In March, the Daily Publications Society (DPS), which prints The McGill Daily and Le Délit, held a referendum asking students to agree to a slight increase in the fee they pay to support the DPS. Though the referendum question was in reference to the DPS as a whole, The Daily itself became the target of a lot of negative rhetoric over the course of the campaign. Some of what was said was hateful, and those comments do not even merit a response. But other criticisms – many of which accused the paper of being elitist, insular, and irrelevant to McGill students – are worth addressing.
It’s probably easy to pick up a copy of The Daily, scan its pages, and come away without really understanding why the paper is the way it is. It’s true that The Daily doesn’t look like most other publications. The stories in our paper regularly shine a light on inequality, marginalization, and skewed power relations. When we do cover issues that appear in the mainstream media, we try to take a critical perspective, not merely rehashing what others have already said, but looking at issues analytically.
This approach stems from The Daily’s Statement of Principles (SoP), a document that sets out the paper’s goals and guides our coverage. The SoP (available in full at mcgilldaily.com/sop) mandates that the paper be a “critical and constructive forum for the exchange of ideas and information.” It asks us to recognize that “all events and issues are inherently political, involving relations of social and economic power,” and that “power is unevenly distributed.” It further requires that the paper aim to “depict and analyze power relations accurately in its coverage.” It also notes that “The Daily can best serve its purposes by examining issues and events most media ignore,” and asks us to be critical of “the role postsecondary education plays in constructing and maintaining the current order.”
Many say that The Daily blindly follows the SoP, pitching stories that are needlessly out of touch with students, in some sort of frenzied effort to be as politically correct as possible. But that’s not the case. The Daily’s news section reports on the issues affecting Canada’s native population, for instance, because we believe that it’s time for years of neglect and mistreatment of aboriginal people to end. And when we cover an exhibit in the culture section by an artist you’ve never heard of, it’s because we believe in the importance of the work they’re doing and we think they deserve support, not because we want to look cool. Walk into The Daily office (it’s Shatner B-24), and you’ll find an assortment of people who are really passionate about things. There will probably be a lot of big ideas flying around, and people arguing about them. That’s one of the most exciting things about the paper.
But in spite of this, there are some who say that what we do at The Daily is, at the end of the day, irrelevant to students. Issues surrounding the faculty strike at Université de Montréal, the work of an up-and-coming Canadian choreographer, or the discourse about banning the niqab in Quebec don’t affect students, because they aren’t happening within the University gates – or so the argument goes. What bullshit. That students are not affected by each of these issues is an absurd notion and a falsehood. You may not wear the niqab, but the woman sitting next to you in class may have an aunt who does – or may choose to wear one in the future (which would bar her from campus if Bill 94 were passed).
Make no mistake – our time at McGill will have been useless if we learn that the only issues that matter are the ones taking place on our doorstep. We live in an ultra-connected age where it’s no longer possible to insulate ourselves from the issues and debates taking place across Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and the world. Daily writers and editors believe that the best service we can do students is to provide them with a critical look at the issues in their campus paper – no matter where they’re happening. And the SoP facilitates these kinds of discussions. Moreover, it actually reminds us to remain relevant to the student body, which is why we often try to connect larger issues back to our campus, through reporting on a professor’s research, perhaps, or the discussion of a McGill student band in a wider conversation about Montreal music.
One last thing: please don’t forget that the “we” here refers to students. It is, after all, students who write, edit, design, and govern this newspaper. Students elect the editorial board, write letters, and pitch every single story that appears in The Daily’s pages. We think that means that the paper is actually very relevant to students. Those who disagree say that the Tribune is the newspaper that students can identify with. Well, in the last few weeks, the Tribune published, among other things, a column entitled “Know thyself: How hot are you really?” (Opinion, March 16), a full-page colour “photo essay” featuring images of green-clad revellers downing beers on St. Patrick’s Day (March 23), and a review of the latest Miley Cyrus flick (“Newest Sparks adaptation fails to ignite,” Arts & Entertainment, March 30). Perhaps some think that’s what the students want to read, but at The Daily, we disagree. We think there’s something deeper than that, and I’m exceptionally proud of the paper that results from this belief.
Amelia Schonbek (BA English ’09) is a special student and The Daily’s coordinating Culture editor, but the views expressed here are her own. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.