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Here We Are

Reflecting on 111 years of the Daily

“Well here we are, McGill, and here we are to stay.”

So begins a message to students that appears in the first issue of The McGill Daily, published on October 2, 1911. In this inaugural issue, a certain Miss Margaret M. Wherry advertised her shorthand and typewriting skills and the students’ union advised first-years, “Don’t be ashamed of being fresh.” Mostly, though, the editors of the Daily wanted to talk about sports. They congratulated McGill athletes on their performance in the Canadian Championships, announced the return of football star Daniel Percy Gillmor, and celebrated the “excellent material” of the new tennis team.

The McGill Daily has changed a lot in the last 111 years. We have a new focus, a new format, and a new set of editorial standards. We’ve moved from daily to weekly publication, and we’re now as visible on the internet as we are on campus newsstands. Much more than our sports reporting, we are known for our embrace of social justice and our commitment to anti-oppression. Now as then, The McGill Daily provides a critical forum for the exchange of information and ideas. It offers an outlet for students to express their opinions, voice their frustrations, and indulge their creativity, and it contributes to a healthier, more vibrant campus culture. For new and returning readers, we offer you this reflection on the role the Daily plays within and beyond Roddick Gates.

The Daily is the oldest student-run newspaper at McGill and one of the largest student-run newspapers in Canada. It is published by the Daily Publications Society (DPS), a not-for-profit organization that is run by and for students and that has complete autonomy from the university. Since 1977, the DPS has also published Le Délit, McGill’s only francophone newspaper. The DPS employs an administrative team that handles day-to-day operations and advertising, but all editorial board decisions are made by students. Any McGill student can write, edit, or contribute a visual for the Daily or Le Délit, and any McGill student can attend editorial board meetings and sit on the DPS Board of Directors.

So, why is the Daily important? For starters, the Daily provides coverage of news relevant to the McGill and Montreal communities, but it also aims to discuss issues and events that fall outside the radar of mainstream media. This semester, for instance, Eva Elbert examined the lack of healthy affordable food options on McGill’s campus, Auriane Journet and Robert Muroni provided insights into the Quebec provincial election and the rise of the CAQ, and Vishwa Srinivasan chronicled Montreal- and worldwide protests in support of women’s rights in Iran. The Daily reported extensively on McGill’s New Vic Project – from the announcement of the project, to the start of a contested archaeological investigation of the former Royal Victoria Hospital, to a series of demonstrations against the project held in solidarity with the kanien’kehá:ka kahnistensera (Mohawk Mothers), to the Mohawk Mothers’ historic victory over New Vic.

But a newspaper is more than the news it reports. The Daily is a channel through which students can express their opinions on current events, on issues affecting themselves and their communities, on the latest in science and technology, and on the art and culture that surrounds them. Students have used the Daily to publish important investigations into acts of abuse and misconduct, and they have used it to hold both the McGill administration and their student representatives to account. This year, Abigail Popple reported on the grim effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on animal testing at McGill. Emily Black’s earlier article on “Sexism and Silence in SSMU” exposed a culture of gossip, distrust, and gendered discrimination in the upper ranks of McGill’s student union. Saima Desai’s 2016 article on a student’s claims of discrimination highlighted ableist and anti-Indigenous sentiment in McGill’s Faculty of Dentistry.

The Daily is a source of serious reflection, but it is also a source of humour, and the paper’s horoscopes, crosswords, and comics are perennial fan favourites. No matter the tone, the work of the Daily is grounded in its Statement of Principles. We recognize that all issues are inherently political, involving relations of social and economic power and privilege, and that powers and privileges are distributed unevenly across social groups. To help combat the inequities that exist between people of different races, genders, ages, abilities, sexualities, and other markers of identity, the Daily seeks to depict and analyze power relations as accurately as possible and to give a voice to marginalized individuals and communities. In July 2020, the Daily’s editorial board published a set of action items in an effort to make the reporting and editorial process more inclusive and transparent, and to address the ways in which we may perpetuate systemic racism institutionally. Through this action plan, we aim to hold ourselves accountable to the Statement of Principles.

Finally, in the absence of a journalism program at McGill, the Daily provides excellent opportunities for students interested in journalism to learn how to write and edit articles, how to create content for print and online publications, how to thrive in a fast-paced work environment, and countless other skills. Past Daily editors have gone on to work for such publications as CBC/Radio-Canada, the Montreal Gazette, the National Post, and Slate. Former managing editor Willa Holt writes that “the training and experience I gained through the Daily have become the foundation for my professional career in journalism, informing how I think through stories, identify key perspectives, and push back against dominant narratives.”

In our paper’s first issue, a special correspondent from the “LONDON TIMES” wrote that the launching of The McGill Daily was “unquestionably the greatest venture in the literary world since the days of Shakespeare. Oxford and Cambridge publications are reduced to mere satellites when compared with this scintillating star.” A lot has changed in the last 111 years, but this remains true. We at The McGill Daily could not do the work that we do without our readers and contributors. We thank you all for your continued support and dedication. To 111 more years of free press!