USU’s BULL out to Pasture
Alexi Polden on the end of your second favourite campus rag.
Illustration by Zita Walker
Eventually it comes time to put down the family pet, and, after a long slow decline, Bull magazine is being put out to pasture. After moving from a daily to a weekly, then to a monthly publication the University of Sydney Union’s prized publication is finally ready to face the knackery.
Honi has learnt that the magazine will be replaced by an online news site with more “Buzzfeed style articles.” The decision was approved “in principle” during the confidential portion of the Board’s meeting early this month. On Saturday night the Bull editors released a statement on Facebook (despite the fact the Union’s PR people generally determine what gets posted), decrying the lack of consultation in the process. “We are by no means kidding ourselves that running a free print magazine is ever going to see as great a financial return as Courtyard, but we – perhaps too optimistically – had hoped that a not-for-profit organisation would not be so heavily driven by its bank balance”, the post reads.
While Bull’s fate is sealed, the Union’s President, Alisha Aitken-Radburn told Honi that “a lot of the operational considerations regarding going online, potential new branding, name and design are still very much up for conversation with the Marketing Department.”
Despite that, Aitken-Radburn told Honi that “preliminary ideas” include having “two permanent paid part time student journalists” appointed for yearly terms, working with the Union’s media team. Several former Bull editors, and current editors who were told of the change late last week told Honi that they expected the new online site to be a mouthpiece for Union PR. Bull has previously faced extensive criticism for the level of control the Union’s PR people have over the paper—articles have previously been pulled for being too critical of the Union or its programs.
Nonetheless, Aitken-Radburn told Honi that “The Board placed massive value on student retention of editorial control and independence and they will have very high levels of autonomy. We’re currently drafting editorial guidelines to delineate the relationship with Marketing.” The post on Bull’s Facebook page suggested the replacement news source would in fact be integrated with the Union’s website.
Honi understands that the choice to shift online comes as pickup rates of the magazine have dropped. Aitken-Radburn told Honi that the cost of putting out the paper, including paying editors and printing costs ran “in the realm of ~$100k” and that “it’s really important that the Board continual evaluates whether or not we are expending student resources in the best way possible, with the best results for students.”
Bull’s demise comes as student media across the country is feeling the pinch. In August it was announced that the editors of UNSW’s student paper, Tharunka, will no longer be elected—it will now be edited by a panel appointed by Arc, the UNSW student union.
Back at Sydney, Bull will be remembered for two things. First, as an oasis for failed and prospective Honi tickets, but more importantly as a cautionary tale about what happens when you shorten your name one too many times. The publication started as ‘The Bulletin,’ became ‘The Bull,’ and leaves us as ‘BULL‘ (in substance and in name).
Vale. Thankfully, Honi’s still kicking.
UPDATE: The Bull editors have responded to the news on Facebook. The article has been updated to reflect their comments.