Kim Balfour: Why do we need the Martlet?

It depends on who “we” are. As a Martlet co-editor, 30+ years ago, I learned valuable life lessons that serve me well today. Not the least: Ask lots of questions, don’t take ‘no comment’ for an answer, don’t bury the lead, fact checking is hard but retractions are worse, and shit happens when you miss the production deadline.

For students, the Martlet is a way to make their voices heard, shine a light in dark places, speak truth to power and agitate for change. In the mid 1980’s, we wrote variously about leftist revolutions, Reaganomics, NAFTA (1.0), nuclear disarmament, pornography, being a “Bad British Columbian” under Socred rule, and championed an independent Martlet.

Sometimes it was hard to find the local angle in global issues we cared so much about. Other times we had to remind ourselves that no matter how huge the issue was on campus, it rarely registered outside Ring Road.

For the wider community, the Martlet provides a glimpse into the intense world of young people grappling with higher education and even higher ideals. For the Martlet editorial team, that meant hammering out the ad boycott policy and living it. Hard to do when the companies owned your favourite brands and the paper really needed the ad revenue.

For the fourth estate, the Martlet is fertile ground for the next generation of critical writers, photographers and graphic artists. Many Martleteers have gone on to successful careers in traditional and new media. CBC, in particular, owes the Martlet a debt of gratitude.

My co-editor, Mike O’Brien, who died in 2015 at just 51 after a long struggle with cancer, was one such luminary. Mike was a born comic who found humour and humanity in everything. He had a respected career as canny newspaper reporter, CBC comedy writer, book author, and TV actor who played a recurring character on Corner Gas and Less Than Kind. Even at 21, Mike was startlingly funny and the Martlet’s readers were all the better for it.

Kim Balfour

Martlet Co-editor, 1984-85 (Volume 24)

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