An open letter to the SPA executive committee:

If you would like to add your signature to this open letter, please do so here, including the name of your union, publication or organisation.

We, the undersigned, are writing to formally express our concern about the extortionate rise in prices of the Student Publication Association National Conference 2017 (#SPANC17), which we believe are both unnecessary and contrary to the beliefs of the SPA as an organisation.

The SPA has always differed from NaSTA and SRA in its pricing structure, to put an emphasis on affordability and inclusiveness for all students. This not only reflects the reality that many student papers are not union-affiliated — though many are still not financed to the same extent as TV stations even if they are part of a union — but the inclusiveness of the organisation as a whole, which aims to be more than a niche gathering of editors. The SPA should also reach as many people as possible as we fight to enter an industry which is known for its lack of diversity, with young journalists currently facing low wages, unpaid internships, and publications which expect us to work for free.

These are problems that the SPA are well aware of, and indeed have attempted to address in the past. The SPA’s work, almost akin to a union for student journalists, is invaluable in helping us to use collective action, networking and solidarity to improve conditions for those going into the industry. To charge such high ticket prices completely undermines this work, and adds another financial hurdle for young journalists to overcome.

Last year tickets for the SPA national conference were £110 including two nights accommodation, or £50 for the conference alone. With current price rises to £92 and £266.50 like for like, this in an increase of more than 100%. They were also previously released further ahead of the conference (and release was timed around the release of the awards shortlist) so students could plan ahead, as well as take an informed decision on purchasing based on whether they were shortlisted. This does not seem to be the case this year.

None of us can envisage our students’ unions funding this, especially in times of difficulty for student publications in general and at such short notice. This is even more important with regards to SPA’s independent members, who aren’t supported by their unions or universities and must fund their own tickets; their work is something we should be supporting, not penalising.

We appeal to the SPA committee, who were elected on our mandate, to rethink the decisions they have made regarding ticket prices and consider the needs and abilities of their members. We would also like a full explanation of why the prices were inflated so much.

If nothing changes, many publications will be forced to boycott what is supposed to be a celebratory and unifying event.

Yours,

Jeremy Brown, Hannah Butler, Susannah Keogh, Ben Londesbrough, Jessica Stanier, Theodore Stone (Editors, Exeposé, University of Exeter)

Emma Yeomans, Will Ing, Elena Losavio, Charlie Lawrence-Jones, Sam Taylor (Editors, London Student, inter-collegiate)

Rebecca Pinnington (Video editor, London Student, inter-collegiate, former President, Pi Media, UCL)

Megan Baynes, Jessica Frank-Keyes, Caitlin Doherty (Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Editors, Concrete, University of East Anglia)

Ben Parr, Stefan Rollnick, Caitlin Butler, Hannah Price, Sophie Hunter, Phoebe Jordan, Georgia Marsh (Senior Editors, Epigram, University of Bristol)

James O’Hara, Issy Bull (Business Team, Epigram, University of Bristol)

Alice Hearing (Editor-in-Chief, Wessex Scene, University of Southampton)

Anneka Honeyball (Editor-in-Chief, The Edge, University of Southampton)

Cameron Meldrum (Vice-President Democracy and Creative Industries, Union Southampton)

Elisabeth Mahase (Media Chair, Union of Brunel Students)

Rituja Rao, Tooba Haq, (Editors, QH, Westminster)

Ryan Chang, Rebekah Evans, Irina Anghel, Gaby Bissett (Editors, ROAR, King’s College London)

Daniel Brady (Co-Editor-In-Chief & Managing Editor, The Founder, Royal Holloway, University of London)

Freya Marshall Payne, Glenn Houlihan, Daniel Green, Jessica Hubbard, Monica Cherrie, Lauren Wade, (Editors, The Badger, University of Sussex)

Sarah Redman (Editor-in-Chief, The Falmouth Anchor, University of Exeter and Falmouth University)

Jennifer Sterne, Eliza Slawther, Gemma Sowerby, Elise Gallagher, Lily Carden, Georgina Hines, Joseph Casson (Editors, The Mancunion, University of Manchester)

Anna Savage (Editor-in-Chief, The Print, Queen Mary, University of London)

Greg Dimmock (Film Editor, Cub Magazine, Queen Mary, University of London)

Becky Crawford (Deputy Editor in Chief, The Print, Queen Mary, University of London)

Henry Hill (Vice-President, Pi Media, University College London)

Anna Griffiths (Editor-in-Chief, Redbrick, University of Birmingham)

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