April 8, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 100  

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Exactly what a student newspaper should be

From the Far Lane
Emmett Macfarlane


Taking charge of the best university student newspaper in the country, and the only daily, can be a daunting task.

The Gazette’s overall goals — inform, entertain and create discourse — don’t change from year-to-year, but as a newspaper driven by its staff, its tone certainly can.

The best way to describe The Gazette this year is with one word: vociferous. And that’s exactly why this year has been such a tremendous success. In terms of news, entertainment and sports coverage, we’ve focused on student-driven issues, specifically pertaining to Western’s campus.

But vociferous also means controversial, and the more sensitive members of the university community haven’t, um, appreciated some of the humour, opinion or political commentary found within these pages this year.

And this reality took the paper from just being “solid” to being truly excellent.

No matter what the tone of The Gazette in a particular year, all Editors-in-Chief of the past have learned one thing: you can’t make everyone happy. No matter how sanitary or bland we could have tried to make the paper, someone on campus would have been offended by something.

Contrary to what some individuals believe, newspapers — particularly student newspapers — do not exist in a vacuum and nor do they exist just to provide a play-by-play on what is happening on campus. It’s more than that. Much more.

In the current climate of ever-increasing political correctness — something that has truly developed into the equivalent of modern-day McCarthyism — if there is any room in a free society for a newspaper to “push the edge” it has to be at university.

But universities, “the last bastions of free speech,” have paradoxically cultivated a sinister form of censorship; they’ve become environments where hurt feelings denote discrimination, opinion denotes harassment and humour somehow creates victims.

Of course, there has to be a line. Racism, sexism and libel have no place in a free society. But just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it any of these things.

The vast majority of Western students have enjoyed reading their newspaper this year. They’ve appreciated a forum where important issues, even controversial ones, can be discussed, explored and be subject to ridicule. They appreciate a student newspaper that does more than relay dry facts — students want a paper than provides objective reporting, but they like a paper unafraid of digging deeper and encouraging free thought.

The vast majority of our readers were also intelligent enough to understand that opinion is just opinion, and some happily took advantage of participating in our opinions pages or better yet, walking through the door and volunteering. Others were content with following the discourse throughout the year by making The Gazette part of their daily schedule.

More to the point, despite the minority view, most students don’t want to see the paper change. Fortunately, they have a student’s council that understands the importance of editorial autonomy.

We’ve been accused of ignoring the minority, those who disapprove of a diversity of opinion and humour the newspaper contained. But no matter how cautious or spineless we could have been this year, the minority will always exist; in fact, those individuals were not ignored, rather, they were recognized as ignorant.



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