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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Five to Go: Here Come the Bile

This will ramble. Don't expect cohesion. Or coherence. As always these opinions are my own, and do not represent the editorial board of The Lance or any of its volunteers.

The problem Windsor, I think, is that deep down, you don't really want a student newspaper.

I took an office at the Lance in 2004, and am making my exit here four years later, and in that time, I've never found anyone who didn't already work for the paper who had anything good to say about us.

You think this is our own fault. You think we bring it upon ourselves with the advertising, the choice of advertisers, wire copy, lazy reportage, sensationalism or any other of the myriad claims made against this newspaper in the past four years. But I am constantly amazed by the venom this publication generates among some people on campus.

When the pub got closed, it wasn't long before the targets turned to The Lance. "Why do we give money to a paper we never read? Take that money for the Pub we don't go to." Why not take it from the radio station you never listen to and takes twice as much of your tuition? Nope, never.
I can only assume this is because something like CJAM falls into a sort of 'out of sight, out of mind' category. Buried in a far away corner of the CAW Centre, few outside of the station's dedicated staff and volunteers even remember it's there. Whereas The Lance gets plastered all over campus, making it an easy target. People see the stacks of papers littering the cafeteria and assume people are using them as napkins. It's not my fault you people can't use a recycling bin.

As far as the other criticisms, allow me to retort.

The number of ads: I'll assume something I was told in '04 holds as true today if not moreso: If the paper operated on student fees alone, it would come out once a month. Sad reality: ads are required to keep the paper coming out once a week, in colour. Don't tell to the editors to cut their salaries, they make f**king peanuts as it is, and deserve their meagre sums for the level of work they put into it.

The types of ads: At the first national newspaper conference I ever attended, ad policies were the topic of the day. Some felt they were ethically necessary, and refused ads from the military, or tobacco or alcohol or companies with questionable environmental practices. Those were the idealistic students who ran college papers.

Others felt they were the most ludicrous ideas they had ever heard, and laughed them off as naive. These were people like Lewis Lapham of Harper's, and Ken Alexander of The Walrus, both of whom were quick to point out that they would take ad money from whoever wanted to hand it over, if it meant getting another issue out. Because these men understood that in the world of print, survival is the highest priority, and gave their readers enough credit to tell the difference between running an ad and making an endorsement.

Survival is even more precarious in the world of student publications. The Lance makes ad money from national and local customers. Nationally, ad sales are down across the board on account of the recession [also a reason I'm making my exit]. So we turn to local to hopefully pick up the slack. So if a strip club wants to pay us a grand for a full page ad, if it's the difference between the black and the red, hell yes we'll take it. If it were up to me, there'd be classifieds stuffed with escort ads in the back. But I'm without scruples.

Wire copy: I've fought tooth and nail for this, always. You do not live in a bubble. No one thinks they're more globally connected than a university student, yet none of them seem to care about what might be happening at schools across the country. Shut your damn face. One or two wire stories in an eight page news section does not suggest a dearth of local content.

Now, when the Opinion section was running wire copy a few weeks ago....THAT suggests a dearth of local content, and serves to strengthen my original thesis: you don't really want this paper.

Not that some criticisms are not valid. I can't lie, I've rubbed the bridge of my nose on more than one occasion over the current news section. Local produce? Flu shots? Is this the Amherstburg Echo? I know it's the end of the semester, but damn.

And yet I know from experience, if the news editor had run stories more city than school based, there would be a pile of angry emails criticizing the lack of campus-centric content.

You do not want this newspaper. Don't even get me started on the oversight committee, some lame-brained misguided endeavour by a crew of legacy grabbing instigators conducted in a fashion even the most peabrained of observers found fault with, and managed to last about half a year before losing its chair. You people care so little about this paper you won't affect change even after you've fought for the right to do so. And the editors are to take you seriously??

"Well why the eff do you care, Trail? Your ass is out the door anyway."

This is true, and do not misconstrue this as sour grapes. The fact that I still love this newspaper and cherish my time there is why I find all of this so frustrating. Bitching about something and doing nothing to try and improve what you see as problems is a dick move. You complain about ads, but it's not like an increase in student fees would be met with applause [despite not increasing in six years]. You complain about content, but refuse to volunteer or write stories. And this song and dance never changes. It's the nature of campus publishing, known too well to any of us dumb enough to put more than two years into it. By the time you can reach a compromise with anyone, they graduate, and a new crop of rabid young world changers comes storming in and you start with them all over again.

You do not care about this newspaper. You do not want this newspaper. It could disappear tomorrow and you would not even notice, and you're too stupid to realize how tragic that would be.