In journalism, there’s a saying about “burying the lead”—when you delay the main point of your article. So let me get right to it: I think the past few months have been the longest I’ve ever gone without writing a post on this blog. I’d like to think I have good reason (a few good reasons, actually) for my absence.
I’ve been putting off writing about those reasons, though, and part of the reason is that I feel like the people who read my blog already know what I’ve been up to in the past few months. I’ve been forgetting that most people who follow my blog don’t know me personally, and might not follow me on Twitter (subtle plug). But I appreciate everyone who follows my blog, and while I know I don’t “owe” anyone an explanation, I thought I’d write about the past few months—because they’ve been a whirlwind.
You might remember that last fall I got a job as a news editor at my university’s independent student newspaper. In a blog post in December, I wrote about how much I had learned in my first months there. “Work never really feels like ‘work,’” I wrote, “and I’m already looking forward to January.”
Something that came up a lot in our interviews was the timing of the credit card scandal.
Little did I know at the time that in January, my two co-editors and I would report on a story that made national headlines. We reported on credit card statements under the names of two members of our university’s student union, which showed purchases of food, clothing, alcohol and more—totalling thousands of dollars. (You can read our initial stories here and here.) We followed the story throughout the semester: the union’s president, who held one of the credit cards, was impeached by the union’s board, and the university announced they would withhold the union’s funds until the results of a forensic audit were available.
The reaction to our initial story was surprising. In the days after it was published, we did several interviews with mainstream news outlets. It was an interesting experience to be on the other side of the camera, so to speak. It was also interesting to explain the story—so much of it wrapped up in the union’s bylaws and history—to people who weren’t necessarily as familiar with student politics as we were.
Something that came up a lot in our interviews was the timing of the credit card scandal. It came almost exactly a week after the Ontario provincial government announced they would let post-secondary students opt out of non-essential, non-tuition fees—a classification which “student union” falls under. Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford, tweeted a link to CBC’s coverage of our story, using it to justify the decision to let students opt out of certain ancillary fees.
The thing is, our student newspaper is also funded by ancillary fees. So as we were reporting on the government’s announcement—which included other sweeping changes to Ontario student financial assistance and tuition costs—we were also wondering how it would impact the work we do. (I spoke about this in more detail on The Big Story podcast.) It’s something we’ll continue to watch, and write about, in the coming months.
When I look back at the last four-and-a-half months, it’s easy to only focus on the positive.
When I wasn’t reporting on one of those big topics, I was working on other news stories with my team—a fun one was swabbing surfaces on campus and growing bacteria from them. I was also, somehow, finding time to go to class.
This was my first semester in my three years of university where I had all journalism classes and no electives. This meant whenever I wasn’t at work, or in class, I was squeezing in phone interviews for class assignments. I reported on a wide range of subjects for my classes: from burnout among student athletes to political threats to food insecurity to what health data Ontario collects.
So that’s a bit about what I did this semester, reporting-wise. It feels strange, writing this post, trying to remember what filled in those gaps. Sometimes, writing a “recap” blog post feels a bit like writing about only the highlights. When I look back at the last four-and-a-half months, it’s easy to only focus on the positives. The rush of reporting on breaking news! The fun atmosphere of the campus paper’s office, even during the late nights! The feeling that I was chasing my dream of being a journalist!
All of those things were positive parts of my semester. But to lean on another core tenet of journalism, accuracy is key. So I should add that, while the past few months were incredibly rewarding, this was also probably the most stressful semester of my time in university so far. Those aforementioned late nights at the office don’t pair well with six-hour-long classes. But whenever I was struggling to keep my eyes open in class, I reminded myself how fortunate I was to have the experiences I was having.
As for this summer? I’m very excited to be working at a national newspaper as a breaking news reporter. In September, I’ll be entering my fourth and final year of my undergraduate degree. From there, time will tell—but so, I hope, will my future blog posts. Thanks for sticking around—I hope you enjoyed reading about what has been keeping me busy this year!