It is easy to get complacent in this section. Enough stories come my way that I could easily stick to reviews, previews and interviews concerning campus goings-on and do a well-enough job at it to end the day satisfactorily.
But how many people really care about that sort of thing? The question is not rhetorical. I can go online and find all of the hard numbers from past articles to tell you that a good culture article is read by around 1,200 of you — maybe more, maybe less. It’s a respectable number. But when you consider that UBC has a student population of undergraduates numbering 42,986 and graduate students numbering 9,735, the number starts to look less impressive.
So how do you reach the other roughly 51,500 students? The mere fact that you all live in Vancouver means that you must have some contact with and caring for culture. Surely there is some interest of yours or activity that you do which you would want to read more about.
The conundrum of reaching more people has been eating at the back of my brain since I took this job back in April. How do you appeal to the rest? My section is by students and for the students — if not many students are reading it, then there is obviously a change that needs to be made.
Figuring out what the culture section is for is tricky as hell. Culture, as a topic, is so general and hard to define that often times a section that is not focused or does not know what it is about can come across as sloppy, and will end up doing a lot of different things anywhere from poorly to adequately. There must be a consistent approach, a consistent voice and a consistent focus.
I’m sure there are plenty of you who go to the opera and theatre, who take in every Belkin exhibit and like going to MoA on weekends. But as most people will see when they go out on a Friday night, students are a migratory species. Campus is where our weeks are spent, but the nightlife and weekends belong elsewhere — the cafes that we hang out in, the stores we go to and the places that we get in trouble tend to be beyond the well-kept malls of UBC. Vancouver is as much, if not more, a part of the student experience as our campus is. So if that is where students are going to do whatever it is they do, that is — I assume — what they will want to read about.
I still want to cover campus events. The theatre, the opera, the Chan Centre and all of the other fixtures of this place are important not only for the experiences that they offer students, but also for the important opportunities they give talented people in the arts to see their work realized. Their recognition is vital and a service which I feel is owed to them while also being thoroughly deserved.
But there is so much more out there. A student moves far through the city — their lives do not only take place in performance halls and art galleries. There are the restaurants, clubs, hangouts, outdoor activities, jobs, drinks, drugs and other aspects of our lives that exist in the far-reaching corners and alleyways of Vancouver. These are the parts of your lives — however obscure, stigmatized, controversial or strange they may be — that I feel obligated to explore with the culture section. Your lives are not the clean, well-curated and highly-sanitized existences that you see in UBC brochures and photographs of smiling students who are studying on the knoll while drinking Starbucks, and The Ubyssey’s coverage of student culture should reflect that.
So my new year’s resolution for The Ubyssey's culture section is to opening the doors to all of you. If you have suggestions for things that you’d like to see us cover, send me an email or come into the office and pitch them. If you have criticisms, ideas or just want to tell a cool story about something crazy that happened to you as a student, I am listening. Tell me about the campus and the Vancouver that is a part of your life, and I will do my best to turn my section’s gaze towards that.
In return, I will do my best to ensure that our coverage is up to the highest standards possible, that it is objective, interesting, engaging, honest and most importantly, written in the interest of you — the students. We will not mince words. We will not censor. We will neither downplay nor sensationalize. We will endeavour to show you what the world around you is like with as much vivacity and integrity as we can muster.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Give an email the subject heading “Suggestions” so that I know it is in response to this article. If you want to write for us, this is a great way too. If you just want to pitch ideas, that is cool too.