Yes, there is some uneasiness caused by CUP's diminishing finances, but the organization is in for an exciting transformation, writes national executive Jane Lytvynenko.
By Jane Lytvynenko
When I think of Canadian University Press, I remember the first time I met one of my journalistic idols. It was Alan Cross, a music history guru, who addressed student journalists at CUP’s national conference back in 2012. I managed little more than a squeak and a handshake, but that awkward encounter motivates me to keep fighting for CUP.
There has been a lot written about CUP in the past few days—most of it pessimistic. As the incoming national executive, I was told by some CUP members to brace myself for a hellish year, but I wholeheartedly reject the CUP-half-empty outlook. The organization is in for an exciting transformation.
Some uneasiness was caused by CUP's diminishing finances. With the decline of print—and advertising revenue with it—CUP's ad agency went bankrupt. Many members left, meaning CUP received less income; this was amplified when members approved a reduced fee structure this year. Things went from bad to worse when the organization got slammed with a CRA fine. It was a rough time, but CUP made it through, thanks to the community it fostered.
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Members, alumni and staff mobilized like never before. A fundraising campaign collected over $11,000 while CUPpies old and new united to save the organization. It worked, but belts had to be tightened. By trying to form a new and more sustainable organization, CUP shrunk its part-time and full-time staff. Two positions at the Toronto head office were eliminated and merged into one national executive job.
With the president and national bureau chief positions eliminated came a restructuring of bureau chiefs, who generated original CUP content across the country. CUP is now considering an entirely new model for funding those part-time positions, with a labour bureau chief already confirmed for next year. CUP will also continue to provide its existing newswire service.
But that's not the only thing members can rely on. CUP will continue to offer most of the services it provided before the crisis: legal aid, national and regional conferences, a partnership with CWA and dedicated advocacy work for any student paper feeling the pressure of its administration, student union or finances. CUP was always there for its members and it always will be.
But CUP's most important function is helping expose students to the world of journalism. Because of CUP’s awards and newswire, many students writing for their university's publication see their names printed across the country. Putting CUP on a resume automatically gives students a leg up in job or internship interviews—just ask any alumni who have been a part of the hiring process at large media publications.
Next year, CUP will have industry representatives on its board to help pave the way. Shelley Robinson, Steve Ladurantaye and Wendy McCann were confirmed as voting members of the board at the April 14 meeting. With the support of such amazing professionals, CUP simply cannot die.
Above all, I love CUP. Its spirit has been alive throughout decades and generational divides. At a CUP fundraising event in Toronto, someone wrote “I support CUP because it caused my child.” How many lovers, friends and colleagues has CUP brought together? Student journalists got to shake hands with their idols instead of just swooning over their work. I still get phone calls from friends in the middle of the night from across the coast. I wouldn’t trade CUP’s community for the world.
CUP always stood true to its founders' resolve. On a drunken New Year's Eve in Winnipeg, more than 76 years ago, students got together and formed an organization that gave university publications a louder voice. Today, student media still makes waves by breaking stories, publishing investigative articles and banding together when need be. If for no other reason, CUP will live to keep fighting for student journalism. There is no other option.
Jane Lytvynenko is the incoming national executive for Canadian University Press. She was the Ottawa bureau chief for CUP for two years after completing a term as the news editor of the University of Ottawa’s student newspaper, the Fulcrum.
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