There is a time for sappy, nostalgic editorials and this is it. It’s the end of four years at The Dalhousie Gazette for me. So I feel a little like I’ve earned this space to say something to the whole Dalhousie community. And oh, terrific—now I freeze? Now I stare at a blank page, not knowing what to write? Of course I do. This is how this paper works—I’ve learned that by now.
Let there be an awkward moment. Why not?
Ah, what the hell. Every editor-in-chief does this, so let’s get it over with.
I’ve learned more at the Gazette than I could possibly imagine. Most days, I hear something or other about how awful student media is. I knew pretty much from the day I stepped through the door that this was very wrong indeed.
I started awkwardly. The first contributor’s meetings of any year are busy—it’s worth seeing it every September just to see so many people and so much pizza packed into so small a space. Being 6’5”, I couldn’t actually reach the news desk on my first trip. Sports is near the door. I stuck. Other sports contributors will know what I mean.
I initially came running from the big, bad, soul-destroying journalism school—other J-Schoolers will know what I mean. And while there were valuable lessons about inverted pyramids and news values there, I wanted to experiment and learn in other ways.
This is the wonder of student journalism. It has everything. There are some very fine reporters here. My predecessor, Joel Tichinoff, to whom I owe a lot, including friendship, was fond of pointing out famous figures who wrote for student papers. Names like Barack Obama, Hunter Thompson, Lucy Maud Montgomery and Joe Clark appear. In turn, I met a few great people, myself: Katie May, Josh Boyter, Nick Khattar, Bethany Horne, Hilary Beaumont, Paul Balite—the list goes on. I’ve learned more from those fine people and everyone else than I have from J-School. And it’s not close.
My first Gazette interview was with the coach of the lacrosse team, who helped me watch a sport I didn’t understand. For the first time, I’d had fun writing journalism. I was proud of what came out each week with mine and others’ names on it. This is something that cannot be replaced by school assignments or professional training. Other Gazette editors over the years will know what I mean, having more than a few times disregarded those assignments, leading to some awkward conversations with profs. Fortunately, most of them understand—they probably wrote for their campus papers, too.
I like to think there’s room on our office couches for anyone—they really are quite wide (more thanks to Joel and Paul, who were responsible for buying them). In high school I wrote arts and opinions, and some news. At the Gazette I’ve done sports and editing. I rant often now about the need for expanding readership to science students, and now we have a science podcast and column. There are recipes, fashion, sex, investigations and breaking news stories every week in campus papers. I think I have seen just about everything in the Gazette in four years.
Some of that work has been of excellent quality, some not so much. But it doesn’t matter—it’s all an experience, and absolutely worth it. It can be awkward reading comma splices and the same misspellings all the time, as our tireless copy editor Erica Eades does each week, snagging most all of them. Student media might not teach you how to be a “proper journalist,” but it will teach you how to work with others, meet deadlines (oh, deadlines…), have vision, run a small business, budget, and a lot of new curse words. And a lot of “proper journalists” have been through campus media, too, along with future bloggers, researchers, PR people, analysts, politicians, businesspeople, programmers, photographers, editors, authors, and so on. It’s all experience, and it’s all valuable. You meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet, and they talk to you and make you feel at home.
It all begins with an awkward moment, usually followed by a rushed introduction as a hand points you in the direction of the pizza. For four years that hand has often been mine. I’m going to miss walking into the office and tripping over the piles of papers, old layout tables, and the sports desk. I won’t forget that view of the overflowing office on my first day, nor will I forget any of the things I’ve learned here, no matter where I end up.
So there’s a space opening up in the office. Actually, there’s always been space, even if it’s awkwardly small at first. It’s waiting for you to take it. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Dal. See you again some time.
Regards, and my best to the wonderful colleagues and friends who make this rag happen.
It’s been a blast.