When news broke that Canadian University Press was in financial crisis, my heart sank. This is an organization that has personally given me so much over the years, on top of providing unique support and opportunities to aspiring student journalists for the past 76 years.
I didn’t know I wanted to go into journalism until I was halfway through my undergrad. Switching programs wasn’t an option because my alma mater doesn’t have a journalism program. Transferring schools specifically for journalism also didn’t seem like the best option, and one of the big reasons why was the Xaverian Weekly and CUP’s presence on my campus.
— Chris Hannay (@channay) February 24, 2014 on Twitter
In many ways, as my former Globe and Mail colleague Chris Hannay pointed out, CUP is Canada’s journalism school alternative. On the simplest of levels, the organization is a co-operative of student newspapers across Canada. It offers services (most notably its newswire and its national conference) and trains this country’s next generation of journalists regardless of how big or small a newspaper or campus may be.
But, on a much higher and intangible level, CUP is an extraordinary network. There isn’t a newsroom in Canada that hasn’t been staffed by someone with fond memories of CUP at some point.
I believe in CUP because I know it works. The organization is built on the backs of people who continuously and unabashedly push their peers to punch above their weight. These relationships extend into this country’s newsrooms, and Canada’s media industry is better for it.
I had been volunteering for the Xaverian Weekly for a few months when I attended my first CUP event — an Atlantic region conference in Sackville, N.B. It was there that I realized there were other people just like me across the country with the same experience and the same goals. It opened my eyes to the broader student press world in Canada, a path that eventually lead me to a position heading up CUP’s editorial services as the organization’s national bureau chief followed by a two-and-a-half-year stint at The Globe and Mail.
This event also introduced me to the man who would become my husband.
Media is stronger when filled with a diversity of people, backgrounds and experiences. CUP plays a role here by attracting those who are passionate and giving them the experience they need to succeed. It exposes students to journalism in an organic way and can give them direction, a network of support and motivation if they choose to pursue it. Magic happens when those hundreds of people get together and share their ideas.
The organization is under the very real threat of shutting down due to a chain of events that have strapped their finances — some of which are CUP’s failures and some of which are not. But, at the end of the day, CUP deserves a chance at a fresh start and the opportunity for real change because what they provide for the next generation of Canadian journalists is too important to lose.