Stephen Hume: Why do we need the Martlet?

Alumni Testimonials

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

The Martlet and I met by accident. We were teenagers. It wasn’t supposed to be a long-term thing. But here we are, still pals half-a -century later. My only newspaper writing (I proofread classified ads and got the coffee in my summer job) occurred the one night I took telephone re-write from an inebriated reporter. That was it. But “it” was good enough for then-editor Deryck Thompson. At least I could type fast. Good thing, too. Times were tumultuous.

UVic’s presidents came and went like B.C. Lions quarterbacks. Students protested, faculty protested, administrators reacted. The Martlet was sucked into in a vortex of power struggles and factionalism.

Editors resigned, staff came and went. The RCMP even seized the front page and the paper published it blank. Yet The Martlet shaped a generation of distinguished writers, editors, jurists, artists, activists, educators – you name it. The mastheads from 50 years ago record: Paul Williamson, Supreme Court justice; Bob Higginbotham, another judge; Jeff Green, defence lawyer. Bob Mitchell — the last time I talked with Bob he was bound for Nicaragua to teach villagers the arts of beekeeping. Managing editor Susan Mayse won national awards for the first serious book about radical labour leader Ginger Goodwin. Editor Mark Hume became columnist and national correspondent for The Globe and Mail and writes award-winning books like River of the Angry Moon. David Climenhaga, reporter and editor with The Globe and  Mail and The Calgary Herald, now a respected political blogger and author of A Poke in the Public Eye, a book on media and politics. Olenka Melnyk was a reporter and editor at The Edmonton Journal and authored No Bankers in Heaven, the oft-cited history of the CCF. Mary Morgan, Alan Jones and Marlene Almond, all are fine visual artists. And The Martlet continues to tirelessly graduate its staff to remarkable achievements. John Thompson, editor of The Yukon News; Mary Vallis, journalism prof.

I could now deliver the boiler plate about the value of publications like The Martlet: they hold authority accountable; they speak truth to power; they give voice to the voiceless; they look unflinchingly into the dark corners where nobody enjoys looking; they tell elites what ordinary people are thinking and ordinary people what elites are up to; they inform citizens so that citizens may do their duty responsibly; they hold up the mirror in which their community may examine itself – warts and all. All doubtless true. But the real reason The Martlet is important and deserves to endure another 70 years is that it’s a nursery where talented young people may find their muse and discover not just what they want to do, but what they are compelled to do.

 

Stephen Hume worked for The Martlet from 1966 to 1970. He has written for The Victoria Colonist, The Victoria Times, The Edmonton Journal and The Vancouver Sun and other Canadian, American and European periodicals. His magazine credits range from Life to Canadian Geographic. He’s written nine books and contributed to a dozen more anthologies, textbooks and reference books.


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