An ‘Organ of Student Opinion’? Alternative Print, Protest, and the Politics of Education in Salient, 1973-1989
This thesis explores Victoria University of Wellington’s student newspaper, Salient, in the 1970s and 1980s. Salient covered a wide array of issues, performing its role as a campus newspaper while closely engaging with and informing students of wider political issues during a period of significant student protest. As a publication, it consistently and deliberately set itself apart from the mainstream media, a position which placed it alongside other alternative or radical publications. Furthermore, the thesis demonstrates that the connections between Salient and the Wellington Marxist-Leninist Organisation (MILO) were profound and enduring in the 1970s, with significant implications for the kinds of analysis and issues that Salient presented to its readers. While individual editors did have unique editorial policies, the nature of Salient’s journalism in the 1970s was notably socialist and activist in its outlook. In the 1980s, while Salient maintained a progressive political outlook, the direct association with MILO (by then the Workers’ Communist League) loosened. The paper’s political content still covered a range of contemporary social issues, and its editors took political stances, but its content was more akin to political commentary than an extension of political activism. The exception was Salient’s opposition to user pays tertiary education, which was seriously considered by David Lange’s Labour Government as part of its neoliberal reforms. As the possibility of a user-pays tertiary education system became more likely, Salient dedicated more space to covering, opposing, and organising action against this disruptive policy which had major implications for its student readership. Salient often did not speak for all students, but provided a platform for alternative analysis of social and political issues, pushing the boundaries of the purpose of student media and its place within the print landscape of New Zealand.