A line-up of top writers and journalists has paid tribute to UTS student magazine Vertigo on its 50th birthday and lauded its creative and political role in campus life.
UTS’s current Vertigo editorial team last night hosted the panel of alumni in collaboration with UTS Library to discuss the magazine’s importance and history, which predates the university itself to the days when it was the NSW Institute of Technology and Vertigo was called Newswit.
Covering everything from Bachelor recaps to the Vietnam War, guests reminisced about their own involvement and where it had led them as journalists. All of them had the same message: writing for Vertigo was instrumental to their professional and personal life.
Sydney Morning Herald economics editor Ross Gittins recalled his time as the inaugural editor of Newswit, which published its first issue on March 1, 1973.
“What we focused on was very simple: are students getting a fair go in this place,” he said.
Gittins only attended UTS for a year, but his editorship of Vertigo “changed his life”, telling the audience he owed his role at the Herald to Newswit.
Daily Aus journalist Sunny Adcock, who edited the magazine in 2020, told the audience: “The only thing that made my HECS debt worth it was editing at Vertigo”.
“Getting to be on the leadership side of a print magazine is an incredible gift as an undergrad… Instead of wondering, can I do that? You just do it.”
Pedestrian Group’s Isabella Brown, who was a designer at the magazine in 2017, commended its sense of community and collaboration.
“As a designer, I have never been as enmeshed in the content I do than when I was at Vertigo,” said Brown.
Sydney Morning Herald culture reporter Hannah Story stressed the autonomy of student publishing and the freedom writers and editors had at the magazine to pursue their interests and agenda.
We are standing on the shoulders of giants every time we do something new with the magazine.
“At no other time do you get this freedom,” she said. “There’s always a boss, someone above you telling you to reel it in.”
Story, who edited the magazine in 2013, reminisced on how Vertigo turbocharged her career.
“I could turn up to a job interview and slap 10 magazines on the desk and be like, ‘Look, I made these,’” she said.
She also credited the magazine with shaping her personal life.
“You can’t underestimate what Vertigo did for our personal lives,” she added. “I’ve lived with five different people who did Vertigo.”
“Coming here to study creative writing and then doing Vertigo was the best thing I ever did.”
Vertigo society and culture editor Yvonne Hong said: “There’s a misunderstanding that getting involved in student life is kind of dorky in a way, like you care a bit too much about your education, which is quite Australian.
“But inviting these panellists is such a great opportunity to see how far something like Vertigo can take you.”
Current editor Joseph Hathaway-Wilson said he wanted to honour the magazine’s alumni on its 50th birthday and acknowledge that “we are standing on the shoulders of giants every time we do something new with the magazine”.
However, he also said the celebration was an act of defiance in light of recent funding cuts to the magazine.
“It shows that they (university administrators) are not just hampering the specific year; they’re hampering something that has been living, breathing and giving life to students and contributors for half a century,” he added.
Main photo by Elodie Jakes.