Exciting Times for the site we started

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Alumni goalkeeper Dan Burke

It is my very distinct pleasure to recommend and welcome you to the brand-spanking new and improved JMU Journalism website.

The newly relaunched site is something I can take absolutely none of the credit for but which is a great source of personal pride and satisfaction to me all the same.

I was the Website Editor when JMU Journalism Liverpool Life was originally launched way back in May 2009. Since then, I’ve had the ‘ambassadorial’ title of Founding Editor bestowed upon me, and though my contributions to the site in the intervening years have been few and far between, I have always taken a keen interest from afar in the great strides made since I passed on the metaphorical baton.

The origin of this website is well documented and I’m sure many of the students who’ve worked on it over the years have been regaled with the story of its ‘difficult’ inception. It’s a tale which I’m always more than willing to recount so, for the purposes of disclosure, I’ll give you the abridged version.

It was a Monday afternoon, sometime around March 2009 when the idea of an all-encompassing “by the kids, for the kids” student news website was enthusiastically pitched to a less-than-enthusiastic Level 3 convergence workshop containing yours truly. “Get on the Groovy Train!” they cried, but we were completely ambivalent, and they were wasting their breath at first.

YouTube: Union Square Music

A miniature-rebellion ensued, but the staff didn’t give up and worked tirelessly to build the website to convince us of its potential. A lecturer (and I think most JMU Journalism students will know which one) invoked the spirit of Whitney Houston, saying: “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Looking back, it’s still hard to believe that such a positive and forward-thinking idea was initially met with great scepticism and resistance. For what it’s worth, my attitude was less: “Vive la résistance!” and more laissez-faire. I was pretty much past caring by then anyway, just ticking off the days ‘til graduation.

It took me a while but eventually, thankfully, even I saw the light.

Amazingly, within a few short weeks we’d assembled an army of student journalists and were heading into battle. Even more amazingly, I’d somehow been made Commander-in-chief; an appointment which confused me then and still confuses me a bit now, if I’m honest.

I’m told it was recognition of my potential, but I’m convinced I was also pretty lucky. I wasn’t in the right place at the right time, I just said the right thing at the right time when I was asked how I felt about the site now I could see it in dummy, mock-up form.

Dan Burke & Stephen Kelly pose for legendary homepage launch pic

“Exciting times…” – two words uttered with barely any consideration whatsoever but which will probably live with me forever. Those words were my ticket to the Groovy Train and would ultimately land me in the JMU Journalism hot-seat.

I’d also always wanted a catchphrase, which was an added bonus.

The relatively short space of time I spent working on the website was exciting too, and unlocked the door to many wonderful opportunities which myself and my fellow students had previously believed were beyond our capabilities. I’m not sure what it’s like now but back then, being a ‘student journalist’ was a bit like being a Police Community Support Officer (lots of wandering around town centres but very little action).

I’d never have dreamed of working as an accredited journalist at a magical European night at Anfield, or at the emotional memorial service to mark the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. I’d have laughed in your face if you’d said I’d get an interview with the guitarist of one of the world’s biggest rock bands, but Brian May of Queen was happy to speak to me.

I did all of those things and more because of this website.

It was truly the start of something big and the site has been a fine showcase for the work of the many talented individuals who’ve studied at this institution since, far surpassing anything I and the Class of 2009 ever achieved.

I’m proud to say I was there at the beginning of it all, but I’m even prouder at what our legacy has become.

Exciting Times™