle NUS delegates at the NUS conference, 26th November 1964

Criticism of Newcastle NUS delegates at the NUS conference, 26th November 1964

The SRC, who oversaw the delegation, tried to stop that week’s issue from being distributed, but after tense negotiations allowed the Courier to be sold after Courier staff had blacked out one particularly disagreeable paragraph, by hand, on every single issue. The Courier retaliated through a statement in the following issue, but the new editor, Martin Pinder, later decided to apologise to the SRC.

'Chaos and heated discussion over impounded Courier', 3rd December 1964

‘Chaos and heated discussion over impounded Courier’, 3rd December 1964

Even greater scandal hit the Courier the following year, when the Courier reported the drunken antics of a member of the SRC executive, both as news articles and, less sympathetically, through Grey’s Column and Geordie’s Marra. The student demanded a retraction in the following week’s Courier, and while Ivan Dunn, the editor, did publish a short apology, this was not considered satisfactory by the SRC. Dunn’s defiant attitude, which included a lengthy editorial in the Courier complaining about the SRC’s interference, led to his dismissal by the SRC, with one of the news editors then resigning in protest.

Dunn’s dismissal marked a low point in the relationship between the Courier and the SRC, but the paper itself continued to perform well throughout the 1960s, with sales reaching record levels. Recipes and pin-up pictures of “photogenic freshers” became common, and the paper began to expand its focus beyond the University to include the city of Newcastle. One issue in November 1966 was sold to local residents as an experiment, and in 1967 an “external news” page was introduced, collecting news from local colleges. 1967 also saw the paper expand to 12 pages on a regular basis, and the Courier received praise, particularly for its features, at national student media awards.

Page includes Miss Photogenic Fresher, 10th May 1966

Page includes Miss Photogenic Fresher, 15th October 1966


The above content is taken from Courier alumni, Mark Sleightholm’s Courier History site and is interspersed with images from the Courier Archive online website. Mark has begun documenting the history of Newcastle University’s Courier student newspaper, which gives a fascinating insight into reporting trends, recurrent stories and issues, and profiles of the different sections through the ages.

Special Guest Blog: Courier 1955-62, Changing Directions

This is the second installment in our Courier Special Collections Guest blog series. You can see the first, ‘1948-55 the early years’ here.


1955-62 Changing Directions

'Kings to Leave N.U.S', 12th May 1955

‘Kings to Leave N.U.S’, 12th May 1955

In 1955 the handover between editors was brought forward from summer to Easter, so that the outgoing editor could concentrate on their exams. It was also around this time that Monica Doughty joined the Courier as a permanent secretary, helping to provide stability to the paper during the frequent changes to the editorial team. Doughty organised the day-to-day running of the paper, while each editor shifted the overall tone and style of the paper to suit their own tastes. Brian Lloyd Davies, editor 1955-56, attracted controversy by his frequent use of the paper to publicise his own, left-wing, views.

Brian Lloyd as Courier editor, 27th October 1955

Brian Lloyd as Courier editor, 27th October 1955

His successor, Ramsey Rutherford, returned King’s Courier to a neutral position, being more interested in the arts and music than politics; he was described in the paper as a fan of “traditional jazz, modern jazz, classical music, opera, folk songs of all types, and modern ‘pops’.” The changeover of editors was a big event in the late 1950s, with each editor’s final issue including multiple tributes to their time with the Courier from other members of the team. Rutherford was followed by John McCormack, who continued the arts focus and non-confrontational tone.

'Courier-A Policy Statement' reviewing John McCormack, 8th May 1958

‘Courier-A Policy Statement’ reviewing John McCormack, 8th May 1958

In 1958, however, his successor, Brian Shallcross, shifted the focus to news. He redesigned the paper, introducing a new colour masthead, significantly more photographs, and large, tabloid-style headlines.

The King's Courier with the new colour masthead, 15th May 1958

The King’s Courier with the new colour masthead and tabloid style headlines, 15th May 1958

The stories were similarly daring, including a survey that revealed very few students knew who their elected student representatives were, and close scrutiny of a poorly-organised Rag Week.

'The End of Rag', 5th February 1959

‘The End of Rag’, 5th February 1959

Most of these changes were reversed once Shallcross left the paper, when it became known simply as Courier. As the new decade dawned the paper became a weekly publication, coming out every Wednesday during term time. The extra issues placed a greater demand on the editor, and at the end of 1960 it was agreed that editors should only serve half the year, with changeovers in December and at Easter.

The Courier‘s main competition during this period was the Wall News, posted on noticeboards in the Union and often a vehicle for gossip and scandal. The Wall News predated the Courier and survived well into the 1960s, with the relationship between the two publications occasionally descending into one or the other printing derogatory comments about their competitor.

Wall News complaint about the gossip, 8th May 1958

Wall News complaint about the gossip, 8th May 1958

The other significant publication at King’s College was the Northerner, a literary magazine founded in 1901 and published once or twice a year. Whilst never especially successful, the introduction of a 6d cover price in 1958 marked the beginning of the Northerner‘s decline, and by the early 1960s the publication faced major financial problems. A revamp in 1963 saw the Northerner printed on glossy paper and with a greater focus on design, but this was not enough to save the magazine and staff shortages and printing problems contributed to its decline in the mid 60s. Numerous attempts were made to revive it, as Package in 1968, Ashes in 1970, the New Northerner in 1972 and Five Seconds in 1973. None of these, nor more recent arts magazines such as Alliterati, established in 2006, lasted more than a few years.

Front cover of the first issue of the Northerner, 1st December 1916

Front cover of the first issue of the Northerner, 1st December 1916


The above content is taken from Courier alumni, Mark Sleightholm’s Courier History site and is interspersed with images from the Courier Archive online website. Mark has begun documenting the history of Newcastle University’s Courier student newspaper, which gives a fascinating insight into reporting trends, recurrent stories and issues, and profiles of the different sections through the ages.

Special Guest Blog: History of the Courier

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As the voice of Newcastle University students, The Courier has always been an expression of student news, views, and opinions relating to campus life and how the University operates.

The Courier archive has been digitised and you can now search and browse over 65 years of reporting from the first edition in 1948, when the University was still known as King’s College. View the Courier Archive online.

Courier alumni Mark Sleightholm has begun documenting the history of our student newspaper on a dedicated Courier History site. This gives a fascinating insight into reporting trends, recurrent stories and issues, and profiles of the different sections through the ages.

In this Courier guest blog series, we have added to this site’s content and illustrated it with images from the digitised Courier archive.

We are kicking off this Courier guest blog series with:

1948-55 The early years

In 1948 what is now Newcastle University was known as King’s College and formed part of the federal University of Durham. Early in the year several Durham students established the Palatinate newspaper, and in October one member of the editorial team, Allan Marsh, decided to set up a paper for the Newcastle campus. Anyone was invited to help produce the paper, “regularly or spasmodically”, while Stuart Shaw was appointed editor. The first issue of King’s Courier came out on 18 November.

First issue of the Courier, 18th November 1948

First issue of the Courier, 18th November 1948

The early papers were generally eight pages long and came out once a fortnight. They focussed on such riveting topics as meetings of student societies and the opening of new buildings on campus, but also reported on University sports matches and reviewed books, art, theatre and – on some daring occasions – films and music.

New Science Block drawing, 14th December 1948

New Science Block drawing, 14th December 1948

Film criticism, 19th May 1949

Film criticism, 19th May 1949

There were few photographs, although there was generally at least one on the front page, and several cartoons and illustrations, drawn by Courier staff, appeared, alongside an occasional crossword.

'HECTOR and NECTAR' cartoon, 3rd November 1949

‘HECTOR and NECTAR’ cartoon, 3rd November 1949

There was humour, too – for 1952’s Christmas issue the staff produced a four page supplement called King’s Scrouier, which parodied many of the Courier‘s contemporary news stories, reviews and even adverts.

The King's Scrouier, 16th December 1952

The King’s Scrouier, 16th December 1952

The letters page became a forum for discussion, with some debates continuing for months. Particular controversy came in 1953 with a series of articles by Stanley Brodwin, an American student at King’s, and an aspiring playwright. His candid style and criticisms of British customs prompted fierce replies in the letters page, with his plays attracting similar outrage.

'I'll dig you later in the U.S.A.' by Stanley Brodwin, Friday 16th October 1953

‘I’ll dig you later in the U.S.A.’ by Stanley Brodwin, Friday 16th October 1953

At this point the students’ union was split between two institutions: the Students’ Representative Council, which dealt with politics, representation and societies, and the Union itself, run by the Union Management Committee, which ran the union building and organised social events. The Courier was overseen, and eventually funded, by the SRC, but was always (at least in theory) editorially independent of both SRC and Union.

Stay tuned for more Courier Special Guest Blogs…

22nd December – ‘Making the perfect Christmas dinner’ from the Courier

#ChristmasCountdown

Making the perfect Christmas dinner

‘Making the perfect Christmas dinner’ from the Courier, 2011

Looks yummy doesn’t it? What will you be having for dinner on Christmas day? Will you use these ‘coping’ mechanisims to ‘survive’ Christmas?

Page taken from a Christmas special of the Courier, dated 12th December 2011.

Editorial from the Courier:
“Coping with Christmas
Sometimes it isn’t always all carolling out in the snow. Here’s what to do when festive spirit runs low, reality takes a bite and there isn’t a treble close at hand…”

The Courier is Newcastle University’s student newspaper and has always been a voice for students to express their news, views, and opinions relating to campus life and the operation of the University. Its first issue was released in 1948, when the University was still known as King’s College (Kings College later split into Newcastle Universtiy and the University of Durham in 1963). The Courier is still being published today.

To find out more about the history of the Courier, visit here.

Click here to view this December 2011 article in full. The Courier archive has also been digitised and is available online here.