Reflections of a student journalist: just write!

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Writing for a paper may seems daunting, but it is so important

Senior Staff Writer Christopher Driscoll | Photo by Michael John Lo
Senior Staff Writer Christopher Driscoll, photo by Michael John Lo.

What do we think about when we think about student journalism? Better yet, what sort of titles come to mind?

Student Journalist: A fairly self-explanatory title that could be anything from a sports writer for a high school paper to a journalistic prodigy working for the New York Times who happens to be taking university courses.

Senior Staff Writer: A pride-inducing title that conveys a sense of importance. “Senior,” they are advanced; “Staff,” they are on payroll; and “Writer,” calling forth images of smoking reporters hunched over typewriters clacking away passionately in some noir-style newsroom.

Aspiring Cultural Journalist in 2021: A title that sounds an awful lot like an envelope with a stimulus check sliding through your mail slot and falling pathetically to the floor while you sit on a lawn chair in your living room waiting for the ramen noodles to finish in the microwave. 

Yes, the last year has not been good for those involved in the world of the arts, let alone for those who write about it.

But hey, we do it for the love of the craft, right?… right? 

Getting involved with a student paper can be daunting, and getting involved with a student paper as a cultural journalist in the time of COVID-19 even more so. But here is why I think the work we do as student journalists is so important to the communities we live in. 

As someone passionate about cultural journalism, the past year has been a struggle. Before I worked for the Martlet, I’d always seen the paper as a place to find out about cool events on campus and learn more about the arts scene at the university. While I was always an avid reader of the Sex and Gender Issue, it was the culture and arts coverage that made me apply to be a staff writer.

I couldn’t have picked a worse time. 

At the Martlet, I found out pretty quick that writing about cancelled events or events that were “still happening despite COVID-19” didn’t make for good news. Either way, no one seemed to care about how some events were continuing; it was a tired gimmick. 

Though trying my best to find new ways to engage with the local arts scene, it became increasingly difficult to find events. My biggest culture article of the semester, which I wrote with Paul Chalkman, was about Logan’s Pub shutting down. Not exactly the enthusiastic, promotive, culture and arts coverage I had hoped for (but a fun write none-the-less). 

I began to attend our biweekly story meetings with less and less culture content and began to pick up stories I wasn’t used to covering. I spoke with Alexandra D’Arcy about the incredible work being done by educators in UVic’s Faculty of Humanities to develop new course work for incoming students. I spoke with Clarivate Citation Laureate Julio Navarro about how he came to work at UVic after falling in love with physics while living in Argentina after the fall of the military junta. And I got to speak to City Councillor Jeremy Loveday about Victoria’s continued strides towards green initiatives.

By pushing outside my comfort zone in the world of journalism, I found myself engaging with communities outside the world of the arts that shared very similar bonds and passions to those I’d found in my culture work. I got the opportunity to help amplify individuals’ voices and play a role, even if minor, in bringing attention to the incredible communities we have here in Victoria.

For me, that’s what being a journalist is all about. As student journalists, first and foremost, our aim is to keep the student population aware of what’s going on around them. But we also play an important role in strengthening community bonds and sharing community stories.

I’m not saying that cultural journalism is dead, far from it. The importance of the arts remains, and it’s our job as journalists to find new ways to explore and bring attention to them. But it’s important to step out of our comfort zones and expose yourself to as much of the world as we can (figuratively of course).

Even if it may occasionally be hard, the work is so important. Our communities need it. 

As my wonderful year at the Martlet comes to an end, with the looming terror of entering into the real world outside of university, I’d like to say something to our readers that I wish someone had said to me: don’t be afraid, and just write!

I missed out on multiple years where I could have been working as a journalist and getting the opportunity to engage with the diverse communities of Victoria, while also developing real-world skills. The Martlet may seem daunting to those just starting their degree, but it is so incredibly rewarding. 

The Martlet is always looking for community pitches. Email us at edit@martlet.ca with your ideas for articles. 

I came to the Martlet with practically zero journalism experience, but I had a story I really wanted to write about the drag community in Victoria. So, I wrote it, the Martlet liked it, and that one article ended up leading to me becoming a Senior Staff Writer. 

In our continued effort to diversify our paper, we need to hear from you. We can’t do it alone. The more people who are involved in the Martlet, including contributing writers and volunteer editors, the more voices we can share and the more we can help uplift our communities at this time when they are struggling.

And let’s be honest, if I can do it, so can you!