Alisa Gordaneer: Rough drafts crafted here

As part of the Martlet 70 Fundraiser, we’ve asked former Martlet staff to answer an important question: why do we need the Martlet?

When news breaks, the Martlet fixes it

On the graffiti-covered wall of the Martlet office, back in 1988, an unattributed quote
was scrawled on the graffiti-covered wall: “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.”
Figuring out who said it, and why, was my first lesson in journalism.

I immediately skipped English class and joined the Martlet staff, earning what I like to
call an unofficial degree in journalism. My work there became the rough draft of a real-
world career I could never have achieved on English alone.

The quote, I eventually learned, was from a 1963 speech by Washington Post editor and
publisher Philip Graham, but the saying had been around for decades, neatly expressing
journalism’s role: the truths reported in the news today shape the way the future unfolds.
In retrospect, it’s the perfect expression for what cub reporters were doing then, and now.
A rough draft is by nature raw, like news as it unfolds.

Journalism needs the Martlet because it’s where young journalists still get to write their
own rough drafts, scrawled with idealism and enthusiasm, undimmed by the thousand-
papercut deaths that news organizations have suffered in recent years.

And we, the readers, need the kinds of stories the Martlet prints, because those incessant
cuts mean few other news organizations can tell them in the unvarnished, raw, rough
draft way that the Martlet, and other student newspapers, can.

We need the Martlet because it’s home to those crucial rough drafts—not just of tomorrow’s history, but of the journalists who will write it.

Alisa Gordaneer served as Martlet co-editor in 1991-92. She now teaches journalism at
Vancouver Island University.

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