The tone of a lot of recent speculation on the future of The Varsity has been tinted by the harsh realities of the world in which we operate. The slow collapse of print advertising, the rapid pivot to digital readership, and the accompanying democratization of publishing contribute, in no small part, to the maddening frustration of the fools still trying to steer this ship. Yet, journalists are necessarily romantics, as cynics are necessarily disappointed optimists.
The sea is so great, and our boat is so small, though thankfully, the past few years have benefitted from a series of dedicated stewards who have put prudence and parsimony over haphazard ambition to keep the paper’s head above the waters of financial hardship.
With their work in mind, I am humbly proud for my last report in these pages to be good news.
The Varsity has seen its reach grow exponentially this year, as we draw close to a million page views on our website for the year. We have published over 1,000 articles and brought in excess of 450 students to the fold, 104 of which are now staff, to produce this paper.
A zealous social media strategy has made bringing the stories that matter to our community easier, while vivid design, illustrations, and photography have brought those stories to life.
As we press on into the future, coming generations will no doubt suffer their own crises and celebrate their own successes. They will also have to face the uncertainty that lies on the other side of the most pressing existential question facing all traditional print media: how do we transition into a digital space without losing ourselves?
For 136 years, The Varsity has been the university’s paper of record. In recent years, we have seen that, in order to best serve our community, we need to unshackle ourselves from the medium we have known for so long and brave the uncertainty of the changing tide.
There is no measure to how appreciative and proud I am to have had the opportunity to lead this centenarian institution this year and to work with such a wonderful group of people. Volume CXXXVI would not have been possible were it not for the dauntless masthead, who showed up every week with renewed vigour and good ideas. Equally, we would not have been able to achieve a modicum of the success we have enjoyed this year were it not for our volunteers and contributors.
To former editors Danielle Klein, Murad Hemmadi, Tom Cardoso, and Jade Colbert: thank you for always being available, both to myself and to the paper in which we have invested so much. To Joshua Oliver: thank you for being such a fierce friend and mentor and for always calling back.
I have always been confident in the conviction that we, as the press, are not doing our jobs if we aren’t making someone uncomfortable. Our essential purposes are to shine light, to ask difficult questions, to probe, and to provoke. That comes with its fair share of criticism and animosity. The climate in which CXXXVI has operated makes carrying out that work increasingly challenging, as fair comment and rigorous investigation have been mistaken for ad-hominem attack. Telling the stories that matter has never been, nor will it ever be, comfortable; that isn’t about to change with the landscape.
As the paper proceeds into an uncertain future, the words of former CBS anchor Dan Rather ring in my ears. For a few days in 1986, Rather signed off his CBS broadcast with a single word: “Courage.”
It takes courage to risk offense in the course of responsible inquiry; it takes courage to stand up to power, to question dogma; and it takes courage to criticize oppression. Courage, Rather would remind us, is not the absence of fear, but action in spite of it.
So, to my eminently capable successor, Alex McKeen, her incoming staff, and to you the readers:
— Alec Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
2015–2016, Vol. CXXXVI