Last Words

Meredith and Iain say goodbye to the place that gave them a chance

The editors of The Queen's Journal, Volume 147.
Photo: 

Meredith Wilson-Smith, Editor in Chief

When I walked into 190 University Avenue on May 1 and saw my name on the office door, I burst into tears.

You never know how badly you want something, nor how overwhelmingly happy you are to get it, until it’s in front of you.

Two years before, I felt the same when I got a call saying the interview I thought I bombed meant that I, a scared and confused 18-year-old, would be The Journal’s copy editor. I spent the rest of the afternoon Googling what a copy editor was. That year, I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to touch every page of a newspaper created by the smartest people I’d ever met.

Throughout my three years at this paper, that feeling hasn’t changed.

I’m not alone in that: a 1950s ad says, “Journal needs anyone who needs needing.” I’ve needed everything this paper has given me more than it ever needed me.

What that’s taught me is, while the paper may not be able to love you back, it can surround you with enough love to drive your sense of purpose.

We always say this newspaper has survived three centuries and two world wars. This year alone, the Student Choice Initiative kneecapped student journalism, bringing a vastly reduced budget, staff, and print run. The editor in chief role changed this year, leaving me to raise tens of thousands of dollars to support the newspaper’s survival. A global pandemic sent students home early, bringing an unexpected end to the year.

You’d think just one of those events would be cause for despair. But anybody who’d think that hasn’t met Volume 147.

This is a team of tired teenagers and 20-somethings working every spare moment in a rickety (and probably haunted) house for pennies on the hour. They cover campus sexual assault, sports, and student mental health with grace and grit. They learn on the job while balancing schoolwork and personal pressures.

This team is The Journal more than any article or issue. They work harder and care more deeply than anyone I’ve ever known.

Volume 147, all I wanted this year was to give you even half as much as The Journal gave me, and you still deserve more. Thank you for your trust.

And thank you to those who made this year as special as it’s been.

Joe and Meg, thank you for giving me a shot. I’ll always admire you for the leadership you modelled and the blueprint you left.

Seb and Nick: when you told me I’d be editor in chief, you said, “Welcome to the club.” Any club of yours is a club I want to be in. Thanks for being my older brothers, and for giving me confidence and kindness when I need it the most.

Julia, Laura, and Kiana: you’ve seen and heard it all since Day 1. Thanks for your listening, your encouragement, and your love—and for running errands for me when Ed Board runs late.

Mum, Dad, and Patch: you’ve given me everything. You’re my morning texts, my teary calls, my sources of energy, and my favourite people. Every tough spot feels easier knowing you’re on my team. Thank you for your patience and unconditional love.

To the staff, it’s felt like a miracle watching you scaffold a newspaper from the ground up every coffee-and-snack-driven Thursday. Seeing you work together and become a family along the way has been the greatest privilege I could imagine. You’ve been perfect.

Aidan, you managed to turn every obstacle into a win. Your ability to finesse sales, manage a budget, and vanish a decades-old deficit is unbelievable. Thank you for giving this old newspaper new life, and for always being around for a laugh.

Iain, my partner in crime and the dearest of friends. I can’t imagine this year without you. You’ve kept me sane and been a constant support and sounding board. And who else could make me laugh until I cry during 5 a.m. exporting? I’ll miss our dumb jokes and shorthand, but no goodbyes here—you’re stuck with me, dude.

Raechel and Matt: As I write these last words, I think of how fast next year will fly before you’re writing your own. I know how much you both love the paper and how many experiences lie ahead for you.

Here’s what you should know: you can’t keep the floors clean and the basement won’t unlock. You should catch up on sleep on Sunday nights and always pack a lunch on Thursdays.

Most importantly, there will be times when you can’t imagine having the strength to carry the weight of the paper. When you feel that way, think of everyone you have on your side, and the community of readers keeping you humble and truthful.

You’ll never be alone at The Journal. After all, it’ll always need people who need needing.

Meredith is ready to keep moving forward.

Iain Sherriff-Scott, Managing Editor

Wearing a haphazard Journal press badge, I was standing across from the prime minister, about to ask the question I’d rehearsed quickly in the mirror earlier that morning, when I thought to myself, “How the f—k did I get here?”

That was three and a half years ago. Nervous, I’d scribbled my question down on a piece of paper that would end up hopelessly crumpled by the time I’d need it. Like the experiences of so many of my peers, I was there that day because someone took a chance on me.

Now, after pouring innumerable hours into this newspaper I love, it’s finally time to say goodbye. I could write about how much my time here has meant to me, or how inspired I am by my colleagues—and I will—but I want to first talk about my fears.

It's true that, for a number of reasons, student journalism has been hurting. It hasn’t been easy to handle the impacts of the Student Choice Initiative on campus newsrooms across the province. There’s no easy way to put it, The Journal took some pretty big punches.

But thankfully, and I say this knocking on wood, we’re on the mend.

Beyond provincial policy trying to hamstring funding for student papers, the downturns of the industry have impacted us too. There are signs of hope, like journalism start-ups with promising new business models, but also a lot of uncertainty.

I’m an optimist. I believe the next generation of journalists can solve the challenges ahead. But that doesn’t mean real barriers don’t exist. Student newsrooms can’t handle a second attempt at disrupting their operations from the province.

When I accepted this job, I never could have expected what a transformational year this would become for The Journal. But amid all the turbulence, what’s always given me hope is the strength of the people who volunteer their time to do the hard work of reporting the news for their peers.

The staffers who bring you The Journal every week are some of the most passionate, honest, gritty, and hard-working students on this campus. Every single one of them believes deeply in the role the free press plays on campus, and each of them holds their integrity above all else.

This year’s team experienced unique challenges. But they also achieved some truly incredible feats, including accumulating the most website page views and users ever in one volume, along with a string of award nominations.

Meredith and I couldn’t have asked for a better team, and I couldn’t have asked for a better co-editor. At this point, I can only struggle to imagine how many fires put out, Slack messages sent, Journals italicized, and stories edited remotely from, well, remote locations, we’ve pulled off. As our sports editor likes to say, it’s been an absolute slice.

Day-to-day, when sometimes it feels like nobody’s reading, I remind myself how many members of the Queen’s community value the news we publish. How many times we’ve worked into the night on a story that resulted in real change. How many sources came forward to share difficult and personal stories for the benefit of their peers. And how many times we’ve made the difference to a first-year student who’s struggling to find their place.

The people who bring you The Journal are going to be part of Canada’s media future. They’ll occupy top roles at the country’s most trusted news organizations. They’ll be on the ground reporting from conflict zones around the world. And they’ll have the same commitment to the truth they had here.

For all of these reasons, when I find myself standing in front of the student newspaper I love so dearly one last time this year, I’ll know full-well how I got here.

Like any campus reporter worth his salt, I’ll wrap this one up with a quote.

“There are possibly those who will be tempted to talk of the ‘good old days’ of the Journal. Very Good. But we cannot rest on past reputation. Ours is the present, and for the part we play in it we are responsible.” —Editorial, volume 45, issue 1, Oct. 18, 1918

Iain is ready to keep bringing you the news.

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