|Type||Weekly newspaper during Oxford University term time|
|Owner(s)||Oxford Student Publications Limited|
|Editor||David Alexander and Tilly Walters|
|Headquarters||Folly Bridge, Oxford|
Cherwell is a weekly student newspaper published entirely by students of Oxford University. Founded in 1920 and named after a local river, Cherwell is a subsidiary of independent student publishing house Oxford Student Publications Ltd. Receiving no university funding, the newspaper is one of the oldest student publications in the UK.
Cherwell was conceived by two Balliol College students, Cecil Binney and George Adolphus Edinger, on a ferry from Dover to Ostend during the summer vacation of 1920 while the students were travelling to Vienna to do relief work for the Save the Children charity. Edinger recalls the early newspaper having a radical voice: "We were feeling for a new Oxford …. We were anti-convention, anti-Pre War values, pro-feminist. We did not mind shocking and we often did." The publication was independent of the University of Oxford and it was entirely financed, staffed, and owned by students.
Early editions combine this seriousness with whimsy and parochialism. The first editorial gives the newspaper's purpose as being "to exclude all outside influence and interference from our University. Oxford for the Oxonians".
Cherwell was the only newspaper printed in Britain during the UK General Strike of 1926, other than the British Gazette and the British Worker, during which time it was produced at the offices of the Daily Mail in London.
Throughout the 1920s Cherwell had a strong literary focus, and a policy of not editing literary contributions. Undergraduate contributors included Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, John Betjeman, L. P. Hartley, Cecil Day-Lewis and W. H. Auden.
The newspaper's focus broadened over the coming decades until January 1953, when the owners of the paper decided to turn it into a university newspaper. In 1946 Cherwell was briefly banned by the university for distributing a survey on the sex lives of undergraduates, and in 1954 ran a series of pin-up photographs entitled "Girls of the Year". In 1970 then-editor Peter Stothard published a current Oxford theatre poster featuring a naked female, possibly a first for a British newspaper. Under his editorship Cherwell also published a backless photo of Gully Wells, considered very daring for the time. Both editions caused much comment. In 1973 the paper became a 'cause celebre' in the national papers when the Cherwell published a photo of General Editor David Soskin with a topless model. This resulted in a personal fine by the proctors for David Soskin.
In 1964, the newspaper's longest-running feature was created, the "John Evelyn" gossip column, and it has run almost uninterrupted since then; its founding editors were Christopher Meakin and Michael Morris. Meakin then moved over to become Editor of Isis the following term, in days when the parallel undergraduate magazine (although not then linked with Cherwell) also appeared weekly. Over the decades, many famous people have been the subject of "John Evelyn"'s wry and faux-condescending style, among them future Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, politician Jonathan Aitken, and actor Imogen Stubbs. In 1981, Hugh Grant is described as "New College's answer to Brooke Shields", and his unsuccessful attempts to infiltrate a ball with his date are reported. Cherwell's Editor in Michaelmas Term 1964 had been Patrick Marnham, who on leaving Oxford became a staff journalist on Private Eye, the British satirical magazine, and was author of the standard reference book on the history of the magazine which Marnham wrote as its 21st birthday celebration in 1982. The Editor for the following Hilary Term 1965 was Martin Linton, who became the Labour member of parliament for Battersea. Linton's News Editor on Cherwell, Sarah Boyd-Carpenter, is better known today as Baroness Hogg.
Cherwell is published by Oxford Student Publications Ltd, a student-run publishing company. Cherwell staff are Oxford students who run the paper while studying for their degrees. Editors and deputy editors are elected termly by the Board of Directors, also largely made up of former editors and business staff. The editors determine the rest of their team, usually consisting of three news editors, two comment editors, two lifestyle editors, two fashion editors, a photo editor, two culture editors, two sports editors and two broadcasting editors, as well as their respective deputies. All positions may be held jointly, more commonly in the junior positions. Section editors hold their own section meetings, at which any student may participate. Guest contributors are commonly employed, often Oxford-educated national figures.
The engagement of Charles, Prince of Wales to Diana Spencer was announced in a Cherwell world exclusive, after the news leaked to the paper through a connection working in the British royal household. News that Chelsea Clinton planned to study for a master's degree at Oxford was also first published in Cherwell.
The 2009 hotly contested contest for the Oxford Professor of Poetry Chair was covered by the paper. It broke the story that sexual allegations against applicant Derek Walcott were being created by persons linked to applicant and eventual winner Ruth Padel.
Cherwell has no party political line or stated political sympathy. A broad range of views is expressed, and the centre of gravity tends to change frequently, owing to the rapid turnover of editorial staff.
The Oxford English Dictionary lists the terms 'sherry party' and 'Marxism' (as pertaining to the Marx Brothers) as having been coined in Cherwell. Additions from recent decades are lacking probably because Cherwell is only sporadically lodged at copyright libraries, and because it is not included in electronic text search systems such as LexisNexis. Xerox University Microfilms has micro-fiche copies of the paper for some years, especially the 1970s.
Cherwell has had a website since Trinity 1996, when Cherwell Online was launched by Thor Mitchell under Cherwell editors Jat Gill and David Black. After several years called "Cherwell24", the website became "Cherwell" on Tuesday 15 April 2008 as part of a redevelopment by Chris Baranuik. The current website was developed by Mack Grenfell in 2016.
The site is updated every day during term and regularly during the vacation. It contains all of the articles from the print edition, as well as breaking news, videos, features, arts reviews, sport reports and podcasts such as the soap opera podcast Staircase 22. Students use the website to vote on the paper's regular feature, Fit College and also to post comments on articles.
In 2008, Cherwell won the 'Guardian Student Media' award for Best Student Website.