You can only care about what you know

Dear Editor,


Every week I read every article in your paper two or three times.

I’ve done so for the last three years—ever since I started there as copy editor. At first it was just a job in something I was good at. I’d never read The Medium. It didn’t have anything to offer me, because this campus didn’t have anything going on.

But to edit an article you have to pay attention to it, and so as I worked, I gradually absorbed this paper. And one day it hit me that I now know so much more UTM—what we’re thinking about, who we are, what movies we’re watching, what services our money goes to, who plays our sports.

But I realized I could never have cared about any of this before I read so much about it. You only care about any of these things once you know about it in the first place.

Part of why I now enjoy reading the paper so much is, as Guy Allen (the director of our professional writing program) put it to me this way: the quality of The Medium fluctuates each year depending on who’s doing it. And for the last few years we’ve had an incredible streak of talent and interest going into this paper.

Even more amazing is that all of us do it with such dedication even though, sadly, people still don’t know what there is to know.

All the writers and editors put a lot into this paper, but we also get something out of it. It’s not the money—after all, most of us are volunteers. It’s the chance to take part, both in the give and the take, in documenting the heart and soul of this campus.

At least, that’s what it is to me.


Luke Sawczak

Copy Editor


  1. What prompted this unnecessarily sentimental post? And how arrogant of you to go about saying that you “now know so much more UTM—what we’re thinking about, who we are, what movies we’re watching, what services our money goes to, who plays our sports…” Yeah, you are proud of the work you do. That is great. But it does not follow that The Medium is in anyway representative of our student body at large. We have almost 12,000 students attending UTM. Let’s give the paper a generous readership: 400 readers every week. Substantially fewer than that participate in any dialogue with The Medium (case in point, this ‘Letter to the Editor’ is written by someone who works for the paper and seems to be saying how super duper awesome the paper is). How can you possibly say you know what the people of this school are thinking and who we are? Is this based on the “absorbed” articles written by a very small fraction of our school population (that’s also taking into account your many years of absorption)? This letter stinks of pure ego. Few, if any, would doubt that the people who produce the paper are dedicated (even though the ones who are consistent in the production of said paper are not volunteers, but paid workers). This letter appears to elevates the paper to some transcendental state. There are also ways to discover what is going on at UTM that go beyond the paper. Some of us talk to other students. You took a few strange leaps with this letter, leaps that are aimed solely at affirming that: 1) You are a good copy editor 2) you have some sort of privileged knowledge concerning the “heart and soul of this
    campus”, and 3) despite the ‘incredible streak of interest’ in the paper
    you, the copy editor, are the number one choice for this particular letter to
    the editor. Please, continue to be proud of the work you do. Everyone should
    be. But don’t shove it so flagrantly down our throats. Self-aggrandizement may just affect the ostensible streak of interest negatively.

    • Short version:

      What prompted the thought was an office conversation about how no one thinks the campus is interesting, and for good reason, because even when there is anything going on, no one knows about it. I was reflecting on how having read so many articles taught me a lot about my campus, and I thought it would be nice to share how that happened. Sorry if it came across as a lot of BS. I didn’t mean to offend.

      Long version:

      Yeah, I was hoping to compliment the team in general. I didn’t really think about how the compliment applied to myself, as you’ll understand if you read on… maybe I wouldn’t have published it if I had. I’m not a perfect copy editor—that’s why I have to look at everything twice and even then plenty of things get through.

      Yeah, the core staff does get paid. I doubt any of us could pay rent on it, and it’s far below the average wage for the professional position. And that’s fair, because we are just students, not pros, and this is a student-run paper without a ton of revenue, for all our efforts. What I like is that the way the editors got to be core staff was by volunteering a lot, and coming to the election to convince other volunteers and former volunteers that they could do a good job.

      Yeah, the paper isn’t the be-all and end-all. Reading the paper certainly isn’t the only way to find out things about UTM, and I agree, you need to be personally involved in something. You need to actually talk to other students, go to things with them, ask them about what they’re doing and if they care about what they’re learning, watch them in sports games or plays, and everything else, if you claim to know anything about it. So I think we’re in agreement about that. And some people who do the good and important things you mention go on to write about it in the paper, and we do our best—not THE best but OUR best—to share it with other students.

      Yeah, if you could be everywhere, do everything, know everyone, and listen to all their thoughts, I don’t think you’d need to read the write-up of it. But considering the general lack of such superpowers, I hope the paper helps you absorb at least some of it. That’s why I didn’t say the paper is the heart and soul of the campus, I said it documents the heart and soul of the campus. (And I don’t come up with that material. The volunteers and sometimes the editors do.)

      I’m glad that you for one read what we do, anyway.

      • Luke,

        It’s great that you could deflate just enough to admit that you — or anyone else — don’t have superpowers.

        You didn’t “offend” me. Printing something truly incendiary –an example I cannot even come up with– would be grounds for offence. I do, however, frequently respond to writing and ideas I
        both support and oppose. When I do not agree with something I encounter, when it does come across as a load of “BS”, I critique it. This was just such an occasion.

        Your response is actually much more agreeable than the original piece. It unpacks and explains some of the things I was left to wonder about. It’s also pleasantly humble but strangely apologetic. However, some of it still does not explain why the piece was published: why not just congratulate the team on their fine work without making it public?

        Moreover, I did read on and am still at a loss to explain how a smart fella such as yourself could miss how the compliment applied to you individually. It must just be my poor reading and understanding, but in the original piece I read, the whole first half of the letter is about you and only you.

        It seems my comment must have been unclear (this is the great humbling experience that writing seems to bring about). I felt when writing, and still do when re-reading, that there is no implication in my comment that the paper does not need to write up anything going on at UTM. Newspapers are important. But the sentimental tone of your letter does, in my opinion, appear to elevate the paper to some revered status that contrasts with your current admission that it is not actually “the be-all and

        Also, I understood then, and still do, that you did not make any claim about the paper BEING the heart and soul of the
        campus. My objection was based on your claim that the paper actually documented the heart and soul of the campus and that by extension you know about “who we are”. I don’t claim to know who Canadians are because I read the Globe and Mail. Canada, much like UTM, is a place so varied and diverse that it just
        seems insincere and arrogant to claim knowledge of its identity. Politicians make those generalizations all the time (“This is what Canadians want” “This is what Canadians need”). Granted, Canada is far larger and there is certainly much more variance within it. But the comparison still applies.

        Also, hopefully there was no implication in my comment that paid staff members are raking in the money. I should hope they
        weren’t forced to pay rent on the expected meagre income generated through a campus-run paper. You referenced volunteers and interest and it seemed odd that despite this streak of interest and volunteering, the copy editor wrote this letter to the editor about how great the paper is and how dedicated the staff are. Your audience doesn’t need to hear it. Writing is often a thankless job, but if you are actually receiving as much interest in the paper as you claim, shouldn’t that be enough appreciation?

        I enjoy reading The Medium. I do absorb plenty from it. But I also
        wouldn’t publish articles congratulating everyone unless there was an award won. I also don’t tell other people about how much I know. Nobody is perfect. We all try our best. But that doesn’t exempt us from criticism.

        It’s good that we could agree on so much.

          • That’s great. Again, why publish a letter to the editor about it? Was it published because there was no other letter to put into the issue?

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