By Sean Wetselaar
It’s late in the fall of 2011, and I’m standing in front of a crowd of editors and writers in the VIP room at the back of the Ram in the Rye. The crowd is excited, holding drinks, chatting amongst themselves. But the upbeat vibe is lost on the four people standing at the front of the audience — this is The Eyeopener’s elections, where the paper chooses its next editors. And I want badly to be one of them.
Tension runs through the small things in the room — drops of sweat trickle from the side of my neck, candidates stand with unusually rigid posture, nervous feet shuffle against hardwood. Then, silence and stillness erupt from the clamour, and all eyes are on me, piercing me, judging me. I take a single, lingering breath. Then I begin to speak.
That was the elections that saw me take over as the Arts and Life editor in early 2012, and in a lot of ways the fear, the stress and the anxiety that accompanied my first run for masthead seem silly to my 2016 self. But it’s hard to explain how desperately I wanted to be a part of the weird, special and indescribable thing that is The Eyeopener. After an adolescence marred by a total lack of understanding of my place in the world, I fell into the grimy, busy, cluttered office on the second floor of the SCC and I was home.
If you haven’t realized already, this isn’t going to be like my other editorials. It’s my last week at the paper and nostalgia has gotten the better of me.
I’ve spent almost five years at the Eye, first as a writer, then as an editor and this year as Editor-in-Chief. I’ve seen mastheads come and go, and I’ve seen Ryerson trundle along on its craggy path toward some kind of recognition as a university. These past five years have been a critical time for the school, as it sheds its old labels and embraces a new era of city building, creativity and education.
It’s early in the summer of 2012 and I’m standing in the empty lot where Sam the Record Man once stood, its vinyl metropolis long-since bulldozed to pave the way for Ryerson’s foray onto Yonge Street.
I’ve just been elected news editor, and I’m here to cover the ground breaking on the new Student Learning Centre. The sparkling megalith is still just a pipe dream, as a line of Ryerson executives and a smattering of press crowd around a pile of hilariously ceremonial topsoil dumped on top of gravel. Shovels crunch through the soil to the tiny stones beneath, shutters click quietly, and the city leaders beam. Everyone is wearing a hardhat, but I’m not sure what they’re protecting us from.
The thing about The Eyeopener is that it’s a weird sort of constant on a campus that prides itself on its ever-changing, diverse tapestry. Next year is our 50th, and as far as I can gather from the many alumni I’ve spoken to about this place (though we have moved offices since the early days), you’d be surprised by how little has changed.
We’ve moved from setting type, to swearing at InDesign while it crashes, and we don’t really need the photo negatives we keep in a filing cabinet anymore. But every week during the school year, a little group of over-caffeinated and outrageously motivated students have gotten together to produce hundreds of newspapers.
There have been a lot of conversations over the past years about the value of print and about the future of media. But I think even if students at a place as modern as a university campus in 2016 don’t realize it, tiny newspapers like ours can still have a huge value. If nothing else, that is illustrated by the tremendous stories my talented team has managed to bring to you this year. If you’re reading this editorial, if it’s making you feel anything, then print, then news, still has a lot more value than its detractors might like to think.
This issue marks the end of a great year of journalism from an organization that has been doing this longer than anyone on campus today can remember. For me, it marks the end of a chapter that has spanned nearly a quarter of my life. But here’s the thing about endings — they are also sometimes beginnings.
As I walk through the glass doors to our offices to produce one last newspaper, one last time, I do it surrounded by the next generation that will be filling these pages long after I’m gone. As someone who’s gotten pretty good at judging these things, I can assure you they’ll be excellent.
And next fall, with new people who have new ideas, we’ll hold elections again. Maybe another first-year student will fall into the clutter, into the chaos. Maybe they too will be home.
It will be different, but it will be the same. The crowd, at once laughing and pondering, will become suddenly quiet. That first-year student will stare into their eyes, and take a single, lingering breath. Then they will begin to speak.