For four decades many of the country’s finest journalists received their introduction to the media business in a nondescript series of rooms amidst desks piled high with paper, chairs that were almost always on their last legs, and the remnants of age-old pizza boxes discarded from days on deadline. It didn’t look like much to visitors, and still doesn’t; its antiseptic appearance is tempered by whatever pop culture caught the attention of that year’s editors who found a place for it on the walls.
But that space is also fundamentally part of the University Community Centre, a building relatively institutional in appearance. The importance of that office can’t be underestimated — that unassuming space, home of The Gazette, was and remains a classroom for reporters who have taken the skills they learned to media outlets across Canada and all over the world. And we’re hopeful it can remain so for the foreseeable future.
Apparently the current student government at Western has deemed it necessary to remove the paper from what has been its home for much of the last half century in order to bounce it into a much smaller area where the publication’s composing staff has historically worked.
According to reports there is increasing pressure for a multi-faith religious room in the UCC that is in need of a different location. Everyone who has attended the university appreciates its need in supporting diversity. However, we wonder if this latest decision, while receiving mixed reactions from those involved in the multi-faith room, could potentially hamstring The Gazette and impact its future.
Certainly the paper could operate in a different location — and the staff did, during renovations to the UCC in the early 1990s. But the paper can’t be cramped into a space significantly smaller than where it currently resides if it is to be successful in its goal of creating the next generation of Canadian journalists.
The Gazette has long been a hub of the university where a significant and diverse group of students gather every day. Editors engage in dialogue with staff, consider stories and upcoming issues while reporters work phones for interviews and interact with photographers. In the midst of this seeming madness, stories are written, a paper is completed and journalists are created. To outsiders it might appear that you could squeeze the paper into smaller rooms, but to those who have spent hundreds of hours of their university life in the paper’s office, every section of that space is significant and important.
Would The Gazette fail if pushed into more cramped quarters? No. The paper has always been resilient and spirited, seemingly able to overcome any hurdle. But would a more confined office limit the number of wide-eyed students who wander through the doors and a few years later find themselves deciding to pursue journalism as a career? Would a significantly smaller office limit the discourse and voices that find their way into the paper and in turn represent the varied opinions held by students throughout Western? Is this desire to move The Gazette part of a larger shortsighted offensive to limit the paper’s freedom and future?
The success of The Gazette and the journalists it helps create is a testament to the hands-off approach that has been traditionally taken by both the student and university administration. The undersigned, all Gazette alumni, hope that tradition is respected and this latest haphazard and ill-conceived decision to move the paper from its long-time home be reconsidered.
Jason Menard, Content Strategist, Digital Echidna; EIC 1996-97
Jennifer Hale, Senior Editor, ECW Press; Book Review Editor 1995-96
Hugh Scholey, former Globe and Mail editor; Gazette Supervising Editor 1995-96
Robert Thompson, Senior Writer, SCOREGolf; Entertainment editor, 1993-94, 1995
Jeremy Barker, Social Media Editor, National Post; EIC 1994-95
James McCarten, Senior National Editor, Canadian Press; EIC 1993-94
Gillian Livingston, Careers Web Editor, The Globe and Mail; EIC 1995-96
Christine Samuelian, Supervising Editor, 1994-95
Gerry Vogel, Entertainment Editor, 1991-92
Paolo Zinatelli, Production Editor, National Post; Deputy Editor 2003-04
Shannon Proudfoot, Reporter, Sportsnet Magazine; Graphics Editor 2002-03
Derek Shelly, Editor, Kingston Whig-Standard; Managing Editor 1991-92, Supervising Editor 1993-94
Anjali Kapoor, Director, Digital News Strategy at The Globe and Mail; Features Editor, 1994-95
Aidan Crawford, President, Short Circuit Media; Entertainment Editor, 1994-95
Arden Zwelling, Assistant Editor, Sportsnet Magazine; Associate Editor, 2010-11
Greg Meckbach, News Editor, 1992-93
Kaleigh Rogers, CBC Hamilton, News Editor, 2010-11
Meagan Kashty, Deputy Editor, 2010-11
Anne-Marie Jennings, Op-Ed Editor; 1995-96
Jonathan Hale, Junior Partner Lawson LLP, Entertainment Editor 1996-97
Lauren Pelley, Creative Director 2010-11
Emmett MacFarlane, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Waterloo; EIC 2003-04