How I’ve used ‘The Spark’ as a platform to support and connect with other students

Taz Usher

Having been involved in UoR’s student newspaper, The Spark, since my first few weeks at university I have had the opportunity to experiment with various sub-genres of journalism meanwhile exploring and writing about a variety of topics.

Writing for The Spark provides students with a fantastic platform for self-expression and creativity, whilst enabling them to hone their story-telling and summarising skills. Not only this, but the chance to connect with and offer guidance to student readers is rewarding in more ways than one.

My role as editor of The Spark, which I have occupied for two years now, has allowed me to play an instrumental role in the selection and organisation of the content which features in the publication. When making these decisions I feel a responsibility to provide readers with a mixture of content which they can enjoy and learn from as well as that which they can turn to for guidance on issues which are characteristic of the student experience.

For example, a topic which I recently wrote on was sexual consent and personal safety at university which, owing to their considerable relevance to students undergoing the transition from secondary school to higher education, I chose to feature as the front-page news story of The Spark’s September 2019 Freshers’ edition.

The article which aimed to seize the attention of new readers with its colloquial headline “Let’s talk about sex and safety” took a relaxed approach to reminding students about their personal rights, whilst signposting them to relevant support services. Throughout the article I focus on topics including sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying, supported by descriptions of the Student’s Union’s welfare policies, quotes from RUSU’s full-time welfare officer, and advice from external support services.

Featuring this piece in the Freshers’ edition of the newspaper was of a particular importance to me as I am aware of the anxiety that can surround issues of sex and safety when moving to university. Equally, studying a degree in English Language has shown me the unmistakeable significance of language in our everyday social interactions and the importance that the simplest of words: “yes” or “no” can serve in contexts where personal wellbeing is at stake.

Consequently, I was chuffed to receive recognition for my article in the form of a Best Impact award in the Student Publication Association’s (SPA) South East regional contest. Winning the award meant a lot to me as it reminded me why I give up so much time to The Spark each week. However, as for any journalist, learning that your work has had the impact you intended is a reward in itself.

I would highly encourage any student with a passion for writing, reading, or interest in pursuing a career in journalism, publishing or public relations to write for The Spark, regardless of how regularly they can contribute. Not only will membership of The Spark give you access to a range of opportunities including reporting at Reading Festival and attending national networking events, but the contacts and extra-curricular merit which you gain from the experience is something which you will cherish as part of your university experience.

As an English Language student, membership of The Spark can also be an enjoyable release from academic essay writing, whilst it can also benefit you in modules such as Persuasive Writing, Language and New Media, and Language in Professional Communication where alternative writing styles are assessed.

If you have any questions about The Spark and would like to get involved please feel free to email me at You can also find The Spark on all social media platforms.


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