Editor-In-Chief on vol. 100

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

It’s all over.

After 98 issues, Volume 100 draws to a close, and I’m burnt out. I’ve put out over 300 issues as an editor since I joined The Gazette a few years ago, but I don’t know if I’ve ever poured my energy into anything in life like I did to the paper this year.

There are a lot of things I could write in this swan song. I could lash out at our detractors. I could recount my fondest memories. I could try and justify everything we’ve done this year. But, for the past year, I’ve been trying to serve the students by making this the best newspaper possible and I don’t see any point in stopping now. If 97 issues didn’t kill me, this one won’t either.

In the Frosh Issue, I briefly discussed some of the things I wanted to achieve this year. I wanted to be smart, informative and entertaining. I wanted to provoke discussion and debate. With your help, I think we achieved those things. Did it all go as well as I’d hoped? Perhaps not.

But, in my opinion, this newspaper took a massive step in the right direction. I believe our coverage was its broadest, our scope its widest, in a long, long time. I can say that with conviction, as I’ve read all 100 years of this publication. Like Western though, like society, like so many of our editorials lamented, everyone has a long way to go " including us.

How can we keep this paper moving? How can we ensure it remains and improves as a leader and voice of student thought?

Our campus is home to 30,000 people with incredibly varied views and beliefs. We can’t please everyone. I knew that when I took this job and nothing has changed that viewpoint since. Do I wish I could have turned Western into a sprawling harmony of concrete and grass, puppies and rainbows? Of course. But I’m not perfect. Neither is my staff, neither are our readers, nor the administration or University Students’ Council.

People sometimes think The Gazette has an agenda, that we hate particular groups, minorities or causes. Bullshit. Think about it: our staff, including volunteers, is somewhere between 75 and 100 people and, not unlike our diverse campus, it is comprised of a healthy variety of views. Didn’t it ever occur to our harshest of critics that, drawing from such a vast pool of people, the notion that a bunch of racists and bigots have infiltrated the school paper and are disseminating their propaganda is somewhat implausible?

That isn’t to say we’re perfect. Far from it. We always need and want more viewpoints, more ideologies on the newspaper.

Before you lash out at the paper, be smart. Consider the context. Ask yourself what you’re fighting for and what you’re fighting against, and how that fits into the grand scheme of things. And remember that we make mistakes, too. We are, after all, university students like you. We’re learning and exploring and excited about all these new ideas professors are trying to mould our minds with.

If, then, you decide The Gazette still requires some direction, I suggest two methods of recourse. The first is obvious: write a letter. I know some people don’t believe we read or care about your letters, that they may as well be sent directly to the overflowing wastebasket next to my desk rather than my mailbox. Untrue. We read your letters and we take them quite seriously.

If you are going to send a letter, why not try something as seemingly radical as actually showing up to a tuition rally instead of hopping on the Richmond 6 to get pre-booze before the Frog: write about something you liked in the paper. At The Gazette, we assume no news is good news, but if you think we’re doing something right, why not tell us about it? I know the majority of our audience just reads the paper for a few kicks anyway, but if you think we’re making progress, if you want us to stay the course, let us know.

I know laziness settles in with things like this; why bother writing if we’re already doing what you want? Fire us a line anyway, even if it’s not for publication, so we know to keep on keepin’.

I mentioned there were two methods of recourse if you’re unhappy with your student paper, and the latter, though it sounds crazier than Courtney Love, actually makes a lot of sense. Come write for us.

I’m serious. I can’t speak for the past, but in my four years at The Gazette we’ve never turned away a volunteer. It doesn’t happen. So if we’re lacking a particular ideology, why not offer your services? Now be smart about this. You’ve got to play by the rules of the game; you can’t just walk in and say “I want to write a column” about feminism, or the Middle East, or whatever. We don’t let people walk in and start writing columns about the Toronto Maple Leafs either. It’s nothing personal and we’re not trying to suppress you, but you’ve got to earn your stripes like everyone else did. But it’s a great place to contribute your ideas to the benefit of the university.

If you don’t know me personally, now is the time to finish up the crossword or toss these pages into the recycling bin. After four years of labouring in that windowless office, a few brief words of thanks are in order.

Thank you, staff of Volume 100. The players make the coach. Not vice versa. Thank you, Edward Comor. You were the single most influential force in my academic career and you changed how I perceive the entire world. Thank you, Beaufort Boys and The Guys Next Door. You guys are idiots, and I love you for it. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for all the support and advice. I’m a better person for it. And thank you, Caitlin, for putting up with me and this newspaper for the past four years. Had it not been for you, I wouldn’t be writing a column signing off as Editor-in-Chief of The Gazette, Volume 100.

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