Adventures in Eyeopening

In Features /

We asked former Eyeopener editors to tell us their favourite tales from the newsroom

Gerbils like to sleep at night. I know this because I looked it up in the wee hours one Monday, too distracted to work because of the gerbil squeaking and spinning furiously in its wheel on the other side of my office wall.

Our solution was to cover its cage with a T-shirt in an effort to simulate night and get the poor little guy to sleep. He had a busy schedule to manage, what with all the campaigning and debating and posing for photo shoots.

That year, after a visit to a local pet store, signatures were gathered and soon the Scoop W. Gerbil for President signs went up. A few inches long, with grey fur, a habit of relieving himself (herself?) in people’s hands and a chronic case of insomnia on production nights, Scoop ended up capturing a decent number of student votes — for a rodent.

Whatever we were trying to prove, it was a fun few weeks.

Captivity in the squalid stench of The Eyeopener’s basement office in Jorgenson Hall probably took a few months off Scoop’s life. Taken care of post-university by one of the newspaper’s writers, he took his last breath just a few short weeks after the start of the new school year. Had he been in office, the mourning would have been deep and soulful. As it were, we nodded our heads and silently gave thanks for his sacrifice in the name of a great story.

Congratulations on 45 years of great stories.

— Lori Fazori, Facts & Arguments Editor at the Globe and Mail
Editor-in-Chief, 2000-01

When I was an Eyeopener editor in 2008, it can be said with confidence that I shortened the lifespan of a few of the editors on masthead.

There was the time I nearly slipped into a diabetic coma before our masthead meeting. Or that other time when I didn’t size my photos properly, leaving a certain features editor to clean up the mess minutes before deadline on Tuesday.

But this isn’t a story to reminisce about those fuck ups. Instead, it’s about what I did to make up for them. (Not really, but anyway.)

It was April, 2009, during our year-end elections. At the time I was the Ryersonian managing editor. The Eye masthead, along with aspiring editors and reporters, were all crammed into the resident campus watering hole, the Ram in the Rye, to watch students fight to death
for masthead positions.

The evening was progressing splendidly (which is to say we were served beer quickly) until about halfway through the election speeches.

That’s when the fire alarm went off.

Following a collective exclamation of “FUCK” (and one worried cry of “SOMEONE SAVE THE BEER”) the whole bar evacuated onto the street.

As we all took survey of the scene outside, I noticed that I had left the lights on at the Ryersonian office across the street. At about the same time, the Ram staff came out to tell us it would probably be another hour before we could go back in.

That’s when it struck me.

“Guys…”

No one paid any attention.

“GUYS, WE SHOULD HOLD THE ELECTIONS IN THE RYERSONIAN.”

Everyone turned around to face me. Most thought it was awesome. A few were worried about the lack of alcoholic beverages. The lowlife news team nodded enthusiastically, probably because they wanted to steal the superior sked I had put together for that week.

“Shmuel, I don’t say this often to you, but that’s brilliant,” Liane exclaimed.

With that, the crowd of roughly four dozen journalism and miscellaneous program students crossed the street to hold the Eyeopener elections inside the Ryersonian office. Sure, we probably violated a building code or something, but it made for one hell of a memorable election. Except for when that one young lady decided to use the washrooms which were located directly behind our improvised podium. Man, that was an awkward flush.

— John Shmuel, Financial Post Reporter
Biz & Tech Editor, 2008

If I wrote this 10 years ago, I’d be writing about forcing a sports editor to write an 8,000 word feature, being visited by an angry ‘mob’ of students or how Graeme Smith spent a good half year at the couch outside my office while we mused about our latest investigative piece. But what I will say is that The Eyeopener was lucky to have us brave souls who would sacrifice our university careers and health for the privilege of putting out The Eye — we pumped out what I we thought was genius.

Okay, I once got a resume in a little pile. One letter was from someone who described her as a superwoman with super powers who could run The Eyeopener as its next GM. It was a wacky, crazy and odd-ball cover letter. No one in their right mind would have called the candidate back.

How does it end? Ask Liane. And you’re welcome.

— Kenny Yum, Managing Editor at The Huffington Post Canada/AOL Canada
Editor-in-Chief, 1998-99

During my various terms as sports editor of the Eyeopener, it’s safe to say that I liked eating — my feelings, mostly.

Bread was the first choice, but I usually kept a box of Pop Tarts on my desk because I am a disgusting frat boy. But I really liked pies. I always got the “Pie for two” size, even though it was totally a “Pie for One Single, Sad, White Female” size.

Don’t worry, this is all relevant.

News editor Amit Shilton always stole my food (This allegation is unfounded) so I tried my best to hide my goods from everyone. I bought a severely discounted pie at Metro one day in March and stashed it under my desk, where at any time you could find an assortment of sports bras, shoes, socks, and once, a toothbrush.

I returned the next day to find my pie had been STOLEN. I was raging. I accused everyone who was currently in the office. I said very terrible things. It was not my best hour.

Then Liane came into the office. Liane always has the answers, and as it turned out she was the pie thief. Or, really, the pie mover. You see, she was taking care of a friend’s dog and brought him into the office. I left my pie on the floor, because I figured the Eyeopener men would be too lazy to bend over and steal my pie. I was right!

What I didn’t know is that the hiding spot was an open dinner invitation for our canine friend. So to avoid dog poisoning, Liane put my pie in a cabinet in the server room, which as you know can get quite hot. But she didn’t think to tell me. So my pie melted. I ate it anyway.

No dogs were harmed in the writing of this story.

— Erin Valois, Online Sports Editor at the National Post
Sports editor, 2008-10

So it’s 4 p.m. on a Tuesday in the newsroom and Drew Halfnight and I (we were co-news editors at the time) were stuck with a story about the bird flu on page five and no art. Clearly we needed something quick and dirty. “Dude, let’s use a rubber chicken,” Halfnight said.

I think somewhere in the back of our heads we knew this was a bad idea because when we called over a photo editor, we picked Daniel Bray, a photography student with hair like a surfer and a disposition to match.

“Whoa, that’s a great idea!” he said. Wait, what? Really?

“I can cut it out, then you can put the chicken diagonally across the words. It’ll be awesome man,” he said.

Right about then editor-in-chief John Mather swooped in with Jamie “The Responsible One” McLeod, the other photo editor. Bray and Halfnight made their pitch.

“No, you two are not going to do something you’ve never done before at 4:15 p.m. on a Tuesday,” Mather said. “And besides all that, you want to use a rubber chicken? A fucking rubber chicken?”

So Bray and Halfnight make the same pitch again, a little louder this time, punctuating the “It’ll be really cool!” part. A shouting match followed.

In the end, we ended up using a slightly more dignified headshot of a live chicken. Bray offered to cut that one out for us too.

—Eric Lam, Reporter at the Financial Post
News and Biz & Tech Editor, 2005-08

Every year, the Eyeopener hosts a Drink Olympics to thank volunteers for all their hard, unpaid work. The year I was News Editor, the Olympics involved a “Slumming on Dundas” pub crawl.

We started at The

Imperial Pub and steadily moved east, each bar seedier than the last. After the Imperial, we moved on to Mounties — a staple of Dundas street, where the only beer on tap is “something like Export” with a smooth gasoline aftertaste. The next stop was the New Moon bar. While Mounties hosted a relatively upbeat, down-on-their-luck clientele, New Moon’s patrons were more sinister.

When the Editor-in-Chief pulled out the hula-hoops, a man at the bar pulled me aside. His name was Jimmy. He said he rode with Hell’s Angels, and had a tattoo to that effect. Jimmy told me New Moon was not an ideal place to host a hula-hoop competition. In a somewhat charitable gesture, Jimmy offered to get us into our next location (Filmore’s) for free if we agreed to leave New Moon immediately. We agreed.

Before leaving New Moon, Jimmy informed the group it was time to leave. Then he pointed to me and proclaimed to the bar: “And if anyone messes around, I am going to break this guys legs.” As we walked to Filmore’s, Jimmy complained that the Hell’s Angels get a bad rap in the media. When we arrived, Jimmy fulfilled his promise and we got in for free. From here the night deteriorated. Our Editor-in-Chief upset Jimmy by clanking her glass against his without consent. Jimmy responded by indicating to me he had a gun (he pulled my hand to the back of his pants so I could feel it). I went to the bathroom to

escape. Jimmy followed and tried to sell me $5 worth of marijuana for $40. He threatened another editor who walked in. At this point, I gave up and left the bar. After which, I later learnt, Jimmy then told my co-editors I owed him $80. Thankfully, I never saw Jimmy again.

— John Mather, Law Student at Western University
Editor-in-Chief, 2007-08

Funniest memory: when we stacked tens of thousands of extra old Eyeopener copies (still bound from the printer) in front of the Ryersonian offices. We had been trying to clear out the archives. We couldn’t fit them all in the recycling so who better to finish the job for us? Stealing the photocopier was also pretty awesome.

Another great memory is sticking it to James Norrie whenever I did an interview with him. Can’t forget getting served with papers for defamation by association.

— Maurice Cacho, Producer at CTVNews.ca
News, Photo and Biz & Tech Editor, 2005-08

For most students, September means the beginning of classes, assignments and exams. For Eyeopener editors, it’s often a time to begin planning their takedown of the RSU. I never would have guessed our masthead’s victory would be served with whipped cream.

More often than not, student union elections are plagued by apathy. Boring candidates and a system that shuts out independent hopefuls usually leads to a measly student turnout.

In 2009, Tom Dolezel looked to change that. His main campaign pledge? Waffle day. He lost that election, but the next year we

decided to take up his cause. Free waffles to every Ryerson student. It was probably our best idea of the year.

The RSU thought so too. In the hopes of capitalizing on our event, they challenged us to a waffle showdown. It was on.

The night before the event, we got word the RSU was planning a massive spread: fresh fruit, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. There was no way we were going to let them steal our day.

Our team got into game mode. More waffle irons. More toppings. A DJ with loudspeakers. An invitation to president Levy.

The next day, with our arms covered in batter and a line 50 people deep, our secret weapon rolled up to the curb: an ice cream truck.

As the truck came into view, its jingle blaring down Gould, it was clear who came out on top. Both sides would end up serving

Ryerson students hundreds of free waffles and ice cream cones. The students won.

Despite all the great stories and scoops we published that year, it was easily my proudest moment. And it was, of course, the sweetest victory.

— Amit Shilton, Page Editor at the Toronto Star
Editor-in-Chief, 2009-10

I worked at the Eyeopener from 1998 to 2003. During that time I cruised for sex in the school toilet stalls for an award-winning feature story, was refused an interview and laughed at by the rapper Maestro after turning up backstage at a concert looking totally disheveled and foggy following a sub-zero protest march against student fee hikes, wrote an obit about a beloved social work prof that died in a car accident, edited the Arts & Entertainment section of one semester, covered the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time, wrote a news story with the headline “Student wanted to plant flowers,” attempted to draw attention to the plight of disabled student in need of home care, came up with the idea to exploit a lesbian classmate as a titillating sex columnist, breathlessly and

tenaciously covered a student council insurrection, staked out most major university executives’ offices at six in the morning, wrote and published my first and only piece of creative non-fiction, got a job at the Toronto Star that started on September 12th, 2001, conducted my first band interview in the El Mocambo washrooms, interviewed journalist Robert Fisk over the phone whilst hung over and crouched on the floor in my underwear in my furniture-less bedroom at six in the morning, wrote too many stories about the state of affairs surrounding the cafeteria at the behest of crusading news editors, was rebuked by a philosophy prof as crass and sensationalist for attempting to cover a guest lecture by a dominatrix and briefly

became a social smoker, among other things.

— Kevin Ritchie, Freelance Journalist
Arts Editor, 1998-2003

It was a Monday afternoon and the last six days had represented perhaps the most boring week in Ryerson’s history. I had absolutely no idea what to put on the cover. As editor-in-chief I was dogmatically executing an agenda of sensationalist, sexualized and controversial front pages. If someone didn’t call to complain, the masthead would not be paid. Putting an “RSU moans about something boring” story on Page 1 was not an option.

So I did what I always do when I’m stuck: I turned to the past to steal ideas and pass them off as my own.

Decades ago in Eyeopener history, a writer had went on a rampage stealing equipment around campus to highlight security problems. I remembered the story when present-day Ryerson security issued a press release reporting a string of computer and printer thefts. Perfect. I sent my news team to the Dollarstore to buy some masks. That night half a dozen of us in cartoon Halloween masks swiped a photocopier, printers, a podium and a fax machine, among other things. We took them for a walk around the Ryerson neighbourhood. No one stopped us. (We eventually put stuff back.) The stunt was the lede to a very serious story about flawed security and the issue was one of the most read of the year.

It was classic Eyeopener. Unapologetic fun meets hard-hitting journalism.

— Robyn Doolittle, Reporter at the Toronto Star
Editor-in-Chief, 2006-07

Comments

Leave a Comment