Tag Archives: The Gazette

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.  Continue reading

Lessons Learned

By Jason Menard

You know what’s the best thing about university? It’s the opportunity to learn and explore exciting new worlds and experiences. And what’s the worst? The fact that everyone around you thinks they’re right and has all the answers.

Despite the cacophony of people all-too-ready to pounce on them, Ian Van Den Hurk, the editor-in-chief of The Gazette, and his staff have learned the greatest lesson of all from their spoof edition – the lesson that people make mistakes and it’s OK.

Now, if only others would be as tolerant and forgiving as they expect The Gazette staff to be. But when it comes to savaging the wounded, it seems that whatever slings and arrows that are nearby are fair game – even if they’re not based in truth.

I know, I’ve been there. Ten years ago, I sat in Van Den Hurk’s chair as editor in chief of the daily student newspaper of the University of Western Ontario . I had the honour of working with a dedicated, passionate group of people who were committed to excellence. Most importantly, they were committed to sacrificing their lives for the cause of serving the student body at large. We were a diverse group of men and women, working together knowing that we were fighting against various interest groups that only had one agenda to push – their own.

In a university environment, you’re immersed in a world of passionate people, who are learning new things and gaining new experiences every day. They are exposed to new causes and embrace them with the passion and vigour of youth – unfortunately, that’s not always tempered with experience and knowledge, and that enthusiasm without wisdom can be the fuel that fans the flames of anger. Passion often overwhelms perspective when dealing with various interest groups.

One of the arrows recently lobbed at Van Den Hurk and his staff is that The Gazette has long been a bastion for sexist comment, which is ludicrous. Over my four-year time at The Gazette I had the distinct pleasure of working for and with an unparalleled group of women, many of whom have gone on to positions of influence in the media and business world. They brought a passion and dedication to the publication of the news, but also were able to shape and refine our perspective. These were some of the strongest women I’ve met and they are the type of people of whom I would proud to have as role models for my daughter and my son!

In my exit column, I wrote how much I valued the contribution that everyone made at the paper and stated that the ignorant critics would always remain so. That opinion still holds because it’s not that people don’t want to understand – it’s that they choose not to.

Looking back on my days as EIC, I was vilified for choosing to run a Cultural Diversity issue in February. The decision was motivated by our desire to be more inclusive with the various groups around the campus, but due to financial and advertising restrictions, the only month we could afford to do this edition was February – the time of our Black History Month issue. We were vilified as racists, despite running a month’s worth of articles focusing on black history, because we chose to forgo a dedicated issue in lieu of embracing all cultures. Despite the positive feedback we got from the campus at large, a select few groups chose to focus solely on their own interests – to the point where we were told the African-Canadian co-ordinator of the month’s worth of coverage wasn’t “black enough.”

From that experience and others during that year, I learned a valuable lesson about respect and tolerance. I learned that in a position of influence you have to be even more sensitive to cultures than you think you are – but, in the end, you have to do what you feel is right.

But the key point is that I learned – and isn’t that what higher education’s about? Don’t forget that Van Den Hurk and the rest of his staff are students, juggling a passion for journalism with educational, familial, and social commitments. Many have to hold down second jobs because the pay they receive is a pittance – but they do it for the love of the craft. They’re passionate, dedicated people who only want to do the best, but sometimes make a mistake. And now, in rectifying that mistake, they have the opportunity to grow as writers, as editors, and — most importantly — as people.

In retrospect, the article lampooning Take Back the Night and women’s issues should have been vetted a little more closely. It should have been handled with the utmost in delicacy understanding the passions that the issue can inflame. But the topic is not taboo – no cow is too sacred for satire. How one puts that satire into effect is the key, and it’s a lesson that the staff of The Gazette are certain to have learned.

In this rush for everyone to mount their moral high horses, common sense is getting trampled underfoot. If there was truly no malice – and I can’t fathom, knowing the caliber of women that join the ranks of The Gazette, that there would be – and the staff is genuinely remorseful for the impact of their work, then we should afford them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. For those who are preaching tolerance from their respective pulpits, perhaps it’s time for them to lead by example.

In the end, the writers at The Gazette will be better, more well-rounded people for going through this experience – and isn’t that what higher education is about?

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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