My Letter to The Gazette and Western’s USC

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to principals involved in The Gazette/USC issue that I truly hope provides all parties involved a little perspective.

What both sides need to remember is that they’re trying to do the exact same thing: provide Western’s students with the best service they can. 

Sadly, Gazette/USC discord is nothing new. And it will likely pop up again — but hopefully cooler heads will prevail.

And now, the letter:

Dear Adam Fearnall, Gloria Dickie, Cathy Clarke, Amit Chakma, and Gitta Kulczycki,

Let me preface this by saying I owe a lot to The Gazette. Let me add that it’s been many years since I sat in my office at room 263 of the University Community Centre in my role as Editor-in-Chief of Volume 90.

That year marked the culmination of a four-year journey with the publication: one that started out as a writer, then moving on to news and sports editorships in consecutive years before having the honour of the EIC position. And, more importantly, it marked the start of my professional life and career.

The lessons I learned in The Gazette were more important than anything I learned in any class prior to and since. The Gazette taught me how to ask questions, to think about how people may be affected by an action, and to take a broader-spectrum view of life.

Since then, I’ve gained something I didn’t have at that time — perspective. Your educational years are there for you to learn how to learn. As you get older, that ability added to experience becomes wisdom.

I ask everyone involved in this matter to exercise some perspective.

I stated my history with The Gazette at the top of this letter because it’s important that I fully divulge my bias. But I do hope that you’ll consider my statements as written using another tool The Gazette helped me to develop: the ability to be objective.

It’s safe to say that none of us outside of the current Gazette staff and the current USC leadership truly knows the motivation behind this suggested move; nor do we know the history or the nature of the inter-personal relationships.

However, if the allegations by The Gazette staff about USC requests for a spot in editorial meetings and lists of stories are true, then it’s a behaviour pattern that’s concerning and calls into question the motivation behind the proposed move.

It’s also nothing new.

For years, the relationship between the USC and The Gazette has been rocky. During my days, we received similar requests, threats, and demands. We fought back and resisted. The simple fact is that certain editorial boards and certain elected officials just don’t get along. I personally saw both and made an effort to bridge that gap during my EIC year.

The reason then is the same as what I see now, after almost two decades of “perspective”: and that’s you need each other.

The USC is in the business of providing services to students — and that includes information. The Gazette is in the business of providing information to students — and I hope and trust that the culture of commitment, fairness, and objectivity remains. I have no doubt that it does — and that’s reflected in the quality of journalists and people that have had Gazette Staff beside their names over the years

It can be an awkward relationship at times: the USC is essentially the publisher of The Gazette. And feelings can get hurt. After all, why should the USC pay for something that’s just going to criticize it?

Because it’s in the best interest of the students. Period.

Our media world is changing. People have more access than ever to information and they need someone to act as a curator. Trained journalists are still the best source to do that.

But to do that, they need an arm’s length relationship with their funders. No side wants to be seen as being influenced by the other. Students need to feel secure that the information they’re receiving is in their best interests — and undue influence by council compromises that ability greatly.

The space currently occupied by The Gazette has always been well used. And not once in my four years writing for that paper did I ever feel it was roomy. And that’s because the space is filled not just with people and computers, but with debate, discussion, and information.

The first time I walked into The Gazette, we were stuck in a portable near the arena. We didn’t get that many volunteers that year due to the inaccessibility of the location. When we moved back to the renovated USC, we saw a steady flow of people walk through our doors.

We needed that space to debate the day’s issues, to discuss editorials, to prioritize coverage, and — although you may not believe it — ensure that what we were providing to the students was as unbiased, informed, and important as possible to the only customers we — and you as the USC — ever cared about.

The students.

I’m happy to hear this matter has been referred to council. I hope cooler heads prevail. I know you don’t need a bunch of veterans coming stating the case, but rest assured this has all been done before. I’ve been on both sides — I maintain a freelance base in media, but have spent many years working as a content strategist/communications expert for business. The one thing that works best for all parties is perspective.

I thank you for your time, interest, and understanding. I am available should you wish to discuss this matter further.

All the best,
Jason Menard

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