Editorial: You little punks think you own this town
I remember being a first-year student who had mere interest in journalism. It was a tantalizing thought to see my name in print, and since my high school wasn’t academic enough to publish a school paper, I looked forward to writing some pieces for U of T`s most prestigious student publication, The Varsity.
Working for them however proved to be a detached, underwhelming and discouraging experience. A rigid institutional structure meant my article was simply one of many, heavily edited and posted online without my consultation.
Friends of mine received the same treatment as well, having their pieces either heavily edited, or sometimes rejected outright for being either too provocative, or critical of the wrong people. At the newspaper, I found a structure that was not only receptive to my interests, but one that made me a better writer, week by week, article by article, comment by comment.
Unsatisfied former Varsity writers often find what they were looking for at the newspaper. In fact, you might say this is a matter of tradition. the newspaper’s founding editors Steve Petranik, Tom Simpson and Ken Whitehurst were Varsity editors who broke away in 1978 to establish an alternative voice for U of T students. In doing so, they created the largest financially-independent student newspaper in Canada.
Unlike other campus papers, the newspaper is not dependent on student fees, but on our own efforts to secure advertising and raise funds to keep printing issues. Despite this constant challenge, and in an increasingly hostile environment for print media, the newspaper has remained a uniquely-positioned community voice for U of T students. Our alumni include film director Atom Egoyan, television public affairs host Steve Paikin, novelists such as Rohinton Mistry and Ray Robertson, and Canada’s current Treasury Board President, Tony Clement.
Today we are staffed by students of all stripes who willingly take on the roles of writers, editors, and artists. As a financially-independent publication, we enjoy an unrivalled editorial freedom, we are a group that isn’t driven by historical grandeur but by the combined interests of our contributors. A place where we can bounce ideas off one another, yet understand our obligation to be sharp critics when and where it counts.
A previous editor I worked under pushed upon me the classic noble image of a journalist; a truth-seeker that cuts through complex, even surreptitious matters and converts them into reportable facts for the reader’s benefit. Another editor explained to me the value of sharing unique stories in our community that often go unheard.
We simultaneously seek to empower the reader by the stories we uncover as a group, and empower our writers through providing them with opportunities to further develop their craft. I choose to write because I often have difficulties expressing my feelings in public, and with others in person. People would then judge me based on how I looked or how I arbitrarily spoke.
Yet when someone writes, these factors no longer matter. The typed word is a powerful tool that transcends social preference. I know this is why many people at the newspaper choose to write as well.
Our job as editors is to sharpen those tools, so those of us who express their most convincing thoughts in writing come out of the newspaper with a better understanding of its fundamentals, and of themselves.
Potential writers should know that there is someone in charge of the newspaper who understands what it is like to have their opinions go unheard. I’ve known how it feels to be shot down, mocked, and socially ostracized because others find you weird, or your interests peculiar. I know the sting of being patronized simply because others lack the patience to see the potential within you.
At the newspaper, we—everyone—can feel at ease. That is the beauty of writing, and what I believe to be the core purpose of our journalism.
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