Features | Pranks, plots, and the skills and thrills of journalism

McGill alumni discuss what the paper taught them and its place at McGill

It is no surprise that engineering students at McGill are campaigning against The Daily. It was ever thus. During my tenure, we used to finish laying out the paper (waxing stories and headlines onto layout sheets) after midnight, and leave the flats in a box by the security desk in the Student Union for a cab driver to pick up to take to the printing plant. Enterprising engineers, who got wise to this practice, one night snuck up to the box and replaced the front page with their joke front page, which ultimately was the one that the printers printed and that got distributed all across campus.

One wishes that today’s engineering students were as enterprising and creative as their forebears; instead, they seem to have taken the road of obstruction and opposition to one of the most storied institutions of McGill University: The McGill Daily.

The whole reason I went to McGill in the first place is because McGill was the only university in Canada with a daily student newspaper. I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but I wanted to learn journalism on the job, not in a classroom. So I enrolled in political science and went into The Daily office. At the time I was a fire-breathing capitalist, devotee of Ayn Rand, and believer in the free market. Within a few months, a combination of radical Daily politics and poli-sci professor Sam Noumoff had turned me into a rabid communist, probably one of the most dramatic ideological transmogrifications in contemporary student history. And now I’m at the National Post, so go figure.

At any rate, The McGill Daily also taught me the skill, and the thrill, of journalism. We took on Jean Drapeau, the mayor; we advocated for women’s rights and against apartheid; we uncovered a plot by a couple of microbiologists to use McGill’s good name to pump a stock on the Amsterdam stock market for a machine that allegedly extracted gold from sea water. The vice-principal invited us into his office and offered to postpone all our exams, if only we would stop the crusade!

We had no end of fun; more importantly we kept McGill honest and our fellow students informed.

Today I live in Toronto and work as the city columnist for the National Post. I am troubled to learn that The McGill Daily, the newspaper, is in trouble. Civilizations and cultures depend on a free press to survive. McGill needs many newspapers, distributed in boxes across campus; most especially, it needs The Daily.

I urge McGill students to vote for the $1 fee increase.

Peter Kuitenbrouwer is the Toronto city columnist for the National Post.

Editor’s Note: While the NO committee is headed by engineers, we know there are lots of awesome engineering students and we want to be friends with you. For real.

Read more alumni letters here.


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