I wake up at 4pm. My throat is burning, my head throbbing, my lips cracked. Around me are strewn my clothes from the night before; I stagger out of bed and squint in the late afternoon sun. No: this is no post-Bridge hangover.I haven’t been to Bridge all term. Nor is it essay crisis exhaustion. This, my friend, is the delightful morning of regret that comes after Cherwell print deadline, 3:30am every Thursday.
I make it back into the offices for 5pm., running to Tesco to grab cookies, crisps and other such cheap sugary snacks with which to ply our contributors at conference. Cherwell Conference is the weekly meeting where all the staff get together to review the week’s issue, which has (theoretically) been delivered to colleges, libraries and coffee shops around Oxford that morning. In order to motivate people to come, the other deputy editors and I (there are four of us) buy snacks, though attendance dwindles towards the end of term. We sit; we eat; the senior editorial team makes in-jokes; everyone else pities us and our train-wreck social lives.
The week after Conference is pretty simple. Much of the role of a dep is problem-solving, and answering the million shitty questions that no one will ever notice unless we get them wrong. Is it libellous to accuse someone of voting UKIP in the gossip column? Probably not, but it might be a bit mean. Is Sport allowed to make a joke about the Taliban in their coverage of an OUCC tour to Afghanistan? 100 per cent never, ever. Have we compromised Fashion’s creative vision by tweaking their photoshoot? Probably; oh well. Do we write ‘12-year-old’ or ‘12 year-old’? Literally no-one knows, nor cares. All of these are real things we’ve dealt with over the last eight weeks.
Every deputy editor has to come in for one day between Saturday and Wednesday and supervise certain sections of the paper laying-in (i.e. creating their pages on Adobe InDesign, ready for printing). This, in practice, involves arriving at the offices to find them empty, desperately firing off passive-aggressive Facebook messages asking when section editors plan to come in, and then sitting back with a Pret coff ee, a hangover and an essay to write, and waiting. Nonetheless, it’s a good way to meet people, and as long as they don’t make the mistake of calling you their ‘boss’ (again, something that has happened this term), you make friends quickly. The different sections surprise you, and undeniably have diff erent vibes depending on the people in each one. Some people arrive, put their articles in and leave within an hour or two. Other spend days creating the perfect spread, only for it to be torn apart at the whim of an editor. Everything is always in flux; not a single article will be printed exactly as it was originally written.
By Thursday, we have come full circle – midmorning, the editors, news editors and deputies begin to trickle in to complete the paper. Each of the 32 pages has to be proofread with a fine-tooth comb by at least four different people; every image checked for the right quality and every news article checked for defamation. Editorial decisions are discussed, and everyone’s opinion matters, but ultimately the editors have the final say. From lunchtime to the early evening, spirits are high. Then we take a break and eat together in town. The paper’s probably halfway done by midnight. From 11pm. to 3am., we feel like death. After we send the paper off to be printed, I cycle home past people coming back from nights out, and slump into bed. On to the next issue