Letter From The Editor: What Journalism Means for a Student Publication

Note: This article is hosted here for archival purposes only. It does not necessarily represent the values of the Iron Warrior or Waterloo Engineering Society in the present day.

As I review this term, I realize that my life had been divided into biweekly periods. I spend one weekend putting Iron Warrior together and the next weekend catching up on sleep and the pattern repeated itself over the term. Yes, we took a three week break but that was during reading week which I spent sleeping anyways so that doesn’t count. Anyways, as I finish off my term I realize I have extremely enjoyed my experience with Iron Warrior albeit multiple sleepless nights in a week, no school work at all for four days in a row, an unconscious proofreading process that goes on even when I am doing leisure readings or school work and grades that decrease exponentially. I will graduate from Waterloo with a degree in Chemical Engineering and 20 months worth of experience *fingers crossed* and the only thing that I have given back to this school are these five issues.

As my term comes to an end I would like to reflect on what I have learned and how my ideas about a student publication have changed. I came into this position very intimidated because Iron Warrior is not only a well respected publication on campus but it is read and praised across other Canadian engineering schools and I felt it was my responsibility to keep the bar high. As I read older newspapers I also noticed the difference in content and writing style between the two societies. From my experience, and I repeat this it is strictly my own opinion, there are two schools of thought: we should try to print everything that the students submit as much as is permitted by the space. The other school of thought says although it is a student publication we still need to maintain certain standards and be careful enough not to lead Iron Warrior on to becoming a written blog. I should also mention that these two thoughts are not entirely mutually exclusive. Other things such as an emphasis on having enough entertainment elements, having distinct sections of genres etc have varied. Through my term I have become a strong proponent of the idea that the submissions need to be evaluated and only those which do justice to the genre they are writing about should be published. We have seen PDEng flair up among students and fuel was added to the fire last year after the Independent Review was conducted. Although PDEng is a topic very close to every student’s heart and everyone has slightly different views on it which they have a right to express, I think criticism for the heck of criticism should not be published. Articles or ideas which openly discuss superficial flaws without providing any insight don’t provide any substantial material to work with. We need to address students concerns  but also ensure that IW does not  become a tool to create rifts between students and any other entity within the university.

My experience as an EIC has also exposed me to the other facets of running a newspaper- the darker side as I would say. I am an idealistic person who thinks that all people are fundamentally nice and whatever crap happens in the world is due to something that happened some time in the past or due to extreme miscommunication and that the world is essentially a happy place. Before starting this job I thought it is a purely creative job where I am supposed to come up with ways to make this paper interesting and appealing, and ensure that the content is not offensive. But some experiences made me realize that freedom of expression and freedom of journalism don’t exist in the form as we like to think they do. Some of you may know that Iron Warrior is entirely run on advertising revenue. For the last few terms we have had problems getting enough advertisement which has affected the printing quality (number of times we are able to publish coloured issues) and distribution. There was a proposition that a portion of each student’s EngSoc should be allocated to Iron Warrior so the editors don’t have to fret about finances. I was all up for it until I read an article by Tyler Gale in an IW issue from 2007 and some of my own experiences which changed my views. Judith Lichtenberg, a professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University said “no money, no voice” about freedom of press. Ideally, a newspaper should exercise freedom of expression and be able to operate as it deems appropriate. Of course there should be a regulating body that ensures that the editorial board and staff members are doing their job properly, as we are currently overseen by an Advisory Board, but other than that there should be no constraints dictated by monetary or superiority incentives. But the reality is it doesn’t work like it. If Iron Warrior officially becomes funded by any specific body such as EngSoc it will feel obligated to follow that body’s direction and it will be harder to maintain its professional integrity. I am not saying that the individuals heading EngSoc will be too controlling or IW editors be indecisive but this kind of mentality is bound to develop over time in such a system.

And now on to my regular rant about the paper. Well before the rant thanks a lot WEEF for funding a new computer for IW! We don’t have that old machine anymore which takes 15 minutes to boot and generates a message every 16 seconds giving me a quota warning! This was a very exciting issue because it’s coloured if you haven’t already noticed and it’s issue 5 which means there is a Tin Soldier insert. In the main issue you will find some of the regular columns, Gaming, Fashion Files, Review Based on the Trailer, mandatory crossword and Sudoku without which you will probably kill me, and Iron Inquisition which I whispered to random students since I literally lost my voice to sore throat this weekend. You also get to meet your new A-Soc Executive. Congratulations to all of you and remember, the key to success is sending in your executive reports on time! On a serious note, we have PDEng Task Force update, two articles from EWB on water infrastructure and cell phones in Africa, a political article on the Throne speech. We also have some articles on the million events that have happened in the last two weeks. And since this is my last editorial I would like to make an announcement. Drumroll everyone *damramdamram*! Our EIC for Fall 2010 and our first very first Nanotechnology EIC is Roy Lee!  Roy has done an amazing job with layout and photo editing this term and is very enthusiastic about his position. I am sure he will be a great EIC and keep you people informed and entertained.

Before I end, I would once again like to thank my staff for all their efforts, especially Jon R. who displayed the perfect example of being an honest journalist and literally ‘ate’ his words from Issue 2 when he said that Canada wouldn’t win Gold in the Winter Olympics.

Smile all along C:,

Amrita Yasin

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