Conceptualizing the future
A note on journalism of years past and years to come
First things first, welcome (or welcome back).
If you’re reading this, it’s not too late. You’re in Toronto, you’re alive, you’re ready.
That’s what I know about you. It’s not much, but it’s a start. I hope I will get to know you better.
When I started thinking about this editorial, it was dead summer and I was selling shoes and grant-writing to pay tuition. I wasn’t worrying about anything that wasn’t right there in my field of vision. I was trying to preserve my energy, after one hell of a year that took too much out of all of us.
Around this time, in peak summer, I heard the news that MTV fired half of their editorial staff. They cited a shift away from longform articles and towards “video content” as the main motive. Shortly thereafter, VICE Media let go of about 2% of their staff, worldwide, cutting down on mainly editors and writers in favour of “ramping up video production.” Even the Toronto Star reportedly laid off 110 employees in 2017, mainly because of a dip in ad revenue and subscription revenue, which left them coming up short.
This isn’t the first we’ve heard of the world of publishing becoming more and more narrow or limited. It seems to me that we, as student journalists, as writers, and artists in general, are constantly fighting to remain on the map, to gain readership, to be taken seriously. Just last year, our outgoing Editor-in-Chief, Erik Preston, even wrote an editorial accentuating the ways in which we, as student journalists, are still relevant.
On a related topic, I am always fascinated by the degree of disapproval that comes with studying just about anything at university that isn’t directly career-related: the worry in my parent’s eyes when I told them I wanted to double major in Women and Gender Studies and Book and Media Studies; every other person asking what I’ll be doing with my degree; and those who roll their eyes when I give them my answer. I’ve learned to take it all with a grain of salt, but I can’t help but look around and wonder what our future will look like.
The world of publishing is incontestably changing. On a macro or micro scale, whether it is a large media outlet shutting down or cutting numbers, people caring less about the reliability and truth of what they read, the age of the Internet, the age of fake news, or a combination of many other factors—we will have to adapt.
Some time in the middle of summer, I was worried, but I resolved not to lament. I believe that print media is going extinct. I don’t believe that our attention spans are too short to read through a thorough piece. I refuse the popular conviction that Millennials are entitled, unfocused, or too absorbed by their phones to take part in a meaningful conversation. In fact, I believe the opposite. In the wake of the MTV layoffs, a tweet by a writer I admire, Hanif Abdurraqib, caught my attention.
I would also like to say something:
this concept that young people aren't attracted by good, thoughtful writing seems bogus and flawed.
— Hanif Abdurraqib (@NifMuhammad) June 28, 2017
Bogus and flawed, indeed. We are still here, typing up thousands of words and sharing them on the Internet, or distributing them on paper, because we have a lot to say. From what I’ve seen, we are still alive and stirring, aching for justice.
All I can do is hope that this is true, and hope that The Strand can prove it yet again this year. This year, we aim to disrupt the quiet of complicit silence. We aim to uplift the voices of those who have been historically marginalized. We aim to include, and to know our worth and stick to our values. We aim to do our part to inform, protest, advocate, and share.
I’m looking forward to seeing you all there.
With all our love,