Friday, January 07, 2005

The rise of the professional student journalist

A note in my blogging friend and former colleague ColbyCosh's blog is worthy of comment:

On January 21, at the same hour of the day, I'll be hosting a roundtable discussion for the Canadian University Press's national student media conference at the Crowne Plaza in Edmonton. Since I'm not really an expert at anything except being me, the topic will be weblogs and journalism (weblogs vs. journalism?).

As a former CUPpie (I attended CUP 50, CUP 52 and CUP 53) and CUP staffer (I worked for the organization for 8 months for the princely sum of $600 per month), I'm able to point out a trend that Colby's guest appearance points to: the rise of the semi-professional student journalist.

Back in my day (picture me in a rocking chair talking in a quavery crabby old person voice), national CUP conferences were always held in the week between Boxing Day and New Year's Day because those attending were students going to classes. With a January 21 event date, it seems that CUP has moved to a stance of not caring if their student journalists blow off a week of classes to attend seminars and debate punctuation changes in the CUP Statement of Principles.

This is not good. Back when I was a student journalist, CUP at least nodded in the direction of acknowledging that their members were supposed to be average students, well grounded in the educational life of their campus, who happenned to do student journalism on the side. As recently as 15 years ago, most student newspapers paid their editors in the form of tuition wavers or paltry salaries that forced the editors to get student loans that required them to take classes.

This is important to encourage, because one of the few times that student journalists are confronted with frank opinions about the quality of the leftist agitprop that they churn out, is when they come down from Mount Olympus and actually meet the students who read their newspaper. I know this for a fact because my classmates who knew that I wrote for The Ubyssey often buttonholed me about things that they liked or disliked in the paper, even though I was just a reporter. One of the reasons that I never became an editor of the paper was that I was dependent on student loans. I couldn't justify adding thousands of dollars to my student loan tab in order to take one course and blow off the year to be a Ubyssey editor.

If CUP retains a social conscience, why are they discouraging poor people whose first priority is going to school full time from participating in their activities by scheduling their national conference during class time?