Revisiting 100 Years of Caring

By Jason Menard

It’s been 100 years in the making – and, for one night, a group of people are going to try to prove that you can go home again. And while news of a reunion for a student newspaper may not set the world on fire, our experience at that publication was what sparked passions in countless people.

It is without hyperbole that I can say some of the brightest lights in Canadian journalism will descend on The Wave today in celebration of the 100 th anniversary of The Gazette, the daily student newspaper of the University of Western Ontario. But beyond the journalistic glitterati – a significant component of Macleans and a good number of people representing national and local papers throughout this great land of ours – there will also be those of us who left journalism behind to find other uses for our talent: from photographers to authors to drug company execs and everything in between.

The tie that binds us all is that we all passed through The Gazette.

It’s safe to say that, while I attended the University of Western Ontario for knowledge, it is atThe Gazette that I discovered my passion. Having entered university with a mind for psychology, it was what came after those first tentative steps into (at the time) a portable located near J.W. Little Stadium that changed my life forever – and for the better.

It was there that I met a group of people that I’m pleased to call both my peers and my mentors. I met a collective of passionate student-journalists and photographers who refused to place the term student before newspaper. We worked long hours, sometimes seven days a week, to create Canada’s only daily student newspaper.

The people there became almost a second family – in fact, during my year as Editor-in-Chief, putting in 12 to 15-hour days, they became almost a surrogate family as I saw them more than I did my own. Countless cups of coffee and far too many bad take-out meals refused to sate the hunger many of us felt searching for the next great story.

Since then, I’ve lived in Montreal and come back to London. I’ve kept a toe – well, more of a foot – in journalism, in print, on the Web, and in radio. I’ve built up a fairly substantial corporate communications resume, and I’ve succeeded in jobs that I really had no right having (medical writer? Hello? I pass out at needles). But it was The Gazette that gave me that foundation upon which I could build my dreams. The fact that a dedicated few were able to consistently put out a paper of which we could be proud, with limited resources, time constraints, and publisher pressure gave us all the confidence to know that we could do anything. And just by associating with such wonderful people, I believe I was able to learn, by osmosis, how to be a better writer.

It’s the nature of the beast that people don’t understand how important this publication was to those who passed through its doors. The concept of a working for a student paper is one that’s regarded almost as quaint, but for those of us who were a part of it, it was more than a job or a hobby – it was an all-consuming passion. There was nothing quaint about it – it was our life, and we were able to live it to its fullest.

We strove with each printed word to ensure that our readership – a diverse market of 18,000 students – were represented and responsibly informed. We tried, through education, irreverence, and sober editorializing, to make people aware of the issues that directly impacted them. We became invested in the betterment of the university and its students in a way that few appreciated – certainly not the administration or students’ council who were often the targets of our investigation. Yet our goal, as always, was to ensure that students were informed and empowered. Lofty goals, but ones we took seriously.

Each day we laughed, cried, railed against the system, and rejoiced in our successes. We were there for each other in good times and bad. We also partied as hard as we worked – compressing as much release as we could in our limited down-time.

Of course, time passes. And, like others, friendships that you believe will last forever fade into memory as work, family, and life give you other avenues in which to invest your passion. Personally, there are people that I haven’t spoken to in 10 years, who I once spent over half my day with each and every day – others are kept in touch with via semi-regular e-mails.

But the passionate fire that The Gazette once stoked in us has yet to die out – it only smolders. And for one night, as over 150 of us gather around to catch up, reminisce, and share stories, that passion will burn. No matter how far-flung we may find ourselves, no matter where life has taken us, we all have one common tie that binds us tighter than anything else – a little student newspaper that didn’t know when to quit.

Simply put, those who made The Gazette a significant part of their lives cared. We cared about our university and our readership – and that’s why so many of us return today to celebrate 100 years of this fine publication. And we’ll raise a glass to the passion that’s fuelled the fires that have kept The Gazette burning for a century – and will keep it burning bright for a century more.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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