Picture this: it’s Dec. 2019, and I’m wearing the most obnoxious Christmas headband. My heels click down the empty hallway in the SUB as I head into the newsroom for our staff Christmas party — equipped with shortbread cookies. Every year I intend to make cookies, and every year I end up buying them from Thrifty’s instead.
But this year, there will be no Christmas headbands, shortbread cookies, or staff parties in our newsroom. COVID-19 has turned out to be one hell of a Grinch. But it’s not just the Christmas parties that I’m nostalgic for. Countless campus events have been forced to cancel this year, and our staff has agreed that 2020 felt incredibly isolating.
My heart goes out to every student that is struggling with the isolation and stress associated with the pandemic. In talking to my peers and members of our Martlet community, I’ve heard hundreds of stories from students about how impossible this year felt. My heart also goes out to students with international family or immunocompromised relatives that they won’t be able to visit. And lastly, my heart goes out to the students that have lost anyone this year, to COVID-19 or otherwise.
I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the stories we’ve told this year. I know many organizations ask for money in their annual Christmas letters, but this letter is just a simple thanks for your support and a reflection on our year.
A lot of our work is devoted to holding institutions, especially UVic, accountable and this year has been no exception.
From January to March, we published numerous stories about the Wet’suwet’en solidarity actions and the Coastal GasLink pipeline. When 5 Indigenous youth were arrested at the Legislature and 12 Indigenous youth were arrested at the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources, we were one of the only outlets actually on scene.
Locally, our coverage of the unhoused community has brought to light the flawed effort to house the city’s most vulnerable. We also continue to cover the struggling arts and culture sector, with an article about the new drag restaurant downtown, a feature on the closed Logan’s Pub, and a forthcoming feature on Hermann’s Jazz Club.
On campus, three feature stories were major investigations — including one about online classes, one about BIPOC representation, and another about UVic women’s rowing coach Barney Williams and the allegations of abuse against athletes.
One of our most popular stories of the year was an investigation into the Canada Student Service Grant. The abandoned program was the subject of the ongoing WE Scandal. It promised students up to $5 000 for volunteering, but the money never materialized and students were left on read by the federal government.
As the curtain closes on 2020, I’d also like to tell you about what the Martlet has in store in 2021. We owe it to our community to be transparent and I’m not one to waste time with platitudes, so I’ll get right into what we are doing to better serve our community.
I have three goals for my tenure:
- Enact systemic changes to make our newsroom more anti-racist and anti-colonial
- Increase the accessibility of our stories
- Prioritize the mental health of staff and volunteers
Here’s an idea of what those goals look like, materialized. First, the Indigenous-focussed issue will be distributed in early January. We are currently accepting pitches, and eight selected writers will be paid $150 for their work. The cover will feature Indigenous art, and the artist will be paid $200 for their work. No prior experience is required.
Importantly, I will be stepping away from the Editor’s chair for this issue. The Native Students Union Communications Coordinator and Martlet Senior Staff Writer Boston Laferté will guide and shape this issue. By devoting an entire issue to Indigenous stories, we hope to draw attention to the stories left untold when we don’t pay and support Indigenous journalism. The Martlet and our broader media landscape disproportionately favours white settler perspectives.
To make the Martlet more accessible, we’ve started our Martlet podcast. Laura Smith’s clear and professional voice has transformed our stories into a digestible biweekly audio form. We’ve partnered with the lovely folks at CFUV, so search CFUV to find it on all streaming platforms.
Our team has tried to prioritize a collaborative and relationship-based approach to our journalism. We’ve implemented more co-writing and strengthened our professional relationships with campus and community partners. The co-writing has been really well received, and has allowed new writers to get mentored rather than jump in the deep end alone.
As hard as this year has been, it’s also been inspiring to watch the community help those in need. In that vein, I’d like to sincerely thank you, dear reader, for continuing to support us. As of Nov. 23, we surpassed last year’s web views by 53 255. Please continue to share our articles with your friends. Every “hey have you read this one?” goes a long way.
I’m proud of us. But I know we can do better, and I know there are more ideas you might have for the Martlet. I welcome all critiques, compliments, and kind suggestions via my e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.