For a student newspaper, there are few experiences as humbling as having over 250 people deliver repeatedly unsparing assessments of the quality of your work. If nothing else, it’s an exercise in taking criticism well.
I spent the better part of the weeks following the launch of our 2018 reader survey with my eyes glued to the survey response sheet, bingeing on the swaths of commentary sent our way. Some of the feedback was predictable. A few people called us SJWs, and another labelled us “briefcase centrists.” Someone lamented our “neoliberal agenda,” while another claimed we were so far left it would make Stalin blush.
Others, though, were less predictable — and particularly valuable. A strong majority of the comments we received dealt us criticisms that will surely serve to improve our paper.
I wanted to engage with some of these responses in this letter. Many appeared to overlap with ideas floated by other respondents, so I wanted to address them as a whole.
Ideally, the feedback loop initiated with this survey doesn’t need to end here. Consider this a response to your responses; if you care to keep this going, give us a response to this response to your responses.
In any case, thanks for filling out the survey. It helps a lot.
A number of you told us to improve our coverage of campuses besides UTSG. This is valid, and it speaks to an age-old problem The Varsity has faced.
Our office is situated in the heart of downtown Toronto. We’re surrounded by a city buzzing with stories, and as a consequence, we sometimes miss the stories further away. But we want to change this.
It goes without saying that the Mississauga and Scarborough campuses carry the same public interest as St. George. More importantly, to cover these two extensively is simply to fulfil our mandate. We’re considering how we can improve our coverage of the UTM and UTSC campuses — what we need in order to do so, and how we can do that soon.
For now, if you have the time, read this week’s cover story on the SCSU elections or the Students For Life legal case against the UTMSU. We’ve been covering these stories since their outbreak, and we’ll be following them closely as they unfold. While there’s always room for improvement, we hope these stories serve as a testament to our commitment to tri-campus coverage.
The political spectrum
There is a tendency to judge the political leanings of a newspaper by its opinion section. When flipping through the weekly issue, a reader who discovers a majority of left-leaning opinions might assume these opinions to be a reflection of the views of the staff who work there. Some of the responses we received in this survey appear to support this notion.
I’d like to offer a slightly different perspective: the opinions offered in our paper are merely a reflection of those who bother to volunteer with us.
I want to assure you that, as a paper that values debate and free speech, we have no intention of producing opinions that prescribe to one ideology or another. We publish those who strive to write us well-written, substantiated arguments.
In total sincerity, I’d highly encourage you to write for our opinion section. If you think there’s an important perspective that’s missing in our paper, consider writing it for us. This is obviously not convenient for everyone, but these sections are comprised of volunteers — anyone who has written for us has put their studies aside to present our readers their opinion.
Many of you asked for more ‘resource’-related articles in our paper. You wanted to know what events were happening on campus, what courses to take, and as one respondent put so eloquently, how to get a job after graduation (spoiler: we don’t know).
We can do this. If you’re reading the print version of this article, look below. On a weekly basis, we’ve been posting a listing of weekly events happening around town. As we’ve been doing since the beginning of the year, we’ll continue writing explainers and breakdowns in our News section. I’d suggest flipping to page 7, where our Deputy News Editor explains the function of Governing Council in light of its upcoming elections.
“Less poor humour”
To the respondent who wrote this: we hear you, loud and clear.