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The National Student celebrating its tenth year

A publication started by a University of Lincoln graduate is celebrating its tenth year.

Founded in 2002 and first published in 2003 by former journalism student James Thornhill, The National Student is a magazine and website for students in higher education to get their work published.

Speaking to The Linc, Thornhill explained why he started the publication: “When we first started looking at student media in 2002, there wasn’t an independent, national publication for university students that was written by students.

“As a journalism student, I was passionate about the opportunities that young writers could get and wanted to create a consistent platform that might be able to offer bigger and better opportunities.”

Initially, spreading the word of The National Student proved problematic. Thornhill said: “It wasn’t easy. This was before social media and initially we had absolutely no budget to do any promotion, so it involved a lot of emails and phone calls to student unions, university staff and other people we wanted to work with to try and grab their attention.

“Luckily the newspaper (as it was then) being out there was the best promotion for itself, the more regularly it came out and more people saw it we become an established part of the campus scenery.”

Thornhill continued: “We were pretty persistent and we did manage to get some weird and wonderful exposure. At one point, our distribution stands and newspaper were a prop in the college on Hollyoaks, when one of the shops was broken into and being refurbished our paper plastered the windows.”

Thornhill described the initial reaction to TNS as “good and bad”. He explained: “Students loved the idea, but politics got in the way. Some SUs were not fans of a publication as they had no say in being read by their students.

“One President told me: ‘I love your paper and what you are trying to do. But I won’t allow it to be distributed because I can’t control what goes in it.’ We got hit with a lot of ludicrous opposition and accusations, some claiming we were stealing revenue from SUs (which we weren’t as we have never touched local advertising) and also that were affiliated to the BNP simply because we had the word ‘National’ in our title. Luckily none of that stuck for more than a few minutes.”

He continued: “This could have shut us down completely but I went and got distribution deals with accommodation companies like Unite. Over the years, more and more student unions came round and we ended up having a good relationship with many of them.”

Thornhill recalled some of his highlights over the past decade: “We once spent the day with Mi5 whistle-blower David Shayler which was a bizarre experience full of conspiracy tales and paranoia, and another day with Bill Drummond who was once in the KLF – look them up if you don’t know who they are.

“Another time, the phone rang and I answered – it was Norman Lovett who played Holly in Red Dwarf calling to be interviewed by my colleague Ian.

“At one music festival a girl I was with shouted abuse at a guy who had knocked her drink, that guy was Dave Lombardo – the drummer from Slayer. I’ve also had a conversation in a toilet with Matt Smith, mainly about how lame his friend was from not wanting to go on to another bar.”

However, Thornhill’s doesn’t have one particular highlight: “So much of it has been amazing. I’ve done amazing interviews and met amazing people, but the main highlight has been surviving and continuing to do what we do. There have been several times it could have all collapsed and we have kept it going.”

Thornhill continued: “Other than that it is seeing what people who have contributed to us have gone on to do – most of them are better journalists in more impressive positions than I could ever manage. It’s nice to think that an idea we had in a pub in Lincoln has had a positive effective on people getting jobs.”

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