Commentary | Public Editor: Some solutions to The Daily’s marginalization problem

“In my first year, I read The Daily all the time and loved how it explored all the cultural and social justice issues I cared about. In my second year, I started thinking that The Daily had lost some of its quality. In my third, I realized that it wasn’t The Daily which had changed, but me: I had become more aware and more critical. By my fourth year of undergrad, I’d stopped reading The Daily.” This story is mine and that of many others. The Daily has alienated both readers and writers and it risks becoming further marginalized in the McGill community. How can The Daily continue to serve its purpose without becoming irrelevant? 
One reader recently complained to me about an article that discussed anuses (Mind&Body, March 19), claiming there was no room for such trivialities in a serious newspaper. I emphatically disagree: The Daily’s Statement of Principles (SoP) clearly state that its fundamental purpose is to discuss such marginalized issues as sexuality, identity, and racism. If that includes anal sex, then let’s talk about it.   
But this type of article also points to the fact that The Daily is painfully predictable in its iconoclastic coverage. Each year, readers receive the same type of articles on sexual identity or the struggle of indigenous communities in Chiapas. Part of the problem is that from year to year, authors make arguments as if for the first time. To some extent, this constant reinvention of the wheel is unavoidable – students graduate and thus no institutional memory is possible. And to a further extent, we must allow for The Daily to be a sandbox for budding writers and journalists.  
But by constantly seeking to be an original alternative to the mainstream, The Daily has become a caricature of itself. Only things carrying the label “lefty” or “alternative” are addressed. For example, when things get heated in the Middle East, you can count on The Daily to support Palestine. Never mind your political opinions – what is so troublesome is that this support is so troublesome not so much because it might be the right thing to do, but because it’s the lefty thing to do.

It is a rare occasion when The Daily breaks with this cultural norm and challenges its own discourse. As a consequence, both readers and writers are shunning what should be the students’ newspaper par excellence. Engaging this conformity will undoubtedly increase the quality of coverage in The Daily, all while continuing to adhere to the SoP.

Another, if partial, solution to the problem of alienation is to diversify The Daily’s coverage. McGill students are interested in alternative issues – even The Trib has caught on to that. But we are also egotistical and so want to read about ourselves. The Daily needs to focus more on what the students want to read. The suggestions I have received from readers all boil down to “more on McGill”: guest lectures, professors’ research, the untold history of our university, more on quidditch and theatre, and even intramural sports. This coverage should not be exclusively in accordance with the Statement of Principles. As it stands today, the Compendium section is the most relevant to the student body, and it isn’t even remotely guided by the SoP.  
Fundamentally, The Daily needs to reach out to the McGill community. If The Daily does not increase its relevance to the student body while also continuing to fulfill its SoP mandate, it will become irrelevant.

Didn’t get your fill of public editing? Write to Marc at publiceditor@mcgilldaily.com. And if he doesn’t respond, next year’s editor will.


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