Inexperience can be a good thing

When renowned graphic designer Paula Scher was asked to incorporate elements of graphic design into the architecture of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet—a job that neither she nor anyone she knew had ever done before—she started by revisiting these locations. “Why can’t the signage be on the floor?” she asked. “New Yorkers look at their feet.”

Ms. Scher later found out that the actors and actresses who worked in these institutions took their cues from the floor, and so her idea, far from being novel eye-candy, evolved into a system that many thought innovative as well as useful. The best way to accomplish serious design, concluded Ms. Scher, is to be totally and completely unqualified for the job.

To be sure, Ms. Scher did not mean to herald ignorance in and of itself. Neither did she mean to brush qualifications aside. She merely suggested that those who are new to the job —rookies, if you will —tend to have less restricted ways of thinking. They are more likely to think outside the box, to challenge conventions, to look at the floor and ask themselves a question that old hands never thought of asking: Why can’t the signage be on the floor?

The Medium this year is composed mostly of new staff. Amir Ahmed, our features editor, only began writing for us last year. Sports editor Andrew Tysiak, though inexperienced is as enthusiastic and hardworking. Su Lyn Liew may be new to copy editing for a newspaper, but her ability to prune prose and give it force and direction is unparalleled by some of her older and seasoned colleagues. And Saaliha Malik, formerly with the UTMSU, had never written a newspaper article before, but has already demonstrated a nose for news and the hunger to chase after it.

As for myself, Im perhaps the youngest person to ever assume the editor-in-chief position —alas, not that young in terms of age, but in terms of years worked at The Medium. Which, in my case, means exactly one.

I do not mean to discredit experience. Experience matters. Experience saves your ass. More importantly, experience tells you what other starry-eyed idealists have tried but didn’t succeed with.

Ali Kasim, my former editor-in-chief, current mentor and eternal friend, was an experienced writer and editor who improved this paper in ways I can only hope to emulate. Michael Di Leo, veteran arts and entertainment editor, puts his experience to good use—that is, without allowing it to kill his originality.

And Matthew Filipowich, composite editor, photo editor and webmaster, has been doing this stuff for years. His enthusiasm and creativity are second to none. These guys are in no danger of becoming fossils.

Some of you may suspect that I’m only trying to protect myself against any future screw-ups. “Oh,” I could say, “I was new. I didn’t know better.”

Others may conclude that in quoting a prestigious designer, and thereby comparing my team and myself to her, I’ve set too high a standard for us—that I will have dug our efforts into a hole the size of one of the ditches that now litter our construction-mad campus.


I will also say that people don’t fail because they are inexperienced —at least not always. They fail because they are not willing to learn. People don’t succeed because they are experienced; they succeed because they work hard and because they are passionate and because they try to look where no one looked before. I can’t promise that we will become a pioneer campus newspaper, or even a better newspaper. But I can promise we will try.

We have already done a few new things. We’ve recently launched a Twitter account, @mediumonline, where we will post links to our articles. We’ve revamped our website by adding RSS feeds, a tip line section and a new multimedia content section where we will post pictures that didn’t make it to the printer. UTM students and staff are encouraged to submit their campus-related photos and videos to this new section (to my fellow iPhone users: fire ‘em up).

Lastly, we are also enhancing our news section by adding a column that will feature UTM- and U of T-related news snippets. And we will attempt to focus more on what happens within our campus. In this issue, we feature a map of the new construction sites, an article about said construction and another about the well-known, yet underused RAWC.

Overdue changes, perhaps, and even elementary ones. But other newspapers are still not doing any of it. Newspapers whose teams perhaps stopped looking.

We thereby hope to address the concern that furrows the brow of many a newspaperman: how to keep our readership. Given that we The Medium rely on students levies instead of income generated by sales, we may not have to worry about our finances, but thats not an excuse to run from the changes that afflict the industry. Steady funds or not, we must modernize.

In doing so, I hope that the many students who have never read these pages —students from places as diverse as Austria and Australia, Chile and China, and with interests as diverse as economics and biology —will decide to pick up every issue. In it, they will learn more about the one thing that unites us all: the University of Toronto Mississauga.

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