CampusOpinion

Editorial: A five-year review of The Gateway

Since my time here, I have seen the institution change in more ways than one

Since my first day at The Gateway, I’ve seen a lot of changes.

When I started as a volunteer writer in January 2016, The Gateway was still a weekly newspaper. It wasn’t that much different than it is now; there were still volunteer meetings where students of all stripes could show up to learn how to do journalism and take pitches. I won’t lie and say that the atmosphere of The Gateway wasn’t intimidating — walking into that office for the first time, sitting in the couch room, shooting the shit with writers and editors more vastly experienced than me, and taking my first pitch, scared the shit out of me. But once I got that first taste of a byline — an opinion piece about newspaper comments section and free speech — I was hooked.

It was at The Gateway that I found a supportive network of fellow volunteers who shared my enthusiasm for telling stories and editors who were more than willing to clean up my godawful copy and teach me how to write coherently. Through the stories I took on — whether it was columns, news coverage of campus events, or arts pieces — I grew a deeper connection to the University of Alberta campus. It was a sense of duty to make sure that students knew about the important things going on in their campus community, as well as in the world beyond. 

As a new volunteer that year, I unfortunately didn’t get to see press nights — those long shifts where editors slotted their stories into their respective slots on the newsprint, wrote up stories to fill their sections, and stayed up till the wee hours of the morning making sure everything was perfect and ready to head to the printers. It was often gruelling work, done by students who already had intense course loads. But I appreciate the hard work they did nonetheless — they sacrificed sleep, class time, and sometimes even sanity to get those papers on stands.

The next year, however, in September 2016, the newspaper disappeared and a magazine appeared in its place. The Gateway was one of the first student newspapers to make the switch to a monthly magazine, meaning we had no real models to follow. We had to forge a path forward, whether we liked it or not. Our daily coverage, which had appeared in our newsprint, had to shift to being published on our website, which while we had not totally neglected, was not exactly optimized for daily coverage. There was a lot of change to be had, and the first year of the magazine was a rough go.

Steadily, however, we were able to find our footing. The purposes of the magazine and the website became more clear — the magazine was not to be just a monthly version of our newsprint product with a few extra features thrown in, but a place where features, investigative reporting, and more creative content could all exist in a unique product. The website became the place for our bread-and-butter articles: news, opinion, and arts. It underwent several redesigns to make it more reader-friendly and easier to navigate. By the time I had been hired as Opinion Editor in 2018, The Gateway was truly coming into its own as a dual online/magazine publication, and my goal as the newly-hired Editor-in-Chief was to use this footing to make The Gateway the strongest publication it has been yet. 

Throughout my time at this publication, I have seen the good The Gateway does on campus: covering tuition, residence rent, and meal plan increases, covering students protests, holding the U of A and other bodies like the University of Alberta Students’ Union to account, and highlighting student achievements. I have also seen how The Gateway has examined its own faults and worked to improve its coverage, whether it be ensuring that student elections coverage focuses on the issues over the candidates, or highlighting the stories that typically go unreported. And while there is always work to be done — The Gateway is not perfect — we have a come a long way as an institution, both in our coverage and in the way we present ourselves to new students and potential volunteers. The days of The Gateway being an old boys club, isolated from the rest of campus on the third floor of SUB and sneering at the rabble going on below are over: our newsroom is a place for everyone to try their hand at journalism and maybe sell their soul to the cause of campus reporting that is strong and inclusive. 

It’s nearly 2020 — nearly the end of my time at the University of Alberta and The Gateway. And even we’ve done amazing work thus far, there’s still so much more to do: coverage of Students’ Union executive elections, hiring next year’s staff, and continuing to still put out our regular issues and stories. There are also bigger things to consider as well, such as the shift of the world of journalism to the web and how The Gateway can best pivot to serve the needs of its readers digitally; how The Gateway as an organization can connect with students beyond just coverage and opening up our office to new volunteer writers. The Gateway is an entity that will continue to grow, change, and shift as time goes on, and given the time I have spent here, I can say for certain that we’re going nowhere but up. 

Andrew McWhinney

Andrew McWhinney is a fifth-year English and political science combined honors student, as well as The Gateway's 2019-20 Editor-in-Chief. He was previously The Gateway's 2018-19 Opinion Editor. An aspiring journalist with too many opinions, he's a big fan of political theory, hip-hop, and being alive.

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