Never stop being curious

One thing I’ve learned by being in this position is to always ask questions

 

It’s fitting that one of our final articles of the year was a speech by Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale on the importance of keeping honest. His talk focused on the importance of fact-checking and sticking to your guns in the face of politicians like Trump and Ford. Though Dale’s advice stretched beyond that of the journalist.

Dale explained during his lecture that when the Toronto Star first broke news of Ford’s crack use, no one believed them. According to Dale, the paper lost tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of subscriptions from people who refused to believe the information. He revealed that the newspaper also gets constant hate from Trump supporters (surprise, surprise).

But Dale’s lecture reminded me of the lessons that I took away from this job and my five gruelling years on this campus. It’s strange to look back on my time here and be reminded of what this newspaper has taught me. To be reminded of the lessons that I have taught myself. To think back on the timid doormat versus the woman now who doesn’t let opposition scare her from stating an opinion.

Looking back on my time here, The Medium has taught me a lot. Rather than drone on for pages, I figured that I would just reflect on some of the most important things that I’ve learned from being a journalist and a student at U of T.

One of the biggest things I learned here was don’t let people step on you. I think it’s part of human nature to be competitive in some areas, but there is a way to do it and a way to not. When I first came to The Medium, there were several editors here would thought it would be appropriate to welcome me in with pretention. They showed no respect and treated me like their inferior simply because they believed that was the case. And they thought this was acceptable. The last time I checked, we were all students. So, unless you pulled the Pope out of quicksand, don’t get it twisted—you’re not better than anyone. Suffice to say, we don’t speak.

But when I joined this paper, I took the abuse. I tried to make nice at first and even contemplated quitting, because I know that would have pleased them. I even cried. Coming straight out of high school as the girl in the back of class with the My Chemical Romance hoodie and pounds of eyeliner, I didn’t really have a backbone. It was difficult, but I kept going. I pushed myself past their belief that I couldn’t do it. I’m now writing my final editorial as editor-in-chief.

Similarly, my infamous controversy with UTMSFL taught me the same lesson. After our news editor had written an article on their distribution of pamphlets, I was pretty stunned to see tweets from their group wrongfully accusing me of harassing my staff. To them, our news editor “clearly agreed” with their message, and they began saying that they hoped I wasn’t giving her a hard time. They even emailed her to ask if she was getting any flak. We then needed to issue a statement reminding people that we obviously speak for ourselves, and our news editor wrote a letter about it all.

But this is exactly my point. You shouldn’t take that from people. Don’t let people put words in your mouth. Don’t let them act better than you. Don’t let them blatantly lie or mistreat you. People don’t speak for you. You speak for you.

This is something I think Dale wanted us to take away from his lecture. When you ask the tough questions and stand strong in your beliefs, you’re going to upset a lot of people. But it’s part of the job. If anything, it’s part of being human. But these are the things that have driven me to succeed and stand by my thoughts and decisions. There isn’t one thing that I have regretted doing this year, and I think that’s how it should be.

I also want to remind everyone that you deserve answers, which is exactly what Dale was talking about in his lecture last week. Regardless of whether or not the administration wants to talk—you deserve to hear the truth. You pay to be here. Even to those new students coming in who will be lucky enough to ride here for free, you deserve answers. Don’t get confused when the university tells you that they’re working on something. How are they working on it? When will any news of their changes be introduced? Why can’t they tell you anything? They can only tell you something is “confidential” for so long before you start to call their bluff.

Silence is Violence, as I mentioned last week, began putting up posters as part of their “Survivors Speak Back” campaign, which was promptly removed by U of T. This week, The Medium spoke to Terri McQuaid, who oversees the activity of the Sexual Violence of Prevention and Support Centre to get her take on this. She told us, “I can’t speak to specific cases; I certainly can speak to the desire of the university with the policy to move forward in responses and sensitive ways to meet the needs of the survivors, and […] reaching out where we know that people want to see supports, accommodation, and services.”

Okay, but… the university has failed, then. You can speak to the desire of the university to move forward in approaching the needs of sexual assault survivors with sensitivity. But the university clearly hasn’t done this. If they did this then Silence and Violence wouldn’t have had to start a campaign exposing the university for their mismanagement of students. So we didn’t get much of an answer. I understand that in this circumstance, there is the argument of confidentiality. But there is also the argument of the university’s beloved reputation, which they wouldn’t dare tarnish. There are holes in that statement, and as a student, you should have the right to comment on them. It’s pretty much common knowledge to the journalist that when you start to frustrate someone, you’re usually asking the right questions. Always keep that in mind.

There are still so many people, after all these years, who say that they don’t care about this paper or they don’t read us. The majority of students probably haven’t even heard of us. But you should get involved. You don’t have to write an exposé on sexual assault on campus, but at the very least you should be educated about it. Journalists are the ones who ask the important questions for the general public. We’re the ones who ask questions that demand the truth. We ask the question that people may not even think to ask. It’s our job.

This doesn’t have to just be true of journalists, though. Stand by your convictions. Question people when they don’t answer you. Always seek to find the truth. I’m about to leave this university and I have finally begun to understand that U of T doesn’t get to hide behind their reputation without acknowledging the students who keep them in business. These are the people who promise to serve the students. They shouldn’t be taking your money while simultaneously keeping you in the dark.

One of the last things I learned here is to be humble. As I mentioned in a previous editorial, we are not better than anyone just because we go here. U of T proves time and time again that they are not all they’re cracked up to be. Once you start digging, you run into another wall they have placed in front of students to keep us from the answers that we deserved a long time ago. As I mentioned in this very editorial, we also don’t get to act better than anyone, period. Be kind to yourself, but don’t disrespect others in the process.

I think over the course of this year I’ve said all I needed to say. Thank you to professors like Brent Wood, Chris Koenig-Woodyard, Ira Wells, Divya Maharajh, Laurel Waterman, Daniela Janes, and Rahul Sethi for getting me through my years here. Thank you to my staff this year, who have stuck by my side, worked their asses off to maintain their sections, and helped to keep the integrity of this newspaper intact. A particularly large thank you to Mahmoud Sarouji, Luke Sawczak, and Maria Iqbal for all their help and guidance this past year. A big shout-out to the people I have met these past five years who have been by my side throughout my university career. I wouldn’t have been able to last this long without all of you.

Just remember: be curious. Stand up for yourself. Demand the truth. Never stop asking questions.

YOURS,
MARIA CRUZ