At 18 years of age, I left home to move 11,000 kilometres to a new country.

A year later — after having moved to three different cities — I spent much of O-Week listening to Phillip Phillips blare “Home” over every loudspeaker on campus, still adjusting to yet another move to Saugeen.

At the end of that week, I stepped into a big, white room stuffed in the back of the second floor of the UCC.

Somehow, it finally felt like home again.

The Gazette has been my home and refuge for the past four years. It is where I figured out what I wanted to do with my life (at least I think so?), found friendships I’ll cherish forever and where I spent almost all my time on campus.

Back in Sept. 2013, I started off as a lowly news volunteer and looked up to my news editors so much so that I decided to apply to be one. Got hired by my predecessor and later my favourite FIFA-playing friend and spent the next three years learning something new every single day.

I saw our print production go from being the only daily student newspaper in Canada to being once-a-week and online daily. I watched the paper grow and transition fully into the digital age and I grew with it. 

Most former editors who have gone on to real-world journalism say they learned most of the tricks of the trade during their time at the Gazette. They’re likely right — sitting through four years of USC and Senate meetings have taught me patience my mom wished I had as a child.

Observing the highs and lows of the campus community in the newsroom made me develop a special relationship with Western I don’t think I would have had otherwise. The Gazette defined my Western “experience.”

Having the opportunity to lead this newsroom is so far the proudest and most humbling experience of my life. And ending the year with several awards to our name makes me beam with pride.

But I also want to use this space for what will likely be my last column to go beyond reminiscing.

As journalism at every level comes under increasingly polarized attacks, college reporting is more important than ever before. Massive resources are spent towards public relations at both the university administration and student government level. There is little to challenge the official narrative other than campus media. And there are few places to consolidate campus discussion from all perspectives.

During my time with the Gazette, I have seen the paper cover issues which have shaped debates on campus. Stories covering university governance and faculty, student and community issues — which would have otherwise never seen the light of day — have informed campus conversations. 

Granted, there have been mistakes. But it has always been a learning experience and the intention has always been to serve students — after all, it’s your peers at the other end of the screen.

For those who feel the paper has a certain leaning — depending on the debate at the time — as students, you have the prerogative to decide the direction of the paper. It’s up to you to come and get involved; no student is ever turned away. I have never heard an opposing view shut down at an editorial meeting. And if that’s not your cup of tea, you can always add to the debate with letters as many have this year. We need your feedback. As students, my advice is to engage with the paper in whatever way you can and ensure that it keeps on improving.

I continue the proud editor-in-chief tradition to proclaim the Gazette as the best student newspaper in Canada (we recently got an award to the effect too, yay). It continues to be the best due to the endless hours put in by student volunteers and the readers who engage with it.

It’s also the best because it’s where I found home. 

This is Green Eggs and Hamza, signing off. 

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Hamza was editor-in-chief for Volume 110 of the Gazette. Previously, he was the breaking news editor for Volume 109, news editor for Volume 108 and staff writer for Volume 107. Contact Hamza at htariq270@gmail.com.

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