This is the sixth “Letter from the Editor” that I’ve sat down to write for The Varsity, which makes me, for better or worse, one of the chattier editors to undertake this capstone. My predecessors have, through the tradition of this medium, given their readers insight, pearls of wisdom, and final reflections befitting their respective approaches to this job. I have been grateful over the past year to have been able to reference their statements.
In October, I wrote on behalf of this newspaper of the crucial issue of false balance — a topic that has not since fallen in relevance. I then had the privilege to introduce The Varsity’s first Public Editor in January, and expressed cautious optimism that journalistic standards can be safeguarded, to some degree, by student readers and journalists who demand and deliver accountable work in equal measure.
I’m evoking these past letters now because they help to underscore some of the major themes of Volume CXXXVII: polarized attitudes toward the media, a tense political environment, and the need for greater dialogue between journalists and readers. As the volume comes to a close, I would like to use this letter to more closely reflect upon what gives The Varsity life and, importantly, the ability to confront these challenging issues: the people who work here.
Rightly or wrongly, a perceived distance between readers and journalists exists. In this climate, established media organizations like The Varsity can carry the burdensome reputation of facelessness.
I understand how this perception might come about with respect to our newspaper — The Varsity is older than any living person, and it is the largest student society by membership at the largest university in Canada. I know firsthand that the experience of entering The Varsity’s office for the first time can feel daunting.
Yet despite its status as a fixture of the university The Varsity is constantly renewed by the people whom it comprises; it ebbs, flows, and morphs in response to the thoughtful efforts of the many faces who pass through.
After three years here, I have come to know The Varsity as a bastion of productive collaboration; fluid as the paper is, the people at the heart of it always manage to foster a deep fraternity rooted in the inherently romantic shared goal of delivering meaningful, just, hyper-local journalism to students at the University of Toronto.
The masthead has been at the heart of volume CXXXVII. I could not overstate the privilege it has been to work with Mubashir, Jaren, Jacob, Tom, Teodora, Rachel, Lisa, Reut, Shaan, Sean, Ariel, Vanessa, Nathan, Elham, Shaq, Isaac, and Tony this year. Each of them deserves much more thanks than I can write individually here.
In the midst of the most challenging scenarios that have presented themselves this volume, I am especially grateful for the input and guidance of Jaren, Jacob, Mubashir, and Tom. The ability to consult these four, and to receive honest, frank, thoughtful feedback from each of them made 4:00 am debates over contentious headlines and long discussions about the paper’s direction some of my fondest, most memorable moments of this year.
The Varsity Volume CXXXVII produced 24 issues. Our web team, led by Jacob, developed some stunning new online components, including a new website for The Varsity Magazine. It has been a record year for web traffic on thevarsity.ca, which surpassed one million pageviews in mid-March. Our three beautiful magazines, edited by Rachel and visually directed by Mubashir, were a highlight of this year by practically any measure — thanks are owed to both of them for knowing that perfect binding would be gorgeous.
All of this denotes an enormous amount of work — much of which is done by volunteers. People do not partake in this work because it is lucrative or glamorous — it’s neither. They do so because they believe that it is important, and that they can learn something here. I am constantly amazed by the dedication of our contributors, of whom there were over 400 this year. About 100 have made staff status.
In fact, it is through observing the energy and drive of those individuals who I know will be committed to The Varsity next year that I am able to depart from this organization with my excitement for its future outweighing my sadness to leave the place that I love.
A couple of weeks ago, the day before our yearly issue announcing the candidates of the UTSU elections, a wonderfully robust team of writers, editors, scribes, designers, developers, and photographers came together to execute an enormous, deadline-driven journalistic project. Associate editors and staff contributors performed roles well above and beyond what was expected of them. Every person in the room had interesting questions to ask and ideas to contribute. If that day is any indication of how The Varsity’s core team will operate next year, they will blow us all away.
I’d like to close this letter by wishing all the best to my colleague and friend Jacob Lorinc, who is the Editor-in-Chief-elect of volume CXXXVIII. His long, meaningful experience with the paper and forward-thinking plan for The Varsity makes me confident that he will excel next year. If this volume is any indication, by the time he writes this letter next year, he will be overcome with gratitude for the dedication of his team.
— Alex McKeen
Editor-in-Chief, Volume CXXXVII