Commentary | Comment: Why do they hate us?

Some of you hate The Daily. At least 976 of you, actually, which is the number of undergrads who voted No in the referendum on the newspaper’s existence McGill foisted upon us this semester. If I were the glass-half-full type, I’d probably see the situation differently – 4,634 students, or 80.9 per cent of voters, said Yes to keeping The Daily and Le Délit alive. But I’m not. I’ve spent too much time among the overstretched basement-dwellers at this newspaper for that.

So 976 it is. Daily editors have always known that plenty of students aren’t exactly our biggest fans. But now, this hatred is quantifiable. Your litany of complaints is well-worn by now: The Daily is an insular, self-selecting group of Trotskyites, cut off from the average student. That is partly true – The Daily has always a rocky rapport with its readership, and at times, the relationship has been almost antagonistic, us v. them.

This year, though, I think we’ve made some headway. The referendum campaign raised The Daily’s profile, leading to a ballooning contributor base and an 80-person referendum Yes committee. We’ve created a public editor, devoting regular column space to critiques of The Daily’s work. Our new focus on graphics and design has brought a whole new contributor demographic into the paper. And last week’s editorial elections were the most well-attended and contested in the newspaper’s recent history. Over 40 editors, candidates, and staffers crammed into our dank, windowless office to choose next year’s editorial board.

There are 17 students on this campus more critical of The Daily than the 976 who voted to shut the paper down: the editors who give up their grades, social lives, and beauty sleep to churn out two issues per week. We wince at every typo, kick ourselves over every factual error, and take seriously every criticism and insult. We are immensely proud of our work – but we know we know that the long-term viability of the paper depends on making it more accessible, readable, and relevant.

This needs to be done while sticking to what makes The Daily great: our unapologetic, overt politicization of the student experience; our rejection of rigid, unattainable objecivity; our willingness to experiment and take risks. If The Daily were a mini-Gazette, we would be just another dull, self-important student newspaper. I would never have wound up here. Nor would, I’m sure, many of the lonely souls who wandered into Shatner B-24 looking for something to do, and never walked out.

Something else needs to be kept in perspective: our sometimes-troubled relationship with students isn’t unique to The Daily. From Dalhousie to Concordia to Toronto to Regina, students get pissed at their papers. The papers can be left-wing or right-wing, irrelevant or controversial, inaccurate or offensive or gutsy. But a critical readership is an interested one, and many of McGill’s young thinkers make their pulp-and-ink debut thanks to an irate letter to The Daily. I hope students never stop engaging and attacking the ideas printed on these pages.

The Daily needs you. We are desperate for readers, contributors, writers, photographers, artists, and graphic designers. I’m leaving The Daily editorial board after two and a half years, but I’ll be back at McGill for the requisite victory lap. I hope next year’s crop of newbies doesn’t mind if I stick around – I’m dreaming up outreach plans to make sure students know what they can do for The Daily, and what we can do for them. And next year, I’ll actually have the time to follow through.

This newspaper will never be mainstream and conservative. But we can make an effort to be more inclusive and open, and The Daily’s radically democratic editorial structure makes it easy for you to effect change. If McGill forces us to go through an affirmation referendum again in five years, I hope anyone considering voting No will instead march into Shatner B-24 and demand to contribute a story. That’s The Daily’s beauty. It’s malleable, it’s brash, it’s often pretty ridiculous. And it isn’t going anywhere.

Drew Nelles is The Daily’s Coordinating editor. He isn’t going anywhere either.