MelWoodsPortrait
Illustration by Samantha Lucy

The stories that matter most

Every year, the outgoing editor-in-chief of the Gauntlet takes the final editorial to reflect on their year and offer up any wisdom they may have. Unlike many of my predecessors, I relish the opportunity to engage in sentimental reflection — my essay-length holiday cards are a Gauntlet staple — though I can’t guarantee any worthwhile wisdom.

My time at the Gauntlet has been marked by stories both big and small. When you’re in student press, every story can feel like a big deal. We shout into the void and try — oh, we try — to make people care about the Dinos, local music, administrative corruption or boring Students’ Union politics.

Sometimes our readership returns that effort. They share our articles or pick up our newspapers. We win awards. Professors pull me aside after class to tell me they appreciate our work. The “real” media throw us a bone with the occasional “as first reported in the Gauntlet” shoutout.

But sometimes none of this happens. Sometimes you mess up, publish retractions or regret the comments you didn’t publish. Sometimes people don’t care about what they really, really, really should care about. Sometimes you disappoint everyone, including yourself.

I worried about messing up and disappointing people a lot this year — probably a little too much. But the Gauntlet has been around for over half a century. Personal anxieties and insecurities aside, none of this is all that new.

I read the Gauntlet’s archives a lot because I love nostalgia. I often laugh at how cyclical the stories are — how we’re still trying to make people care about the same useless student politics and administration fucking us over decades later. But I also think about the people who made those newspapers 40 or 50 years ago and what they remember when they look back on the Gauntlet now.

Every person who passes through the Gauntlet will care about different stories. There are those stories that are inscribed on paper and the website — the breaking news, the thoughtful editorials, the best jokes and the enthralling personal essays. But there are also the stories of student press and the people that make it possible.

When I first started volunteering at the Gauntlet, I cut out every single story I wrote and taped them to the wall of my bedroom until I ran out of space. Though I don’t cut everything out anymore, when I look back at my time with the Gauntlet, I’ll remember the stories. I’ll remember covering the MacHall lawsuit and the wild investigation into Robert McDavid. I’ll remember writing wacky horoscopes and satire articles about puppy room dog fighting rings. I’ll remember the editorial meeting in 2015 when we decided to call for the university president’s resignation on our cover.

But I’ll also remember downing $7 triples at Boom Nightclub in Fredericton or when our tent collapsed during the annual camping trip. I’ll remember staying late on production night to watch my co-workers play ball hockey with milk crates. I’ll remember the feud chart, the meme wall and the video games room. I’ll remember watching the 2015 provincial election results and using a marker to colour a big map of Alberta bright orange. I’ll remember — for better and for worse — the dark Festivus. And I’ll remember working alongside my best friend for three years and learning from her what it truly means to be brave.

These kinds of stories aren’t written down. They can’t be cut out or taped to a wall. They won’t be bound up in our archives to be read by future generations the same way I flip through the pages of 50-year-old papers now. These are stories that will only exist in our memories and the oral history that’s so important to the Gauntlet.

The Gauntlet is people. We take ourselves seriously and we do serious work. But we’re also just a bunch of folks who found each other because we wanted something to do or needed somewhere to go. And that’s what I will take away from this place more than anything else.

I came to the Gauntlet to write jokes. I ended up doing a lot more than that. And I know there’s a tired cliché of leaving a place better than you found it, but I sure hope I did. Because the Gauntlet and the people I have met here left me a lot better than I was before.

A lot will change at the Gauntlet next year. Thanks to the half a million dollars we got for office renovations, I’m the last editor-in-chief who will have to work in the shitty office with a pillar in the middle of it. I’m also the last editor-in-chief to publish a weekly print newspaper. Next year, we’ll enter a new era of a monthly magazine and daily website. It’s an exciting new chapter to our story.

But through all of these changes there will still be people. People who joke about buying an office duck, who comfort you in a stairwell after you come out to your parents or who let you win Settlers of Catan when your dog dies on production night.

Cherish those people and never forget about those stories. Because you’ll miss them more than you can ever imagine when you finally have to leave.

Melanie Woods, Gauntlet Editorial Board

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