Last Words

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Midway into what promised to be a long press night, I was on the phone with an interview subject who asked me, before he hung up, “I won’t see a headline I don’t like in tomorrow’s paper, will I?”

I have no idea if he saw a headline he disliked in that Friday’s paper. I do know that if we stuck to content that made people feel warm and fuzzy inside, this would be a pretty crappy publication.

People don’t always enjoy reading about campus racism, poor governance and budget overruns. They definitely don’t enjoy reading anything that makes them or their friends look bad.

This year I had the fabulous luck to work with a group of individuals who don’t mind spending 40-plus hours a week becoming the most vilified people on campus; people who would spend six hours elbowing their way through Aberdeen Street—sober—so they could tell people what happened on the Saturday night of Homecoming weekend; who would cold-call and harass people until they got the answers they needed.

There’s no good way to articulate the living, breathing organism that is the Journal, just as there’s no way to describe the wrenching feeling of having to leave.

This paper’s an unlikely incubator of journalistic talent. It has a brutal turnover rate and little in the way of formalized training, but the people who work here comprise the most concentrated pool of talent and dedication I have ever had the privilege of encountering.

Each of them has the ability and drive to be the best journalists in the country; if any of their bylines don’t appear on the cover of a major newspaper or magazine in the near future, it’ll be because they found something better to do.

In this year’s letters section we’re condemned for being both cowardly and sensationalistic; for discriminating against students of colour, white students, women, men, members of the LGBTQ community, the AMS, the SGPS, the administration, democracy and the planet.

That range has got to be a good sign.

That said, we made a lot of mistakes this year, for which I apologize: I didn’t double-check facts and name spellings; I didn’t ask the right questions, or enough of them; I didn’t trust my gut, or those of our staff; I forgot about things, or let them slip through the cracks in the hope everything would turn out OK.

I’m sorry. That’s my bad.

I can’t, unfortunately, take credit for the amazing parts of the Journal this year: the stellar, breaking-news coverage of the provincial and AMS elections, in-depth articles on the University’s athletics review, profiling up-and-coming Kingston artists, on how the University raises money, the state of Queen’s Centre construction, innovative ways to cure a hangover and a three-part series on where Queen’s is going.

Those are entirely thanks to our vastly talented, dedicated and overworked staff.

Thank you all so, so much.

Em and Jen: thanks for hiring a clueless second-year who knew shit-all about newspapers. I don’t know why you did it, but I can say without a hint of hyperbole that your unwarranted leap of faith made my life.

Matt and Brendan: thanks for teaching me how to be a journalist, and for being unreasonably amazing human beings. I’m better at layout now, I swear.

God dammit, Katherine. How did we get here and what’s going on?

I don’t know how we made it through this year and I don’t know what I would have done without you. Thank you for being there, and for being you.

If someone had told my half-competent, assistant-news-editor self I would someday have the incredible good fortune to run this paper, I would have laughed.

In fact, someone did. And I did.

And she has made herself insufferable ever since.

Thanks, Gabe.

You’re the heart and soul of the Journal. I can’t imagine this paper without you and I can’t imagine how I’ll make it without you telling me what’s what.

It’s tough to up and leave a place to which you owe your sense of purpose and any chance you have at a job. It’s tougher to do so coherently.

With this in mind, I apologize profusely for the previous 700 words.

Thanks for reading.

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Anna Mehler Paperny needs to pull it together.

Our last editorial board meeting was on Monday and it was a sorry sight. Gone were the thrilling, eager days of September. A tougher, more strained energy filled the room, exemplified by the six editors who had periodically fallen asleep, the two editors who were coughing and sniffling and the staff member who collapsed in my arms after the meeting out of sheer exhaustion.

You might think I’m kidding. I’m not.

The exhausted and incredible people you see below you are who this page is really about.

It’s not a good time to be a Queen’s student. When department budgets are slashed in favour of a capital project $41 million in debt; when a professor—or anyone, for that matter—is pushed from the sidewalk and harassed because of her race; when a student-run pub is unilaterally shut down and its staff fired by e-mail, and when those responsible for these and myriad other problems refuse interviews and withhold information from the Journal and from you, you have to ask yourself where this University is going.

I don’t know how to fix the systemic problems Queen’s faces. But I do know the people you see on this page poured everything they had—and then even more than that—into an idea they passionately believe in: the work they do at the Journal can help make Queen’s better. As one section editor told me, they want to be part of something great. I hope he, and every other member of our staff this year, realizes it’s people like them that make the Journal so much more than a newspaper.

Each time an editor made a point in an editorial board discussion, argued with me about a section change or laughed with me (or at me) about one of my stupid jokes, I was reminded of the intelligent, driven and talented company I had the privilege of keeping, and keeping up with, this year.

They stood up for themselves, this newspaper and the hope that this school can be better.

Volume 135, you are the covert, shining stars of this campus. We pushed you, and you not only rose to the challenge, you challenged me.

At every single ed board, press day and especially final checks at 5:30 a.m., your tireless enthusiasm and smiles were inspiring.

Each of you should be overwhelmingly proud of what you did this year. There aren’t words big enough to articulate how much respect I have for every single one of you. The Journal—and I—wouldn’t be the same without you.

Gabe: The Journal and everyone here would be lost without you. I can only hope to be as strong a woman as you are one day. (And I’m investing in a louder alarm clock for the summer, I promise.) Brendan and Matt: I couldn’t ask for better teachers, mentors or friends. Thanks for rolling the dice on me.

Kat and Erin: Your soup, laughs, blankets and shoulders took good care of me this year.

Thank you.

Anna: Your dedication and perseverance leave me awestruck every day. You pushed me to be better each step of the way. I won’t miss dealing with the crazies, but I will miss having you by my side in the face of adversity. I can’t wait to call you when you’ve won your first NNA. That’s right, I said first.

And to you, the reader: you gave me the best job on campus.

Whether it was a letter, a phone call or waving that morning’s paper angrily in my face, I relished every second of it.

You may never know how much passion these people put into these pages. But ask yourself this: when you open the paper in the morning and read something that excites or incenses you, do you care enough to become a part of it or take a stand against it?

Don’t settle for less—our staff never did.

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Katherine Laidlaw can’t leave yet. She still hasn’t found her sea legs.

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