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Thoughts from NASH 80

The theme of the issue you are holding is travel. Within this volume of the Brunswickan, you will find many facets of travel,  but there is one underlying aspect that weaves throughout all of the features—that of a more personal journey. In her feature, Emma MacDonald traces the journey that Syrian refugees have faced since arriving in New Brunswick. It is a story of struggle but also of joyful success. Huilin Li recounts what she has learned through her experience as a Chinese exchange student at UNB, while Alex Landine shares how he found excitement in the “unfamiliarity and uncomfortableness” of his travels in Morocco, as well as what he has learned from the fashion of a different culture. Arts Editor Ryan Gaio reflects on his own experience abroad and how he “found himself” in his monthly installment. On this note, and in the spirit of this travel theme, I would like to share a journey that I, as well as the Bruns, have embarked upon this year.

Last weekend, I and five other members of the Brunswickan staff were fortunate enough to attend the 80th annual national conference (NASH) of the Canadian University Press (shoutout to UNB Communications, UNB Conference Service and the Dean of Arts for sponsoring us!). From the opening keynote, it was evident that the conference and its speakers were going to challenge us to rethink our role as journalists and our duty to the public.

Ginella Massa, both Canada’s first hijab-wearing television news reporter and major newscast anchor, delivered that first keynote. She talked about the importance of representation in the newsroom, especially when it is still often seen as a risk to place people of visible minorities in public positions. Towards the end of her address, Massa reminded the room full of student journalists that, by virtue of being journalists, we have a form of privilege. We choose what to cover and whose voices get heard, and we need to open the door to to more of these voices and their stories.

This challenged me, personally. Coming in this year as EIC for a second round, one of my goals was to tell the stories that might not otherwise be heard. One thing that is unique about the campus press is that we are not confined to covering stories that might drive more online traffic or to choosing topics that might traditionally be more appealing to our audience. We don’t have to worry about selling our content (since we offer it for free). This gives us greater freedom to chase after whatever stories we feel led to cover, ones which we feel students should know about. I wanted to run with this freedom and take it as far as I could, because when else will I get the chance to do so?

I tried to approach this by simply saying yes more often. This meant that I readily agreed to the majority of the stories pitched by my editors and reporters, instead of trying to lead them to the stories I was primarily interested in—the ones that were visible within my sphere of lived experiences. My background at the Bruns—I suppose you could call it my beat—has been anything to do with UNB’s governance and labour issues. I’m drawn to these stories, and the last time I was EIC, I definitely pushed my staff to write more articles on the topic. However, while these types of stories are important and still worth coverage, they are not the only ones that need to be told.

This year, I’ve been trying not to lead my staff in our choice of coverage. As such, the Bruns has covered many stories over the past few months that have pushed me out of my comfortable bubble as a white, straight, cis editor. We’ve done features on the Nike Pro Hijab, Drag Bingo, and Indigenization, among others—all stories that I would not have thought to cover on my own (to my very great discredit). While we at the Bruns still have a long ways to go, it’s a small start in a direction that more accurately represents the diverse experiences of the UNB community. And after our experience at NASH 80, I realize that we need to put much more effort into this endeavour.

What really jumped out at me at the conference was that the simple approach of saying yes  is a passive way of attempting to bring more diverse voices into the Brunswickan. Through the many sessions I attended at NASH, I’ve realized that I, and the Brunswickan as a whole, need to be far more active in seeking out such stories. We need to be looking for the voices of the under-represented and giving them a platform for their stories, should they wish to have one.

As Massa said in her keynote, “we fear what we don’t know.” As journalists writing for the UNB community, it is our duty to write stories that better represent the whole of this community, rather than highlighting the voices of privilege that are more often given such a platform. We need to make it so that there are fewer unknowns among our readers when it comes to the diverse experiences on this campus—much like travelling expands our personal horizons.

Those of us who attended NASH 80 are returning challenged to do more to better represent all of the UNB community in our coverage. For the sake of accountability, we are recording this pledge publically and we hope that you follow us as we head in this new direction. If you think that we are misrepresenting or neglecting any voices, please let us know—it’s your paper, after all. Like Alex Landine discovered in his travels last month, there is excitement to be found in allowing oneself to be uncomfortable and to experience the unknown, so I hope that you will join us!

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