Student journalists are on the cutting edge of Canada’s media landscape
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
If you’re a student journalist in Canada, you should be used to being hated. Your students’ union despises you digging around in their affairs; your school administrators’ dislike that you keep pushing for more information; even your parents might hate you for jumping into a print media industry which so many believe is dying.
If one or all of these are true, then I’m convinced you’re doing a great job as a student journalist.
The fact is that there are so many young journalists across this vast country of ours, yet, unfortunately, there are so few opportunities for them to grow and develop. Jobs in the industry are scarce and the mainstream media has such a monopoly that campus media is often regarded as second class. This is evidenced in the fact that many sources are hesitant to speak with campus journalists.
All too often, student journalists research their stories and reach out to contacts in the community, only to get a reply that says, “Regretfully, we are unable to afford you a meeting with us as we have a high volume of requests from ‘mainstream’ journalists.” As much as such a response is bullshit, you’d still be lucky to get a response at all.
If you take a sample of campus publications, you’ll find that many of these journalists are on the cutting edge, doing in-depth reporting on issues that matter not only to a student population, but also to the communities they serve.
If you were to take the time to examine many of the biggest protest movements of our generation, be it Occupy or rallies at major gatherings of world leaders, you’ll notice that it’s students who are at the front-line, advocating for change. In the last few years, students have been at the forefront of major demonstrations which have had major impacts on their society: the toppling of a dictatorship in Libya, the fight for freedom in Syria, the quest for free and fair elections in Egypt, and even the opposition to raising tuition rates in Quebec ,which led to the ousting of a longstanding government.
Ruffling feathers and asking provocative questions is the role of any good journalist seeking the truth in any story. A student journalist is not tied down by the same filters that those in mainstream media are, which allows them to go after the tough stories without much fear of advertiser flak. In addition, their proximity to the community they serve—in this case the student population on campus—allows for student journalists to take in pitches from their constituents and turn them into published content.
Despite not having all of the access and sources that the mainstream media enjoys, a free and independent campus press is a powerful and essential presence in the Canadian media landscape. This medium is all too often brushed aside as second class, because many student journalists in Canada today don’t have J-school credentials. Simply by reading some of the content these young journalists come up with, I’d say that it’s not so much the journalism education that matters, but rather trial by fire.