In 2000 a group of students calling themselves Insite was entrusted with the running of the commercial student publication The Voice. Their early work helped to transform student media, creating a space for students to express their concerns and address the issues that mattered to them most. Successive Insite teams have continued building on the first team’s work for the past twelve years.
The first Insiters had an added difficulty to that of running the organization: they were setting it up – with zero budget. Before 2000, the only student newspaper was The Voice, which was published by a commercial company not a student organization. The inception of Insite, therefore, was sparked off with The Voice now being run by a team of students belonging to a student organization they decided to call Insite. Justin Fenech, External Relations Officer in that year, explains that obstacles were rife, and that the difficulties weren’t merely of a financial nature. The most arduous task was that of drafting an editorial policy, he says, and adhering to it as a team. They must have been successful though as the organization moved on to its second year and expanded in numbers.
What Insite wasn’t growing in was its financial standing. The team in 2000 started off with a zero budget, but the Insiters of 2001, had a debt of Lm100 as their starting point. This did not discourage them. On the contrary, they managed to generate a very large sum of money through sponsorship deals, and not only paid off their initial debt, but could also boast a very healthy financial state of affairs, which probably kept Insite going not only during that year but also for the generation of Insiters to come. Karl Briffa, President in the year 2001/02, explains how Insite was one of the few student organizations on campus to be able to afford a telephone line. Despite this, the going was tough initially and they started off with an empty office bar two chairs – a chair for someone to sit on and a chair for the telephone! Some members of the executive board put in not only money from their own personal savings into the organization but also physical labour. The summer of 2001 saw Karl and fellow executive member Robert Galea building the raft in the Insite office.
The political underpinnings and alliances which were also part and parcel of Insite at that time were very strong. A position of power within the Insite executive was desired intently by the political organizations on campus. This led to the executive roles being contended strongly, so much so that elections for these posts were almost akin to a second KSU election. Perhaps this analogy is a rather unhappy one too, as another factor indicative of Insite’s growing strength was its rivalry with KSU. Insite was expanding to such an extent that there were even whisperings of amalgamating the two bodies at a particular time.
In this year the organization changed quite drastically in its scope. The Voice was now changed to Insite for branding purposes, and the executive roles were more defined. The organization now had a President, a statute and a fully-fledged executive board, rather than just an editorial one. Insite in this year also expanded in terms of the different media it produced and the events it organized, spanning milestones in Insite history – the National Students’ Congress, an IT Fair, seminars, and a party which attracted over 1,000 students.
Throughout the years, particular events, articles, anecdotes and troubles have formed the Insite history.
Several articles which ran in The Voice, Insite and later The Insiter were the cause for debate on campus but a particular story stands out and is the pride and joy of Matthew Tabone who was Editor of Insite and later President in the year 2002/03. The story targeted the lack of accessibility at University, so Matthew decided to investigate thoroughly, by going round University in a wheelchair and experiencing it first hand. After this story was published, the National Commission for Persons with a Disability (KNPD) sued the University, and what came out of that was the lift in Students’ House.
Other articles which rose to fame or notoriety are the interviews with Norman Lowell and Prof Mifsud Bonnici, fondly known as Jojo, and the regular Faultfinder which for a couple of years established itself as the Socratic equivalent of the gadfly on campus.
A particular article had repercussions of a less humorous note. Michaela Muscat, editor that year is still going through the proceedings of a libel case directed towards Insite, after its front page article was an attack on poor service at the University canteen. The libel case has since been resolved in favour of Insite.
Other memorable Insite moments include a promotional stunt on Valentine’s Day 2001, where Insiters sold roses and acted as the delivering cupids themselves. Lysanne Bakker, President in the year 2004, also recalls finding a person in hiding in the Insite office for what must have evidently been more than 24 hours judging from the person’s appearance!
The Recent Years – 2007-2010
Insite has since reached out on an International level by becoming a member of SPINE and has been sending its members off to participate in seminars abroad, where they received training and experience and made valuable contacts with other student media and organisations.
In 2007 Insite restructured the organisation which consisted of an a President, a Secretary and an Editorial Board to include an Executive Board which consisted of a CEO, a Media Officer, an International Officer, a Development Officer, an Operations Officer and an External Relations Officer. This change in structure led to some major landmarks in Insite history: The Insiter increased its pages from 16 to 32, activated its dormant website and started InsiterTV, ran a students’ blog for timesofmalta.com, organised a Media training weekend and hosted the memorable Campus Debate 2008 between the leaders of all four parties just before the general election.
Following on its success, 2008 saw Insite collaborate with MISCO (a recruitment company) to interview and professionally assess candidates contesting for posts on the Executive and Editorial Board. An AGM was held, the first in quite a few years, and members were recruited by vote.
The new Executive Board now consists of a CEO, a Media Officer, a Secretary General, a Sales and Marketing Manager and an Activities Officer.
Another major development in 2008 was the switch to forestry-sustainable printing. This went a long way in reducing the organization’s carbon footprint, and firmly established Insite’s green credentials. This change also meant that ‘The Insiter’ abandoned traditional newsprint, and was re-tooled as a ‘news-zine’. This change was a defining moment in Insite’s history, and was met with great success. Almost concurrently, Insite’s web-based operations were experiencing growth, and insiteronline.com emerged as a premier source of campus-based news, often beating much larger Maltese media organizations to the punch.
Insite became a legal entity in October 2012 and is now officially recognised as a Voluntary Organisation by the Commissioner of Voluntary Organisations. Furthermore, Insite has obtained memberships with the Kunsill Nazzjonali taz-Zaghzagh (KNZ) and Agenzija Zaghzagh (AZ) in order to become more active in the youth field on a national level.
Another milestone reached in February 2012 was organising yet again the Leaders’ General Elections Debate, between the three main parties which saw major improvements over the last one in 2008. The event was greatly attended by the students albeit some remarks and complaints about the entrance criteria. The debate was also closely followed by the national media with the Times of Malta streaming the live feed on insiteronline.com directly on their website.
Currently, the monthly publication of The Insiter has been postponed due to financial constraints in the last three years although online activity via social media and www.insiteronline.com has kept on increasing, reaching large audiences during some months where special events such as the KSU elections and KSJC elections take place.
What’s the plan for 2013?
Whilst insiteronline.com and The Insiter are what usually comes to mind when attempting to define Insite, the present exec have been working hard to expand further Insite’s media outlets, so stay tuned!