How to describe my time at The Brunswickan?
I could try numbers:
4 different job positions
2 runs as EIC
But the numbers hardly tell the whole story.
They don’t really show all the crazy stories I’ve been able to cover since 2012, from labour disputes to two election seasons, from turmoil at the law school in 2015 and funding projections of the Why UNB? campaign to racist posters and neo-Nazis on campus. The numbers don’t tell of the numerous mental breakdowns that resulted from the coverage of such stories, but neither do they tell of the sense of pride and satisfaction I always get from holding a fresh-off-the-printer copy of The Brunswickan—a physical token of something I’ve had the privilege of playing a role in creating.
The numbers don’t speak of all this and so much more. You see, however much I might have been able to give to The Bruns, it pales in comparison to what The Brunswickan has given to me.
When I called my mom one weekend in November 2012 to tell her that I had started volunteering for the student newspaper, she said to me, “Emma, you know you will have to phone people and talk to them, right?”
I knew this, of course. But there was good reason for one to be a bit incredulous of my decision to leap into the world of journalism—I was a person with debilitating anxiety, after all. The summer before I came to UNB, I started having panic attacks if I tried to step outside of the driveway at my parents’ house. If the phone rang, I would run and hide. Talking to people made me feel sick to my stomach. Going out in public was next to impossible. So naturally(?), in the fall of of my first year, I decided to give student journalism a try.
Back at that phone conversation with my mom, I mustered as much enthusiasm as I could. “Yeah. It shouldn’t be a problem!” I said with my fingers crossed.
As it turned out, not only was I able to phone and talk to people, but I actually enjoyed doing it. I enjoyed it so much that once I started, I never looked back—to the point that journalism has gone from being a thing I did on the side to the only thing I could ever imagine doing with my life. Little did I know six years ago how freeing journalism, through The Brunswickan, would be for me. Journalism became an outlet where my anxiety and depression slipped away. It gave someone who could barely speak above a murmur a voice. It gave me confidence when I thought I didn’t have any. And this is something that I could never possibly quantify.
The Brunswickan is important to me on a personal level, but on a much larger scale, The Brunswickan, and student journalism as a whole, plays a vital role in the current media landscape.
When it comes to community newspapers in Canada, the numbers paint a dire picture.
According to the Public Policy Forum’s 2017 report on the state of journalism in Canada, since 2010, “225 weekly and 27 daily newspapers” have been shuttered. Even since that report came out, other community newspapers have met with the same fate, including the 36 that were shut down as part of the Torstar-Postmedia swap late last year.
Yes, the numbers paint a dire picture of the future of community newspapers in this country. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
You see, student newspapers are community newspapers, too. And while it’s true that The Bruns has been hard-hit by the same trials as all the rest—declining ad sales, increased printing costs, competition with online news sites, and I could go on and on—somehow The Brunswickan has been able to stick around year after year (151 of them!), and it’s been able to do this on top of the challenges of high turnover rates, an extremely tight budget and staff with little experience in journalism (not to mention the obvious one—that it’s staffed solely by students who are still trying to figure everything out).
From my experience, this “sticking around” is largely due to the fact that The Bruns, like many student newspapers, is filled with a special brand of vibrancy. Sure, we’re all flying by the seats of our pants and making things up as we go, but The Bruns wouldn’t be around today if it weren’t for a lot of people who care deeply about this newspaper. Year after year, The Brunswickan’s masthead is made up of individuals who aren’t afraid to push the envelope and take risks with the stories they cover. In fact, I’d argue that student journalism is unique in the opportunity it affords young journalists to try whatever the hell they want and to run with it as far as they can.
It is this spirit that has kept The Bruns going when so many other community newspapers have stopped. It is this spirit that The Bruns has brought to its reporting on this community on College Hill. It’s this spirit that The Bruns has maintained for 151 years now, and, somehow, I was lucky enough to be a part of it all for 5.5 of them.
And this is something I could never possibly quantify.
Some thank yous
Thank you to Dr. Megan Woodworth, my Arts 1000 advisor, whose question “Have you considered writing for The Brunswickan?” in response to my request for more writing experience sort of created a monster (or at least a person with an unhealthy obsession with journalism).
Thank you to Dr. Maria Papaioannou for always being a person I can talk to, and who didn’t seem too disappointed when I left archaeology for journalism. (Although I once attended a keynote by Peter Mansbridge, who said that journalism was like archaeology—and if the man Mansbridge himself said it, then it must be true.)
Thank you especially to Dr. Matthew Sears who has always graciously offered a voice of reason to me when life with The Bruns got crazy stressful, and who let me mix journalism and classics together for my thesis topic. There will always be at least one journalist who doesn’t hate you, no matter what happens on Twitter.
Thank you to Cherise Letson for teaching me the journalism thing, and to fellow Brunsies, Tess Allen, Heather Uhl, Nick Murray, Adam Travis, Sean McCullum and all the others I’ve had the pleasure to work with, for your encouragement, support and advice. I would also like to give a shout-out to the entire staff of The Brunswickan this year. Each and every one of you has done a superb job over the past eight months and I am so proud of you all.
Thank you to my parents and grandparents for always being encouraging, and who never (at least not to my face) questioned my life choices of doing two degrees in Classics while also pursuing my dream of getting into the totally-not-dying industry of print media.
Thank you to Johanna and Aaron, who, as siblings and roommates, have had to listen to plenty of venting sessions over the years. You’ve come to my rescue far more times than you know.
And finally, thank you to The Brunswickan for existing. I am a better person for having been a part of this publication.
I guess this is where I sign off for the last time. So, Bruns, it’s been a complete privilege these past six years. Thank you.
The Emma-in-Charge, or the Editor-in-Chief, of The Brunswickan