An interview with a former student journalist—my father
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
June 2019 was the month my first article was posted in the Other Press. I was so excited to get that edition of the paper and see my words printed on newspaper stock for the first time. I was also excited to show it to my parents, specifically my father. Back in the late ‘70s, my father was the sports editor for the Dawson College student newspaper, The Plant, located in Montreal. The Plant still runs today, though only as an online paper. Interested in knowing what it was like to work at a student paper back then, I asked my father about what it was like to craft a newspaper before computers, and also to uncover some of the interesting stories and experiences from his time at the student paper.
My father worked at the paper from 1977 to 1980. In high school, he was always interested in writing and journalism, so when he found out that his college had a paper, he felt it was “a natural fit.” After starting out as a writer, he later moved up to become the sports editor. As sports editor, he would cover stories about the college’s sports teams with a great focus on the turnaround of the school’s hockey team in which many players went on to attain major scholarships at US schools.
One of his most interesting contributors was a student who wanted to cover the school’s hockey team. The catch was that this student was on the hockey team and wanted to write the articles incognito. “Every week he would write an in-depth article looking at the good points and the bad points,” my father explained. The writer was an enthusiastic fan of the third line left winger because he was the third line left winger. He would lob both praise and criticism towards the coach much to the perplexed dismay of the coach. As the season went on, the coach began to question how The Plant was gaining this information, especially since the paper never seemed to send a reporter to the games. My father, being the protector of his sources, just responded that the reporter “likes to be very quiet.” Eventually the coach found out, but because it was the end of the season, he held no hard feelings. He just asked that the contributor and player “take it a little easy” on the team and his coaching style. In the end, the coach was even a bit tickled by the whole thing.
In interviewing my dad, I discovered that my father engaged in the timeless tradition of using the Editor-in-Chief’s chill attitude to his advantage. However, in one case, my dad’s trust that his paper was never able to reach its set date of Friday worked against him. My dad detailed how a player on the Alouette’s eluded coverage in Sunday’s game. Unfortunately, this was the one week where the paper was published on time, which meant that my dad claimed that something happened in a game that had not even occurred yet. “A little bit of egg on face there,” he said.
In terms of what he considers his magnum opus of his time at the paper, he mentioned an interview he did with a student on the hockey team. This student suffered a brutal injury during a game in which he took a puck to the eye. The injury was so severe that he ended up losing his eye. “He was a guy who didn’t blame anyone for this […] Just the way that this guy persevered. He wanted to make sure that he continued his courses. He wanted to make sure he was part of the team, not only for that year, but throughout his stay at Dawson,” he said. “I was proud of the article I did profiling this one player.”
Oddly, the part of working at the paper that he found the most satisfying was the assembling of the paper. “I liked the creative process […] Seeing how we can make the paper look visually presentable […] The creativity of putting the paper together is something I am still proud of.” He detailed how he and the team would assemble the paper without the use of computers—which was much cruder than how it is done today. He said that they would section out each area of the paper to figure out how much space they needed that would allow them to put in their articles while also leaving enough room for ads. He told me that if a picture did not work or an article was too long, they would resolve the problem with X-ACTO knives. “We would spend four to twelve hours making the paper fit into the various pages we had,” he said. When I asked him how he feels about The Plant being online only now, he simply chalked it up to a “sign of the times.”
Seeing as my dad has such a flair for writing, I always found it odd that he never continued with his writing in any major capacity. He clearly enjoyed it, and even today still reads the physical paper that is delivered to our doorstep every day. While my dad’s current contributions to the writing world mostly consist of the “dad joke of the day” variety, I hope that one day he considers looking into ways he can write again.
My goal of writing this article was not just to profile my father’s work at his college paper, but to showcase how much fun it can be to write for a college paper. In the year plus since I joined the paper, I have made content that I am proud of, but also some great friendships. For anyone out there who is reading this, wondering if they should contact the paper about contributing—but worried about putting themselves out there—I can tell you that I felt this way too, but challenging that fear and getting my first article in the paper was one of my best moments. I can only hope that others can enjoy the same pride and satisfaction that I feel writing for my college paper.