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…