It’s a new year, and that’s right, this is a new magazine … the first of its kind, I might add. Spanning Massey’s three campuses, MASSIVE is New Zealand’s first-ever national student magazine.
Massey prides itself on being the country’s ‘defining’ university, and those behind Massive have ambitiously re-defined student journalism nationwide.
With the introduction of the Voluntary Student Membership (VSM) bill in late 2011, it looked increasingly likely that Albany’s Satellite magazine and Manawatu’s Chaff magazine, like many other financially unsustainable student publications, would become null and void in 2012.
MASSIVE editor Matt Shand, who was the last editor of Wellington’s student magazine Magneto, spearheaded the campaign for a united Massey student magazine. Though he says he was confident Magneto could continue, he felt it would be a tremendous loss to student culture in both Palmerston North and Albany if they lost their independent student publications.
Matt says the biggest difference between Massive and the previous publications is its ability to reach 36,000 students. And because of that reach, he says he thinks and hopes it will be able to “insight change within the university”.
He says it is vitally important to him that MASSIVE is run as a separate financial entity from both the university and the student union. “The student magazine can’t be the voice-piece of the university or the student unions … it needs to be able to critique them”. All the others interviewed strongly agreed with him on this issue.
Like any new venture, there are challenges that come along with it. Matt acknowledges there were roadblocks, which he says “mainly stemmed from the fact that it hasn’t be done before in New Zealand”. He says some people wondered whether a national publication would be financially viable and whether a new publication would have enough student by-in to make it a success.
Because of these valid concerns, industry veteran Brent Webling joined the MASSIVE team at its conception late last year as Editor-in-Chief, providing credibility and accountability for the magazine. Brent was a journalism student at Massey Wellington in 1971 when it was still the Wellington Polytechnic. Since then he has worked in newspapers, including The Dominion, and as a Press Secretary at Parliament.
Brent says he doesn’t pretend to know what students these days want to see in their magazine and puts that squarely on Matt’s shoulders, but “the idea is that the students drive it and I act as an industry sounding board”. As well as Brent, who is working primarily on editorial content, MASSIVE has advisers on advertising and design.
MAWSA student president Ben Thorpe, when asked how he feels about the expansion, says bluntly: “We fully support it, quite frankly. Alex Hema [2011 student president] really laid the groundwork and campaigned along with Matt to make it possible and I am going to continue that support”.
[pullquote]“The student magazine can’t be the voice-piece of the university or the student unions … it needs to be able to critique them”[/pullquote]
Ben is so enthusiastic about the new arrangements that he adds: “Quite frankly, I don’t know why it hasn’t been done in the past.”
He says that from a student perspective some of the challenges of the magazine will be “establishing itself over the other three campuses – also gaining credibility not only throughout Massey, but in the industry itself”.
He is, however, optimistic and says he thinks Wellington students would readily embrace Massive.
MUSA President Alex Jones agrees, saying that though some people on the Palmerston North campus were reluctant to see Chaff pass on, he thinks critics would be “pleasantly surprised at how MASSIVE turned out”, and it would become “a good substitute”. The editor of Chaff last year was unable to be contacted for comment.
The last editor of Satellite, Stacey Riordan, is deceivingly more pessimistic at the chances of the success of MASSIVE, particularly on the Albany campus. She acknowledges that new students won’t know anything other than Massive and older students will be grateful that there was any kind of student magazine. But she says that after the re-orientation issue she thinks Albany students will tune out because “Albany has a culture which sets it apart from the other Massey campuses, and I doubt that the new magazine will be able to successfully address this.”
In terms of the transition from Satellite to MASSIVE, Stacey says she received very little consultation or communication. She says that “as far as I know the only people that actually knew of the restructuring were the ones doing it … so as far as restructuring without any objections, this was a good way to go about it”. The ASA student president was unable to be contacted for comment.
A poorly communicated restructure or not, 2012 looks to be a make it or break it year for the university’s student magazine.
Though the groundwork appears to be in place, what will secure its future will undoubtedly be the support of you, the students. If MASSIVE can cement itself into the student culture at all three campuses then you’ll be reading perhaps the most successful student publication in the history of New Zealand.
Critics could easily be against a bunch of university students taking on this kind of challenge. It’s a good thing this journalist always goes for the underdog, then.