Author Archives: Victoire Bret

10 Tips to run a successful student publication

The Student Publication Association hosted its annual Award Ceremony at Leeds University on Saturday 6th of May. It rewarded the most talented editors and reporters from 87 student newspapers across the UK and Ireland.

Epigram, the official student newspaper of the University of Bristol, was the big winner, scooping both Best Publication and Best Reporter.

The celebration of talented journalists in the making makes us wonder what it takes to run a successful student newspaper?

We asked Dan Seamarks, chair of the SPA and former editor of the University of Westminster’s newspaper, QH, to give us the key to a prosperous student paper.


photo credit: Victoire Bret

1- Keep your eyes to the ground. You need to know everything that is happening around you.

2- Don’t be afraid to rock the boat. Student publications are very important as they expose everything that is happening at the university and that can potentially affect the students’ lives.

3- Be diverse in what you do. Cover the news at the university but also sports, cultural events and social aspects of the life on campus. You should also cover interesting subjects that don’t necessarily touch the university: relevant news and important international events.

4- Work hard. Most of the stories won’t magically write themselves. When you have a lead you need to push it to gather the most relevant information and bring your story further.

5- Look at places that are not obvious. Don’t just take what’s in front of you, dig deeper.

6- The leadership needs to adapt the tone and management style to the different situations. Editors have to be strict and organised in order to meet their deadlines and produce the best editions possible. But they also need to be friendly and relax otherwise. Nobody wants an editorial dictatorship.

7- Be confident and get a thick skin. You are not always going to be liked. Your stories will almost always affect someone in a negative way but if it is relevant and in the interest of the readers you need to run the story.

8- Make sure everyone on your team have a stake in the work that you are producing. You shouldn’t dictate what reporters have to write and within the realms of possibility let them work out what they want to write about.

9- Build your network and use it. Networking is really important in journalism, it’ll allow you to access more information but also to bring your stories further.

10- Most importantly have fun! It one of the rare times in your journalism career that you can write what you like and what you want.

QH sports team for the win


University of Westminster’s newspaper, QH, sports team won Best sports coverage award at the Student Publication Association Awards Ceremony on May 6th2017

The Student Publication Association, otherwise known as SPA, is the national body representing student-run magazines and newspapers.

This year’s award ceremony was held at Leeds University. Representatives of student publications were joined by a wide range of industry speakers, including Gareth Jones from BBC Radio Leeds and former Sun writer, Bill Coles.

Westminster’s sports team stand out from the crowd thanks to their innovative coverage of the university sports teams, strong exclusives with big name sportsman and a clear passion for quality sport journalism.

Check out QH top sports stories here:

Sports reporter Etienne Fermie was present at the ceremony and collected the award on the behalf of the sports team. He dedicated their success to sports editor Damian Burchardt.

This year was very successful for Smoke Media, Westminster University media team. They were shortlisted by the Student Publication Association for a record breaking seven awards.

Ahead of the event, Smoke Mag editor, Amy Avent said: “The whole team are ecstatic as this is the first time Smoke Mag has been shortlisted for a SPA award. It is a great way to end our year as the 2016/17 editorial team, and feel like our hard work is being recognised outside of the university.”

In 2016, both the QH newspaper and Smoke Mag had a makeover. They became regular monthly publications, and debuted new designs and websites. They also renewed their focus on local issues that are more relevant to students.

The involvement and hard work of all the Smoke Media team is also the key to their success. Let’s hope this year will be the first of many successful ones for the journalists at the University of Westminster.

The full list of Smoke Media shortlisted nominations is:

Best Interview – Etienne Fermie, The QHRohan Ricketts’ story: Meeting English football’s globetrotter

Best New Publication – Smoke Mag

Best Sports Coverage – The QH

Best Use of Digital Media – Smoke Media’s election coverage

Best Design (Magazine) – Smoke Mag

Best Design (Newspaper) – The QH

Outstanding Commitment – Amy Avent, editor, Smoke Mag

What is Facebook’s educational campaign against fake news will actually going to change ?

Facebook just launched an educational campaign to help users spot and report fake news. It will be featured for three days on people’s news feeds and will be promoted in 14 countries including the UK, the US, Germany and the Philippines.

It will give users a list of 10 tips to spot fake news stories and prevent them from spreading. But it will only be available for three days on people news feeds and needs to be clicked on in order to appear completely.

The efficiency of this tool is therefore debatable. It appears that this campaign is only an ethical stratagem to let cooler heads prevails after the past months fake news controversy. Moreover the device is still nowhere to be found on the social media platform.

The reactions on the matter are mixed. Even if Facebook is taking a step on the right direction to fight the rise of fake news online, it seems to be too little too late and the usefulness of the device is still to be proven.

Another question rose from the debate: why did Zuckerberg finally decided to take a stand now, after ignoring the fake news problems for so long? There are many speculations on the questions; some people think it’s for ethical reasons, others found some political reasons behind his statement.

Students at Westminster university investigated and collected  the opinion on the matter from students and academics in their university.

“It is a way for Facebook to take a political stand mainly towards the Trump administration.” Edmundo Bracho-Polanco, lecturer.

“the 10 main points “how to deconstruct fake news” looks a bit a bit patronising” Anastasia Denisova, lecturer in journalism.

Zuckerberg finally tackles the rise of fake news on social media

Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, finally decided to address the problem of fake news and launched a new education tool to help people spot and report it. Starting from today the campaign will be promoted in 14 different countries including the UK, the US, Germany and the Philippines. It will offers users tips and advice on how to spot fake news stories and prevent them from spreading.

But the educational banner will only be available for three days on people news feeds and most probably only the people already aware of the fake news problem will click on it and get educated. So the real impact of this new tool is very debatable.

When clicked, Facebook will lead you to their help centre where you can read a list of 10 tips for detecting false stories.


Picture credit: BBC news

The website encourage users to look at an article’s URL, investigate the source of a story and think more critically about whether an article seems believable or not. It also recommends being “sceptical of headlines”, as false news stories “often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points”.

Fake news on social media is a real problem nowadays. The awareness on the matter was raised after the Brexit and the US elections debacles. Even if Facebook doesn’t consider itself a news publisher, many people are using their social media profile for news gathering and tend to believe every story they find in there.

Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s VP of Product Management for News Feed stated that “False news is harmful to our community, it makes the world less informed, and it erodes trust. It’s not a new phenomenon, and all of us – tech companies, media companies, newsrooms, teachers – have a responsibility to do our part in addressing it.”

But what is Facebook really doing to fight the rise of fake news on social media? They announced the beginning of the educational campaign yesterday but it’s nowhere to be found on the platform.

A more effective alternative is the German plan to combat hate speech and fake news. The proposition that was just approved by Angela Merkel’s government project to fine social networks up to 50m euros (£43m) if they fail to remove illegal content within 24 hours.

Google is following Facebook’s footsteps and adding a new feature to their search engine to fight fake news. A new fact check tag will now appear in the search result.

Even if multimedia giants are taking a step forward in the fight against fake news, there is still no answer to the important questions on the matters. Who is really producing fake news and to blame for it’s publication on line and who decides what is fake or real news?


The campaign will be advertised in the following countries:

  1. Germany
  2. France
  3. Italy
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Philippines
  6. Indonesia
  7. Taiwan
  8. Myanmar (Burma)
  9. Brazil
  10. Mexico
  11. Colombia
  12. Argentina
  13. United States
  14. Canada

Camden market, the end of an era

Camden Town used to be the place in London where everything goes. Sex, drugs and rock and roll was the motto and many legendary musicians such as Bob Dylan, the Pink Floyd and Amy Winehouse have lived there and performed in the neighbourhood’s famous music venues. It is also the home of Punk and alternative culture, creative fashion as wall as the LGBT community.

The area is famous for it’s street markets that are said to attract 28 millions tourists a year. It is a labyrinth of little stalls and shops selling everything from vintage clothes and antics to crazy gadgets and exotic food. The streets of this vibrant area are always busy with a multicultural crowd, here for the shopping or the exciting nightlife.

Since the 1960’s, Camden is experiencing major changes and a wave of gentrification is hitting the neighbourhood. But more drastic changes are ahead since Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi’s company, Market Tech, bought four of the prime locations of Camden market in 2014 and is determined to transform Camden market by market.

Video credit: Victoire Bret

Teddy Sagi is an Israeli born, London based businessman. His business career had a rocky start; In 1996 in Tel Aviv he was sentenced to nine months of jail time for fraud and bribery. But he is now the co-founder of PlayTech, a FTSE 250 gambling software and service company and the majority shareholder of Market Tech Holdings, the new owner of Camden market. In April 2015 Forbes magazine estimated the net worth of the new Camden king at $3.3 billions. His Camden real estate empire includes Camden market as well as the Barfly Club, the Open University building and a portion of the High Street.

Camden market is actually composed of six different locations. Sagi now owns the Lock market by regent canal, the stables market, Union Street (also known as the green market on the high street) and the Lock village or canal market. Leaving only the music venue The Electric Ballroom and the small Inverness Street market, in peace.


A map of Camden market. Picture credit: The Ukister

The concern is growing amongst the stallholders and traders of the markets, as Market Tech stays very vague about its plans for their formerly independent workspace. They don’t know when the development is going to start, what will happen to their businesses and who to turn to to get help and answers. Traders are afraid to talk to the press or to anybody else about this issue in fear of having troubles with their new landowner and loosing their stalls.

In response to the trader’s grievances, Market Tech issued a statement for a previous article in the guardian in November 2016, assuring that it’s market manager enjoys a “regular and positive dialogue with the traders” and that the company is “fully committed to building and maintaining Camden’s rich heritage and unique markets, to develop a vibrant and creative atmosphere and a place for independents, start-ups and small businesses to grow”.

But the changes have already begun to affect trader’s businesses as the stallholders of the canal market lost their jobs when it closed in early 2015. Market Tech tore down the site to start the development of The Hawley Wharf.


Development in progress on the site of the former Canal market. photo credit: Victoire Bret

The Hawley Wharf development is a mixed-use scheme. By 2018, Market tech project to convert the 580 000 square foot canal area into offices, a new local primary school, a cinema, 195 residential unit, shops and a new food market.


The Hawley Wharf project. Photo credit: Market Tech

The Lock market also has its faith sealed by Market Tech. It is set to have a £20 million makeover, transforming the legendary building into new retails and offices units as well as a new bridge to facilitate the access from the high street.

The Green market on the High street is destined to become a boutique hotel. The open-air street market will be demolished and replaced by a two-storey market building next to the new hotel.


Camden Green Market ( Union Street). Photo credit: The power of travel

As for the stables market, the plan is not clear yet. Sagi bought this part of the market from fellow Israeli and previous owner, Eliezer “Bebo” Kobo, for £400 millions in 2014. The stables are one of the most iconic parts of the market. Located in the historical Pickfords stables and horse hospital it is the home of many shop and stalls. The traders in the stables are in a precarious situation. They rent the stalls on a weekly basis and with the new ownership, the rents are increasing fast and they can be easily evicted when Market Tech is ready to start the development.


Vintage shop in Camden stables market. Photo credit: Victoire Bret

Herman Tribelnig is in charge of the Camden Town Urban Design Improvement Society. When asked about the impact of the new ownership on the market traders he replied, “they are already very few to survive and never last long because of the extremely high weekly rent charged for their small patch of retail land”.

Even if the situation is very problematic for the traders, Tribelnig, as part of the Camden community, highlighted some positive outcomes of the new developments in the area. “The large building operations on the East part of the High Street, along the canal and on both side of the railway viaduct give employment opportunities for local people and construction companies. The increase of the value of the premises will also boost the incomes of Camden council and can be put to good use to improve the quality of life in the area.”


The journey of a rape survivor

The world rallied against misogyny in January during the women’s march against Trump. It was one of the largest and most peaceful protest in history and showed that women are out there fighting for their rights. But beyond misogyny, women in 2017 are still facing a long struggle to stop the culture of rape and violence that is rotting our society. Leopoldine Mineo is a 23 year old french student who was sexually assaulted at 14 years old. Not afraid to call herself a feminist, she agreed to share her story to raise awareness on the matter.

Like millions of other women across the world you were the victim of a sexual assault. What happened to you?

It happened when I was 14 years old, I went to a party with friends from secondary school and we drank a lot. Amongst those friends there were 2 guys, quite older than me, I think 17 and 16 years old. Because I was drunk I lost control of the situation. They took me aside and started to touch me. At that moment my brain just shut down, it was exactly like being outside of my body, I saw what was happening to me but it’s not really me. I saw a big red light telling me “if you don’t move now you won’t be able to do anything”. They didn’t go until the end, no penetration. I had a panic attack and it kind of scared them away.

Who did you turned to right after it happened?

To be honest I couldn’t even realise what just happened to me. I think for two or three weeks I kept it to myself and at some point I was ready and I talked to my sister. She told me that i had to tell my parents. After telling my mum, the process really started. We went to the police and I started to realise what happened to me. When I gave my testimony the policeman told me “you understand that this is a rape right?” and I told him “no! This only happened to others people, it’s not that”. I was in denial. At the police station, I also had to face my attacker to confront and confirm the story, one of them apologised. Unfortunately they dismissed the case because we were under the influence of alcohol.

How did you feel when they dismissed the case?

It was really hard because you rely a lot on the police just for someone to recognise what happened to you. But the policeman who was in charge of my case was really helpful. At some point he just asked me “what can we do now to help you feel better?” I just replied, “they have to die, I can’t live with that”. He sent me to the special psychiatrist at the police station for victim’s support and I started a therapy there. You know you have the feeling that your whole world collapses. So the only thing you can do is try to hang on.

 Did it mean anything to you when your attacker apologised?

The culture of rape makes women feel guilty about it and tell themselves that it’s their fault, like why did I drink, why did I go to that party? So when they apologised it’s a way of saying: “Ok I’m not crazy, something really happened to me. I feel wrong and what happened is wrong” so when they apologised it just confirmed it.

“Every time I was making a new friend I was throwing it to their faces… If the others can accepted that it meant that I can accept it too.. Are you going to love me despite this, and if the answer was yes it means that I can love myself too.”


Did this experience deprive you of building your sexual life in a normal way?

Yes, because for a long time it was the only picture I had of sex. But I had a boyfriend three years after and it kind of helped me to get over it. But even today I have a weird relationship with my sexuality. I am not really free about it. I still fear men a little. I wouldn’t be the one I am today without this. But it is still a problem in my daily life.

“You have the choice, you can just collapse and kill yourself; to be honest I contemplated that for a while, or you take the decision to go on.” 


How did therapy help you in your process?

The trauma therapist at the police station was really helpful. Because she was specialised in sexual assault, she was able to put the right words on my pain. It helped me realised what was happening and what was the next step. Therapy is helpful because you have someone that is listening to you. But at some point it became too much to talk about it all the time. For month the events were going in my head over and over again. So I stopped therapy and I continued to live with it on the side. You never really overcome this, it is part of your life forever but at some point you’re just fine with it. You know it’s a part of yourself. You will have to fight it, not on a daily basis but in your life in general. You know that you will have moments that are going to be harder because of it.

 “It’s about being safe. About knowing that I can say no and that there is no danger”


Apart from therapy what other things helped you in your process?

The first thing that I would say is that I took my time. And it’s about reading a lot and talking to other people who had the same experience. It’s also about talking to my self and say “ ok it happened, what’s next”? Trying to trust people again.

Do you think that support groups and structures that allow people that experienced this kind of trauma to talk about it and come together to share the experience help?

I didn’t do that but I think it would have helped. I tried to find some support from my friends but when you’re young and your friends are young as well you don’t have the support you need. The thing is, going in this kind of groups require facing what happened to you and that can be hard. But I would definitely recommend it. Talking with people who have the same experience helps you to put the right words on the events and to be understood.

You paint really well, is art, painting and having a hobby helps you to let your emotions out?

Yes, for every trauma, it has to get out of your mind at some point, you have to express it otherwise you’ll burst. So I always liked to express myself through my painting or by playing the guitar, singing or going to the gym. You just need to let it out because it can’t stay inside otherwise it will killing everything inside you.

“Instead of telling women you shouldn’t go out like that, you should tell your son, your husband, your brother, that however the girl acts, rape is never acceptable”


You are now a very successful law student in London, are you proud of what you accomplished and the journey that led you to where you are right now?

I’m really happy, it has been a long fight and now I feel good. I realised that I am the master of my life and I can do everything. I also realised that I can overcome everything. I don’t know if there is karma in this life and I got my share of disasters so now I’m good. But I’m not anxious about what can happened next because I know that I’m strong and I can get over anything that will come my way

Do you have a daily motto, an empowerment technique that you say to yourself every morning in the mirror?

Basically it’s “prove them wrong!” Every time something is hard, I don’t want to go to the gym or I’m not in the mood I think about that. Prove them wrong! Think about all the people who said bad things about you or judged you, they can go to hell!

Crisis helplines and centres:

Rape crisis: 01707 276512/ 0808 802 9999

End Violence Against Women: 020 7096 2067


Who is Trump’s right hand man: Mike Pence?



The American Vice President is often a man in the shadows. But the Joe Biden/Obama bromance the past eight years attracted more attention to the Veep office.

Nevertheless, it is a safe bet that the partnership between President Trump and his vice president Mike Pence will be a different dynamic.

video credit: ABC 15 Arizona

During the campaign and since he was sworn in on the 20th of January 2017, Pence’s principal activity is to clean up Trump’s mess. For instance, when Trump clashed with American Muslim parents whose son was killed serving time in Iraq, it was The VP who issued a statement saying that family should be “cherished by every American.”

The mild-mannered Indiana governor was raised Democrat by Irish-Catholics parents. His late conversion to Born-Again Christianity majorly influenced his political orientation. Now convinced Republican, he has strong conservative credential.

He is the bridge between a very controversial Donald Trump and the more conservative republicans. He appears to try to soften Trump’s critic of a military family and to encourage him to have a tougher stance on Russia.

Pence have a strong opinion on Russia especially it’s position in the Syrian conflict and Putin’s support to Assad. The situation in Syria is one of the points of disagreement between the new president and his second in command.

Even if Trump took a strong stand against ISIS and Promised to “Bomb the shit out of the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant”, he have no intention to stand up against Assad and Russia.

The Republican VP on the other hand wants to go further on military actions in Syria. In October he reacted to the crisis in Aleppo and stated that: “The United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Aleppo.”

video credit: CNN

Even if this statements line him up more closely with other democratic politicians like Hillary Clinton, Pence is, nonetheless, taking strong republican position on other matters.

One of his most controversial decisions was the signature of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015 when he was still the governor of Indiana. This federal law is supposed to “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected” but can be interpreted as extremely discriminatory against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. And pence’s decision was heavily criticised by Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and other influential businessmen.


picture credit: Pinterest

Pence signature of this law showed once again his extreme homophobic position. Over the last 10 years he was very engaged in the conservative battle against marriage equality and the freedom of sexual orientation. In 2007 he voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would have banned discrimination against people based on sexual orientation.

His most controversial statement was in 2000 when he suggested on his website that the money used to support people with HIV should be directed to Gay Conversion Therapy.

The Post of Vice president is considered as one of the most frustrating of the US Political system as the Veeps often stay in the shadow of their president. Nevertheless Pence seems to be willing to get involve as much as he can and be a major player in the administration. Very active in the media, he will use his connections in congress and in Washington to lead Trump on his presidential journey.


By Victoire Bret Read more

The rise of Islamist Terrorism in West Africa

With the middle-east being a bloody battle field and western countries focused on the fight against ISIS, we often forget that West Africa is experiencing the same violence and terrorism on a daily basis inflicted by its own Islamic extremist group: Boko Haram.

The Nigerian army is the main force active on the fight against the terrorist group, with French and British assistance as well as Chinese and Columbian help. But the Nigerian army who was once one of the region’s most powerful force is now falling apart and the fight against the jihadist takes a massive toll on the civilian population, forcing many to flee and find shelter in refugee camps.

It is one of these refugee camps that is the centre of the latest tragedy in Nigeria. On January 17th2017 a Nigerian military jets mistakenly bombed an informal refugee camp sheltering thousand of people displaced by the Violence.

Major-General Lucky Irabor, a local commander said that he ordered the attack because he was informed that a group of boko haram was hiding in the area. Therefore it appears that it is a combination of faulty intelligence and weak controlled aimed at guaranteeing that the airstrikes won’t cause civilian casualties that caused the disastrous mistake that devastated the Rann Camp. The government official couldn’t provide an exact death toll but at least 76 people were killed and 100 injured.

The bombing was the response of the increase of attacks by the terrorist group in the area. Less than three weeks ago the jihadist attacked the military post in Rann Killing 15 soldiers. On January 16 suicide bombers struck at the university of Maiduguri.

This “Regrettable operational mistake” as Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari qualified it spared off a lot of reactions in the western world, particularly on twitter. This incident didn’t go as viral on social media as the kidnapping of the 276 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014 and it’s #BringBackOurGirls, but enough to keep raising awareness on the human tragedy that is taking place right now in west Africa.

 Boko Haram also known as the Islamic state of West Africa province was created in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf a Nigerian Muslim extremist. After the execution of Yusuf in 2008 the organisation fell into the hands of one of the most dangerous and bloodthirsty individual in this planet: Abubakar Shekau. Under the command of Shekau the terrorist organisation announced its allegiance to the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2014 and now controls a territory that extends from northeaster Nigeria to Chad by way of Niger and northern Cameroon.

Despite the army’s best effort to clear Boko Haram from the area, the group’s fighters are still at large just outside many of the north-east’s camps and towns. The Nigerian army will not beat them unless it learns how to identify enemies from their allies and protect their population.