Have you noticed how The Tribune is looking more and more like The Daily these days? On February 17, the front page of The Tribune had a queer flag adorning its cover and its main news feature, “Follow the Queer Railroad to Canada,” dealt with queer people fleeing the oppressive Iranian regime for a safer haven in Canada. Similarly, a March 4 opinion piece assessed the video game “The Sims” as a “poignant cultural critique of modern gender constructions.” Why is The Tribune emulating The Daily? And what can The Daily do to preserve and even capture more of the market for readers and writers?
Let’s start by looking at what makes The Daily. Clearly, its Statement of Principles (SoP) guides the content of the paper – “thou shalt cover alternative issues.” People who want to write for The Daily are those who seek social justice; those who feel their voices and opinions are stifled or marginalized in other media outlets; geeks who love to write about quirky novels, plays or music shows in interesting and creative ways. That’s why the Culture and Features sections can be fascinating to read.
The Daily publishes every letter it receives (provided that it is free of racism, sexism, etc.) and its Commentary section allows many readers to write in and express their opinions through Hyde Parks. The same rules apply at The Trib, but it seems fewer students add their voices to its pages. That the recent exchanges in The Daily’s Letters section about Israel-Palestine have been thoroughly lacking in depth does not detract from the commendable fact that The Daily offers a space for discussion – something no other publication on campus does to the same extent.
The Tribune is emulating The Daily because it wants to appeal to more readers. These are interesting to students and, if covered properly, don’t exclude anyone. While The Tribune has traditionally remained in the areas of campus life and more mainstream topics, it clearly realizes that these issues simply aren’t the alternative hot topics they used to be.
But the real issue isn’t so much the readers as it is the writers. Over this past year for instance, The Trib has covered many more campus events than The Daily. For the most recent and striking example, consider that The Tribune covered the talk given by the Turkish university professor and Armenian genocide denier, Türkkaya Ataöv (March 4), while The Daily did not. This dearth most likely reflects the fact that The Tribune has more writers interested in campus events than does The Daily. While readers are not necessarily committed to just one paper, The Tribune and The Daily ultimately compete for the interesting and interested writers on campus.
More writers mean more readers. For The Daily this is especially true as it is too often preaching to the choir. The Daily needs to broaden its coverage of student life. I know that the SoP calls for The Daily to address issues affecting McGill and “related communities,” but students are its principal readership base and so students’ interests it should serve. Covering student and campus life is just as much a part of The Daily’s mandate as is covering alternative issues elsewhere in the city or the world. So the issue becomes one of getting students to write about the activities they care about, be it on- or off-campus. In order to achieve that, The Daily needs to reach out to those who do not read the paper, most especially those who have stopped reading it.