The Gazette: a lifetime's worth of lessons

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Well, it’s really over now, so it’s over.

I can’t write my final column without resorting to clichés, be they lessons learned or thanking people who impacted me during my Gazette career. But that doesn’t mean I can’t pass on anything meaningful to the people who matter most: you guys. The readers.

Four years and over 300 issues of Canada’s best damn student paper have filled my brain with lessons and observations, some profound and some inane, such as:

1. It’s amazing how terrified Gazette newcomers are. The sterile hallway leading to our office on the second floor of the University Community Centre is mystical; I call it the White Mile. I remember struggling to breathe as I inched toward the door for the first time. But as soon as I stepped inside, my conceptions of The Gazette as a scary, exclusive environment disappeared. If you’re thinking of volunteering, gather your courage and do it; you’ll learn, as I did, that the office is full of zany, welcoming people who probably have lots in common with you.

2. A column is one person’s opinion. It doesn’t reflect the entire paper’s opinion. An editorial is an opinion piece, composed by one author each day, based on a staff discussion of a given topic and reflecting the newspaper’s consensus opinion on that topic. Please stop confusing the two, people.

3. Western’s food services staffers are troopers. More days than not, they work in what feels like 35-degree heat. They deserve better.

4. When criticizing an article in our paper or any other, read the entire article before taking action. Far too often, readers react emotionally to headlines and attack before stopping to read the story.

5. University College will confuse me forever. You can’t drive a motorcycle bicycle, eat butter margarine, or play chess checkers, can you?

6. Satire and sarcasm work great on The Colbert Report but translate poorly to newsprint. We had an uproar over our Spoof Issue because some readers didn’t realize we were trying to criticize the very ideologies they claimed we were promoting.

7. Don’t force anything if you have writer’s block. Some of my best-received Gazette pieces came from nights when I stopped trying too hard to be funny or interesting and just wrote without overanalyzing anything.

8. Why do people skip the first day of class and go to future classes? Do the opposite. Go the first day and get your course outline. Then you can plan the rest of the year and know when it’s safe to skip.

9. To anyone who posed for photos this year: thanks for being such great sports. We constantly abused our limited power and chirped you in captions. I promise it was never personal; we were probably just grumpy and needing an outlet.

10. The journalists-as-alcoholics myth is real. There’s something about working toward a deadline, speaking with angry people and getting little praise for hard work that drives you to drink.

11. No matter how developed you think you are, no matter how invincible you may feel, you can always get better. I learn something new every day. Sometimes I realize a headline we wrote the day before was misleading; other times a staffer several years my junior notices a grammatical gaffe I’ve made repeatedly all year.

12. If you’re upset about something we print, take tangible action. Don’t start a Facebook group. Write a letter, speak with us in person or, better yet, stage a protest. Last week’s protesters didn’t scare me; I didn’t agree with their opinions, but I respected their willingness to take action.

13. Remember that we’re a campus paper and unique privileges accompany that title. Yes, we’re the closest thing to a true newspaper any aspiring Canadian journalist can experience; we take ourselves seriously and so do many of our readers. However, we can still straddle the line between hard-hitting content and escapist fare.

Potty jokes and funny cutlines may be mindless, but they still represent many Western students’ interests. If students are truly deep academic thinkers all hours of the day, why are they reading these words during a lecture? Why do we get so many complaints when Sudoku disappears or the maze is unsolvable?

14. If you’ve had five concussions, and you suffer a sixth one playing tackle football, don’t tell your parents. Or at least wait a couple years, as I have. Mom and dad, I’m sorry. I’m an idiot. I love you. Thanks for being my greatest fans and clipping all my articles. And Chelsea, thanks for not telling mom and dad. There is nothing I cherish more in my life than having you as my twin. I love you.

15. Get involved at Western. Sure, school and social life are paramount, but extracurriculars can enhance those experiences. Working at The Gazette exposed me to strong personalities and opinions, taught me how to debate serious issues and introduced me to some of the best friends I’ll ever have.

If you’re still reading at this point, you probably know me personally and have read my work throughout my tenure. Thank you. Sure, the reward should always be in the work itself, but it’s nice knowing people appreciate what you do.

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