Canadian University Press celebrating over 75 years of student press
TORONTO (CUP) — New Year’s Day 1938 saw the birth of a unique and important organization in Canadian print media. As the sun rose over snowy Winnipeg delegates from 17 papers shook hands and signed papers, creating the Canadian University Press.
While the organization has gotten older, the participants haven’t; we’re still students or recent grads, learning about our craft by doing. We like to look back, but we’re still here; we still pound the pavement, poke our noses where we shouldn’t and write stories for, by, and about the post-secondary students of Canada.
Today’s CUP sees an organization spidering across the provinces. A two-person national office hunkers down in the basement of a former bicycle store in Toronto. The chair of the board and the National Francophone Director both happen to share cities this year in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Board members might span the greatest distance ever this year, from Prince George, BC to Sydney Nova Scotia. We have six reporters working on original content placed strategically and three editors curating content from our member papers in sports, arts, opinions, humour, and features.
We’re more than student journalists working together. We stand for things. When we find out about a paper in trouble we try to intervene (if the paper wants us to). We’ve struck partnerships with other media organizations like the Communications Workers of America – Canada (CWA Canada) and Journalists for Human Rights. Perhaps most important, historically, is that we’ve provided or played a part in the training of many of Canada’s journalists. Many schools don’t have journalism programs, and while many have appeared in the last ten years, a common way for journalists to get into the industry was — and is — to write for a student paper, proving a skill set by using it on a regular basis.
That training now comes from a few different places. One may become a bureau chief and spend time writing for CUP, learning by doing at a provincial or regional level and interviewing important policy makers and breaking stories. Some are now part of the CWA Canada mentorship program, meeting with a professional with years in the industry. Others attend the conferences and go to workshops with practical skills explained by people in the industry. In addition, the conferences offer a chance for cross-pollination as students from Vancouver Island to Prince Edward Island share experiences and what they learned, which at times can be cutting edge ideas as students tend to be more experimental than the mainstream media.
Since that cold day in 1938, the organization has seen the good times and bad times: wars, recessions and the forming of modern Canada (CUP predates the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Canadian flag, and Superman). While we’ve changed and adapted with society, our ideals remain kindred with so many other students before us, to bring journalism to the students. If you want to get into this sort of organization, I’m absolutely certain your paper is looking for volunteers.