Toronto Star free subscription a beacon of hope for dying Journalism industry

Op-eds Opinions

TorStar’s decision to give all post-secondary students a free subscription until the federal election is a welcome initiative to remind students of the importance of media

Graphic by Natalie Inez, Design Director.

Ahead of the federal election this fall, the Toronto Star has offered university students a temporary free digital subscription, and in this day and age of Donald Trump and “Fake News” posts circulating throughout the internet, that should be an opportunity we all rush to our laptops for.

It’s a move that comes at an important time, as multiple recent decisions have left the future of journalism in this country incredibly, and sadly, bleak.

The Canadian Press recently cut jobs in response to their declining revenue, Postmedia cut 10 of its newspapers in small towns across the country last year, and just a few weeks ago the Globe and Mail (a newspaper which I’ve subscribed to for over a year) announced they were also cutting costs by offering staff a voluntary buyout.

Five months ago, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a budget reform to make post-secondary more affordable for students in Canada’s most populous province.

On the surface, Premier Ford’s budget plan, dubbed the “Student Choice Initiative,”  allows students to pick and choose which fees they want to pay in a more convenient and cost-friendly way.

However, it came at the cost of hundreds of campus resources which offer invaluable experience for students. The Student Choice Initiative gives students the right to opt out of any fees they deem “non-essential,” like student unions and student newspapers, while allowing campus-wide services such as athletic fees to remain off the chopping block.

It’s a battle of resources I’ve personally experienced throughout my undergraduate time at UVic, and I find myself torn between these two groups.

Even though I live 3 000 kilometres across the country, I was saddened to see the news of a provincial government deciding to place the funding of campus newspapers, unions, and other “non-essential” services as opt-in. After reading countless stories about many journalists losing their jobs at major publications because of the shifting public perception around print media, this seemed to be another gut-punch for my hopes of getting into an industry I so desperately want to get into.

I don’t consider myself a gifted writer, someone who is whimsical with similes and metaphors and can write verbatim about elegant poetic language — I barely know the difference between a lyric and hermit crab essay. But, journalism, and specifically the Martlet, has given me an opportunity to practice a form of writing I love.

I would wake up every morning from elementary to high school, rush down the stairs of my childhood home, and open the front door to grab the morning newspaper. Reading the fresh headlines, seeing the names of my favourite columnists in the byline, and getting the black ink on my fingertips were all moments that exhilarated me. In that time, from grade three to 12, everyday I woke up was like Christmas morning. For that first half hour of the day, I could forget about my worries and read about the Vancouver Canucks from my favourite sports writers.

I also run varsity track and cross country for the Vikes, and use running as an escape from my writing responsibilities. The two, for me anyways, go hand in hand.

When I’m exhausted from staring at a blank document on a computer screen, I’ll go for a run. When I’m drained from a grueling seven mile tempo run, I’ll jot my thoughts down on paper. I can’t imagine one without the other.

That’s why I can’t imaging seeing athletics, one half of my personal passions, being funded while another (journalism) was being distinguished as “non-essential.”

Now, I wonder to myself, who am I to tell students what to do with their money?

You have the right to spend how you please, but to Ontario students thinking of opting out of “non-essential” services like student newspapers, just think of the thousands of student journalists who work well past overtime to publish something they love.

Last issue, our editors and writers here at the Martlet stayed in the SUB until 3 a.m. before our paper went to print — mainly because they had to work off of just one fully functioning computer.

In a time when their competitors are laying off staff, newspapers in small towns are nearing extinction, and politicians are giving cash-strapped students the chance to defund student newspapers, the Toronto Star should be celebrated for giving students a chance to stay informed ahead of the federal election.

They could easily sit back, put their stories behind a paywall, and watch us momentarily groan before opening a new tab to some clickbait article.

I’m not telling you how to spend your money, or become a full-fledged lover of the news like I was at nine-years-old, but after the election when your free trial runs out — think of investing in a credible news source, and the authors who stay up until 3 a.m. doing something they love to do.