Newspapers matter. They matter to writers, they matter to readers, they matter to the people featured in their pages – in pictures and in words.
As a writer and editor of The Daily, I got to know my city and my world in a way I never could have from undergraduate classes in McGill’s huge lecture halls. In 2007-2008, we used to joke around the office that The Daily was McGill’s journalism school. From one vantage point, the office certainly does look like a teaching institution – students learn from one another in a non-hierarchical, equal opportunity setting. From another, The Daily is a service to McGill students and the Montreal community at large, offering an independent media portrayal of issues that are often made invisible in the mainstream press. It is because of both these roles that The Daily is an institution worth preserving.
The Daily makes students into grown-ups. McGill Daily writers and editors have a responsibility both to the people they write about and the people they write for to deliver accessible stories. I took this responsibility so seriously that it kept me up at night. When I edited at The Daily, my stress dreams always revolved around typos, stories falling through, and misinformation getting through the four sets of eyes that edit each and every article printed in The Daily’s pages.
Sometimes, my nightmares came true. We don’t always get it right – few papers do. But the commitment that I saw from my fellow editors and writers is unparalleled by anything I’ve seen out here in the “real world” in the year since I left The Daily. Editors and writers often made themselves available at all hours of Wednesday and Friday night to make third and fourth edits on stories before they went to print. We sought out writers from different departments and demographics. We sat with our writers while editing their stories in the hopes of seeing them improve. We spent the first half hour of every weekly meeting looking back at the previous week’s papers to see where we went wrong and what we could do better next time. We chased after stories we thought were important, and we attended to the ones writers and the McGill community brought to our attention.
Sometimes, we wrote because we saw the smokescreen around an issue that deserved more comprehensive and critical consideration. Other times, we wrote because we wanted to represent the stories of people whose stories don’t come through in the mainstream media.
In the year that I lived in the windowless McGill Daily basement, I was a student of The McGill Daily School of Journalism. It was the most valuable aspect of my four years at McGill. Every student at McGill deserves that same opportunity.
Shannon Kiely was The Daily’s Coordinating News editor, 2008-09.
Read more alumni letters here.