Last year, in the face of financial pressure stemming from a decade-long decline in advertising revenue across the media industry, The Varsity sought the direct support of students. We needed you to help sustain and grow our operations as a newspaper committed to building a strong and informed student voice at U of T.
Specifically, we asked you to vote ‘yes’ on two levy referenda: one to increase our full-time undergraduate membership levy by $0.80; and another to establish a new levy of $0.80 for full-time graduate students. We were thrilled when you approved us on both accounts.
The levy increase has enabled us to compensate our employees fairly, according to the new provincial minimum wage, without cutting costs. Furthermore, the new graduate levy means that full-time graduate students can fully participate in our operations, and our coverage of graduate politics and affairs has correspondingly grown significantly.
And that’s not all. With the addition of five new masthead positions and the commission of seven new projects overall, our coverage and scope have grown and improved on an unprecedented scale this year.
At the halfway mark of the year, we update you below on these expansions in detail, and we hope you find them to be worthy. We owe you for the support you’ve shown to your student press, and Volume 139 is excited to deliver.
A truly tri-campus newspaper: the UTM and UTSC Bureau Chiefs
The addition of the UTM and UTSC Bureau Chiefs has helped immensely in improving the quantity, quality, and diversity of coverage of the two campuses. With additional resources, we have been able to offer UTM and UTSC students the reporting they deserve and expect of us as a tri-campus newspaper. The bureau chiefs understand these campuses in a way that the UTSG-centred News team, alone, never could.
The bureau chiefs have two major roles: to pitch stories about their campuses and to be there on the ground to report. If you glance through the News section, the vast majority of the articles about UTM and UTSC have come from pitches from the bureau chiefs.
For example, one article announced the now open Chatime at UTSC. This seemingly small piece of news turned out to be one of our most popular articles of the year. The chiefs help the News section tap into our readership on a much deeper level. They also inform the other six section editors about stories that are relevant to their content.
In the past, the News section would only have the resources to superficially report on UTM and UTSC student politics, especially due to the difficulty of getting students to go out to other campuses. Now, we cover a wide range of board and Campus Council meetings.
Having our reporters in rooms where decisions get made means that we have caught major policies that we otherwise would have missed in the past — for example, the article on the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s disregard for its Annual General Meeting consensus.
Most importantly, the bureau chiefs are themselves students on the ground who are well-informed about the issues that matter at UTM and UTSC. This means that we are no longer limited to just covering routine governance meetings.
In September, when there was a lot of buzz around UTM accepting more students than it could accommodate, our UTM Bureau Chief pitched articles documenting the space constraints of the campus, which have been an ongoing and pressing issue. When there was another discovery of a bug in food at UTSC, we were able to delve deeper into the issue when our UTSC Bureau Chief wrote about the wider healthy food concerns that students had.
This is the type of coverage that the News section hopes to expand on this semester. With the support of the bureau chiefs, News intends to continue its watchdog-type reporting of governance at the satellite campuses, but also focus more attention on everyday issues that UTM and UTSC students care about.
To get involved with News coverage at all three U of T campuses, contact News Editor Josie Kao at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our seventh section: Business
The new Business section was launched in October, with 30 articles published so far. This allows us to dedicate more attention and detail to the financial side of the university. Specifically, Business has focused on university investments and partnerships, student and alumni startups and entrepreneurship, donations and gifts, and events. The section is open to both reporting and opinion writing, so News and Comment contributors are equally welcome.
Business is especially committed to keeping student readers informed about where university funding comes from and how it is being used, so as to hold the university more accountable for its dealings. For instance, our coverage of Huawei discussed the details of its partnership with U of T and how funding is used to support student research, while also questioning concerns over security and intellectual copyright.
For the upcoming semester, Business strives to do more service journalism, cover the financial side of labour agreements and disputes, and begin to produce longer, more in-depth investigations and analyses of university finances and investments.
To get involved with the section, contact Business Editor Michael Teoh at email@example.com.
The Sports documentary: Beyond the Blue Line
Since last semester, the Sports section has been filming and editing a documentary series on the journey of the members of the Varsity Blues men’s hockey team in the 2018–2019 season. It promises to provide students, alumni, and the general public with an in-depth look into the course of an Ontario University Athletics season, and the joys, frustrations, and challenges of such an experience.
Founded in 1891, the men’s hockey team is one of the oldest in U of T’s history, making it an easy pick for a documentary series. The series is still being filmed and edited, and approximately four episodes will be released over the course of this semester, including a final feature-length cut.
The project has been an incredible and invaluable experience for the 14-member documentary team and is a feat that has never before been attempted at The Varsity. Stay tuned for its upcoming release.
For more information on Behind the Blue Line, contact Sports Editor Daniel Samuel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The student life blog: The Squirrel
The new blog, launched last week, is a lighthearted opportunity for students to express themselves and their interests in a concise, short, and humorous way. It focuses on activities to do and places to see on campus and in the wider city of Toronto. Furthermore, the blog showcases the unique experiences of some students who wish to either describe their interesting travel stories or share stories about how they overcame a challenge.
The blog has been developing steadily throughout the past semester, with articles already available for readers. Ultimately, given the plethora of blogs these days, the project hopes to find and create a unique voice specifically for U of T, which we hope many students will wish to contribute to and read.
Visit the blog at thesquirrel.thevarsity.ca. To get involved with the section, contact Blog Editor Joseph Naim at email@example.com.
Hearing people out: Podcast
This year, we’ve built a podcast studio and started a Podcast section because we believe that podcasts offer more creative possibilities for our contributors. We currently have two shows: Bazaar and (Un)Spoken. The first is a variety show with multiple individually produced segments under one cool theme. Episode one was “FEAR OF,” and both “INFAMY” and “HEAD” episodes are on the way.
The second is a talk show focusing on the experiences of marginalized groups at U of T. We’ve done episodes on exclusionary tendencies in academia and Chinese diaspora on campus so far, and we’re planning episodes on Black students’ experiences as well as women in STEM.
Podcasts bring a unique focus to the importance of hearing people out — hearing a discussion as it was spoken or hearing the exact tone of someone’s voice. We hope to harness this to make the podcasts a more accessible way for people to look below the surface of U of T. As we continue with this very new project, we hope the podcasts can come to be seen as uniquely relatable and insightful output from The Varsity.
To get involved with the section, contact Podcast Editor Blythe Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Varsity’s website has not had a major redesign since 2011. This semester, our online and creative teams will be working diligently to redesign the website, making it more user-friendly, intuitive, and accessible. A primary focus in the redesign will be showcasing the variety of content we produce — from Arts & Culture articles to videos to live-tweeting governance meetings. We also want to creatively present featured stories in a visually appealing way and provide readers with contextual stories alongside the latest news.
The Varsity is committed to reaching as many people in its community as possible and providing them with the information they need to know. The majority of our readership is online and we’d like to engage readers in a dialogue, ensuring that our communication is a two-way conversation.
Over the course of the year, The Varsity has implemented a few new projects designed to increase our online presence and gradually merge into a digitally-focused newspaper. Our new blog, podcast section, and this upcoming website redesign have been a three-pronged online strategy to this end.
For more information about our online strategy, contact Managing Online Editor Kaitlyn Simpson at email@example.com.
Professional development: we went to NASH
The levy increase helped The Varsity to supplement its budget for professional development. This meant that a contingent of Varsity staff were able to travel to Calgary from January 3–6 for the Canadian University Press’ annual NASH conference. This opportunity allowed us to attend presentations, panels, and workshops from industry leaders in media on topics ranging from social media strategies to innovations in visual journalism to using open-source intelligence tools in campus reporting.
Though only a delegation of staff were able to attend, the entire masthead and staff base will benefit from the takeaways from this conference. The conference also connected Varsity staff to student journalists from across the country, allowing us to share experiences and knowledge with a view to improving the strength and outlook of the student press across the country. Ultimately, we hope to apply what we’ve gained from NASH to improve the quality of our journalism for readers.
The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.