08. Rowback

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Can I say that I/we ran a tight ship, having never been in any position of power before (or since)? Well, at least once we figured out our dire financial situation my first year as an editor, I can say that we did our job without any (other) major hurdles. Having learned the history of the student paper, one that included early shutdowns, fired editors, conflicts among the staff, libel suits, and a short time where the editors were locked out of the printer and forced to keep the thing in circulation as as a single sheet they printed themselves, I think our time there could probably be seen as pretty boring. No one really sent us any complaints, let alone shut us down, which must indicate something (depending on how full or empty you want to see the glass.)

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07. Overnight

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My year as the assistant editor-in-chief (not quite the top, but close enough) was supposed to be my final hurrah, the year I got do what I wanted to do with the paper (free from needing to complete a degree, as I graduated the year before and was taking a bare minimum of “fun” courses during my “year off to find myself”) with a little help, and it would be the last year the old gang of two-to-three years would be together; we had a new generation waiting in the wings to take over, and with our financial problems mostly dealt with (mostly), we had laid the groundwork for them so they would hopefully have an easier time than we did. I had applied for a graduate program in another province, one for—you guessed it—journalism, and was making headway into that in the months leading up to our final issues. It seemed that my education and career trajectory was finally reaching its apex, and I was going to be moving on.

It didn’t work out. For anyone.

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06. Island

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The student newspaper used to be part of the student union, but several years before my time there, they separated and the newspaper was incorporated as an independent entity (it was probably a good thing that everyone seemingly knew that we were no longer connected, as we would rather not have had to sort through misdirected complaints from pretty much everyone, as complaining about the student union was the one unifying thing on campus.) As part of the deal, though, the student union got a page of the paper every issue to do as they saw fit—they announced events, wrote pieces about whatever the latest campaign was (water bottle bans? Lower student fees? Food drives? They’re all here!), or sometimes just the views of whatever executive or commissioner decided to write that time (they even did some of their own reporting and interviews for things like local elections, sometimes when even we couldn’t find time to do it.) The plus side for us was that it was a page of stuff we didn’t have to work that hard to fill, and most of the student union contributors were good enough writers to not require massive edits, but that just made it all the more frustrating when they were late or didn’t send anything at all; it was the one guaranteed content we had more often than not (aside from some regularly submitted sex ed/advice columns), and we planned around it. Considering that they were more or less getting a free page when no one else was, they of all people had no excuses—so, that on its own made the relationship between us and them a contentious one.

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Starlog Log #10

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Once you get into the history of fandom and genre fiction, you’ll notice that is often a history of constant, humiliating failure. I guess when you fill your head with fantasy, it sometimes leads to incredible ambitions alongside a crippling naivety about the limitations of one’s own capacity to bring those ambitions to life (at least without compromises.) The pages of Starlog are littered with tales of movie and television projects that go nowhere, the ones that did end up being made only to be utterly ignored, or cons that went south due to over-promising (they spent good portions of an issue talking about a specific late-seventies con where editorial staff and several Star Trek cast members ended up confused and marooned and possibly without their proper compensation)—and as SF became more mainstream popular, it never really brought with it an equal increase in business competence, and (as I mentioned before) actually led to even more failures due to the glut of content. Of course, if the magazine’s editorials are to be believed, failure is just an inevitable part of the process of reaching for the stars and making your dreams reality and what have you; that’s of course true to a degree, but there gets to be a point where you have to wonder if those dreams ever had much thought put into them in the first place, and whether seeing things falling flat on their face time and time again means that maybe it might be a good idea to go back to the drawing board.

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05. Honour Box

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The campus seems designed to split the entire university into tribes: each of the programs has its own building, and despite the presence of one or more in-between spaces (study spots, the campus bar and coffee shop, the library), they have very little reason to ever venture outside their little domain and interact with the others. Each of the subdivisions on campus (arts, science, education, music, and health) seem to exist in their own pocket worlds, with their own concerns, their own social networks, and even their own subgroups, and if it weren’t for the fact that I was a part of the newspaper and had to report on different issues for all the programs, I might have never even seen the inside of any of the other buildings and knowing any of that. Our campus was not particularly large by any means, by it’s still possible to underestimate its size just because you spend so much time in a select few locations; in service to the entire student body (including ones who seem even less responsive to us than the students we saw in the student union building, the designated neutral zone), we had to get to know the true scope and diversity of the school.

Especially me, because it was usually up to me to deliver the papers to all the stands around campus.

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04. Lorem Ipsum

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It’s funny: for as much as I loved working at the newspaper, my eventual ascent to the top position was not planned or possibly even considered. I, the same as many, was working on a thee-year bachelor’s degree, and spent one year as a contributor and two as the news editor; I feel that I must have been content with that at the time, because I didn’t make any immediate moves towards coming back, and was in fact preparing for a post-bachelor’s future (which was to involve a graduate program at some point, but I hadn’t made any firm decisions on that, either.) It didn’t take long, though, before I was hit with the realization that I had no idea what my next move actually was, and when offered a position back at the paper (somewhere around the time of our end-of-the-year party), I jumped right back in, back to the place I knew with most of the people I had been working with that previous year. Thanks to one of the first changes to the staffing structure that I would be part of, I ended up sharing editor-in-chief duties with one of my friends, and though I technically wasn’t the big boss at that point, I was still put into a position of power and responsibility, which I took as seriously as I did my old position of just gathering the news.

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03. Bleed-Through

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Working at the student newspaper is not a career (no student positions are), it’s something that lasts only about as long as you’re still studying there, but it has to come to an end at some point. The thing is institutionalized transience, a place where you’re guaranteed to see people come and go; if you’re lucky (or unlucky) you’ll be working with the same group of people all throughout your time, or at least some of the same people, but there’s a pretty good chance you’ll start with the haggard veterans just getting ready to run out the door and end your own time there with fresh-faced newbies who don’t know nothing about anything. If you end up anything like me, you’ll have the opportunity to feel like the kid trying to barge in on the adults’ conversation and then the wrinkly elder yelling at clouds all within a few years time, a hyper-compressed version of the kind of career you supposedly will have once you graduate. That is, if you stick around the whole time, which is also never a guarantee.

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