There was no life like it. So little respect
from the rest of the student body. So little sleep
. So little time.
I worked at an independent student newspaper from 2005 to 2006. By "worked" I mean "was in the employ of." I received $90 per week for upwards of 70 hours of work. I was a volunteer writer before that. Like most campus press experiences, it is exhausting, thankless, time consuming and soul destroying.
But dammit, it was fun.
In the late 1960s, a young man was studying radio and television at a technological institute. When his school's paper became a course requirement for its journalism program, the board of governors decided it should be able to approve any content criticizing the government in advance.
That didn't sit well with him.
He and a group of friends somehow managed to get funding from the student council president, and they started the paper. It was, as he would later come to remember it, a "four-page rag." He had no idea just how many lives that four-page rag would change. Many of those lives hadn't even begun yet.
There are nearly 40 bound volumes of the paper's issues sitting in the newspaper's office on in Toronto. Within them are the names of people who have gone on to do remarkable things within the industry. Another bound edition also sits on my bedroom floor. I have no doubt that the names scattered throughout will go on to be scattered elsewhere. Many of them already have.
And then there's mine.
This is where I learned to hate journalism. It was where I sat night after night at 4 a.m. (huddled up in a pile of blankets because the heat was never kept on past 11), trying to finish layouts. I would sleep on the couch, which was not so much a couch as it was a two-person love seat. My head would extend over one arm, my legs from the knees down over the other. It was often more comfortable to sleep on the floor.
I found love there, too, but that's a whole other story.
It was a family, a support group, a gathering of individuals who had few things in common on the surface but would have done absolutely anything for each other. There was drama on occasion, but no family is without drama. The fact that we put out a newspaper on a weekly basis was usually inconsequential.
In the fall of 2006, it was announced that the final-year print journalism students would be required to take a course that would involve mandatory reporting for the other paper. Furthermore, those final-year print students who'd already been elected to the masthead (i.e. me and someone else) would have to quit.
My posse fought for me, for us, for everyone who would come later and for common sense in general.
And they did it by running an editorial telling the professor who'd come up with this new curricular requirement exactly what they thought of him.
I exaggerate; the editorial came later. The matter was dealt with diplomatically at first. The other editor and I were moved from the mandatory class to another. Then they called said professor a motherfucker.
It was during one of those 4 a.m. layout sessions that I came to the realization that journalism was not for me
. I think it was the happiest I'd ever been at 4 a.m.
That fall, I was still at the paper, running a different section. It was also the period when we'd decided to formally celebrate the paper's fortieth anniversary.
In preparation for the party, we set up a website
where guests — some of whom hadn't been back to the campus since the 1970s — could RSVP and submit their favourite memories for a contest we were having.
I can't remember who it was that sent in the memory that would ultimately become my favourite (though it didn't win). He wrote that he had been in another program when he discovered teh paper and started volunteering. It was because of it that he changed his career path and became a journalist.
He finished his e-mail by thanking the student who started it, now a grown man, whom he'd never met, for changing his life.
I wish I'd gotten to thank him too.
It was a place to make mistakes.
It gave us a family.
Had it not been for the paper, I'd probably still be headed down a path that is very much the wrong one for me. And I'd be a lot lonelier, too.
A single person can change the world.
Thank you, sir.