by Tom Peacock
Student journalists from Concordias The
Link and the McGill
Daily hosted the 65th edition of the annual Canadian University
Press (CUP) conference this past weekend at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
The conference was a chance for student editors from CUP member papers
from across Canada to meet, discuss journalism issues, attend any of 25
seminars and workshops on all aspects of journalism, and listen to speeches
by some of the biggest names in Canadian media.
Among the most popular sessions was a series of design workshops with
Ron Johnson from Kansas State University. Conference coordinator J. Kelly
Nestrup from the McGill
Daily said Johnsons technical tips for newspaper layout
and design were greatly appreciated by Cuppies, who frequently
toy with their papers layout. People are very interested in
that stuff, Nestrup said.
Jason Gonziola, a delegate from The
Link, said Johnsons advice was very helpful. Gonziola
approached the expert with a rough draft for a new Montreal magazine called
Sushi in the City,
expected to hit newsstands in a few months. He spent about 15 minutes
with me after the seminar going over the layout, Gonziola said.
Other sessions offered to delegates included seminars on investigative
journalism, travel writing, business reporting, copy editing, and a session
with Benjamin Errett, arts editor from the National
titled Cultural Journalism and the Decline of Western Civilization.
The four-day conference also included several keynote speeches by some
of the biggest names in Canadian journalism, including CBC president Robert
editor-in-chief Anthony Wilson-Smith, former Ottawa
Citizen publisher Russell Mills and Canadian Heritage Minister
During her speech, Copps outlined plans to improve access to post-secondary
education, but the student journalists at the conference seemed less concerned
with their current predicament as students than they were with their professional
futures as journalists.
The speakers variously described how they fell into the business. During
question periods, many of them admitted that it is a far more competitive
job market nowadays.
I applied to three newspapers, and I got offered a fulltime job,
said Copps. That wouldnt happen now. Now you have to apply
at 400 different newspapers for a potential part-time position on a contract
Most of the speakers said that they recognized the fact that real opportunities
in Canadian journalism are few and far between, but there is hope. Wilson-Smith
pointed to electronic media as a potential growth area for media jobs.
I wish I could say we were lining up to hire five of you as soon
as youre done school, but thats probably not going to happen,
Wilson-Smith said. But there are some jobs out there, and overall,
the outlook is good.
CUP delegates also questioned many of the speakers about media convergence.
I think many people were hoping Russell Mills speech would
turn into a CanWest bitch-fest, Nestrup said, but he talked
more generally about why convergence is a bad idea.
Mills was fired by his bosses at CanWest Global last year when he printed
an editorial in the Ottawa
Citizen calling for the prime ministers resignation.
CanWest owns most of Canadas large daily newspapers as well as the
Global televison network.
Wilson-Smith took a different tack than Mills, describing the awesome
power of media corporations nowadays as contributing to their credibility.
He argued they have the power to print what they want without having to
pander to revenue sources.
Yes, they can impose their point of view, and we should be wary
of that, he said. But we should also be wary of those people
who say it was better back then. Things werent much better then,
when journalists were not very well paid and many of them were taking
Former MuchMusic VJ Sook-Yin Lee, gave what many agreed to be the most
entertaining talk of the weekend, describing how she stumbled into the
media world, and how she eventually ended up where she works now, hosting
CBC radios show Definitely
Not the Opera on
People just loved it, Nestrup said of Lees talk. The
conference was definitely the most successful in many years, he
went on. It was the hottest lineup of keynotes weve ever had.
We were very lucky to get all of our first choices.
Nestrup and fellow McGill student Ira Dubinsky co-ordinated the conference
with the help of Link
journalists David Weatherall and Anna Sarkissian.
The Canadian University Press was created in 1938 as a way for student
papers across the country to share news. It is the oldest national student
organization in North America, and the oldest student news service in
It counts over 60 student newspapers in its membership, many of which
were the training grounds for some of Canadas most famous journalists,
writers and politicians.
Author and broadcaster Pierre Berton, columnist Allan Fotheringham, poet
Earle Birney and former prime minister John Turner all wrote for The
Ubyssey, UBCs student newspaper.
Broadcaster and magazine editor Peter Gzowski got his start at The
Varsity, the University of Torontos student newspaper,
and Concordia rector Frederick Lowy, Gazette
columnist Mike Boone, author and Globe
and Mail columnist Jan Wong and songwriter Leonard Cohen all
wrote for the McGill Daily.