Ellen Saenger: Why do we need the Martlet?

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

Why do we need the Martlet?

More than three decades after I had the privilege of contributing to the Martlet, student
journalism is, perhaps more than ever, a vital part of our society.

When the US President can spout bold face lies and then call media like the New York Times or
the Washington Post “fake news”, we need much more reporting that returns to the basics
tenants of student journalism—rake muck, dig deep, comfort the afflicted and afflict the
comfortable.

Back in the days when we wrote our stories on clunky East German-made typewriters in the
smoky Martlet office, those were our mantras. We considered ourselves agents of social
change. Perhaps we were a wee bit full of ourselves and our youthful enthusiasm was tiresome
to some. But we were driven by a need to right wrongs on our campus and in our society.

Reporters uncovered allegations from female students against an economics professor for his
unconventional interview tactics in his office for work as nude models for his art. That was
decades before #METOO. We also devoted significant ink to the BC Solidarity protests, labour’s
attempt to fight a sweeping austerity program implemented by the provincial government of Social Credit Premier Bill Bennett.

Many social justice advances have been made since then but much more remains to be
accomplished. So, here’s to the next 70 years plus of the Martlet. May the future generation of
student scribes continue to push the boundaries and to shake up society, perhaps even smash
the state. We’ll all be better for it. And we’re all counting on you.

(Ellen Saenger, Martlet co-editor, 1983-84. Worked as a print journalist in Mexico and at the
Vancouver Sun, and later as a radio journalist for the German Public Broadcaster and at the
CBC, as a producer on The Early Edition and The Current.)

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