Student media look towards brighter future

As the tuition hikes loom over anglophone universities, student media hope they stay afloat.

Student media organizations across the city are exploring new funding alternatives.

After speaking with student media institutions across the city, the consensus is clear: fee-levies are the main source of revenue for most outlets, and these fee-levies have not increased since the early 2010s. Fee-levies are a small amount of money, typically between a couple cents to dollars, which students pay per course credit that fund student groups and associations.

CKUT, McGill University’s radio station, just finished its week-long annual funding drive last month and reached its fundraising goal of $50,000. It was a bittersweet celebration though. 

“$50,000 doesn’t even cover our rent per year of this building alone,” said Madeline Lines, CKUT’s funding and outreach coordinator.

The radio station is facing financial difficulties with a growing deficit. If the station does not find new sources for revenue, it will have to shut down in the next two years, Lines said.

“We hit a wall,” Lines said. “We’re in this tricky situation, where it is a bit of a last chance for us, our whole organization could go under.”

Over half of CKUT’s revenues are from fee levies—students pay a small fee for every course credit—which has not increased in the past 10 years. “Think about how much a sandwich cost in 2012 and how much it costs today,” Lines said. “There’s a huge difference.”

Madeline Lines is looking for new ways to fund CKUT’s operations. Photo by Camila Lewandowski / The Concordian

The McGill Daily is also facing financial uncertainty. Their coordinator, Olivia Shan, said that the paper’s financial situation is “really nerve-racking.”

She said that with the money they collect from fee-levies and advertising, they can barely pay for printing and staff honorariums—editors are paid $250 per month although they work around 15 hours per week.

Both student-run organizations are also anticipating a drop in revenues because of the tuition hikes announced by the provincial government last fall, which Shan said will cause a drop in enrollment. As of December of last year, McGill University has already seen a drop of 20 per cent. 

Concordia too has observed a 30 per cent enrollment drop, as of December 2023. Therefore, if student publications cannot rely on fee-levies, they must look elsewhere.

Cameron McIntyre said that CJLO is looking to diversify its revenues in anticipation of the coming tuition hikes. Photo by Camila Lewandowski / The Concordian

Concordia’s radio station, CJLO, has a balanced budget, but the team is looking to diversify its revenue in anticipation of the tuition hikes. Allison O’Reilly, the station manager, said that they expect to see their revenue drop by 15 to 20 per cent next fall because of the tuition increase.

“We are going to put more effort into fundraising,” said the programming director, Cameron McIntyre. “We want to establish ourselves as an institution that is less reliant on fee levies.”

He said that the radio station will focus on collecting more money during their annual funding drive to compensate for the revenue losses they expect in the coming years. 

O’Reilly added that CJLO understands the economic burden that university students are facing as a result of the hikes, which is why the station will now turn towards its listeners and the Montreal community at large for financial support.

Étienne Dubuc said that in the last couple of years, the Université de Montréal observed a significant drop in its enrollment rate. Photo by Camila Lewandowski / The Concordian

French-speaking universities are also experiencing a drop in enrollment.

Étienne Dubuc, the general director of CISM, the Université de Montréal’s radio station, said they made $20,000 less last year than they usually do because of dwindling enrollment.

“Cutting back on expenses is starting to be quite unfeasible,” he said. “We’re rolling at a minimum to [produce] something that’s welcoming and fun.”

He explained that if CISM were to cut staff’s hours it would diminish the services and support offered to volunteers who want to get involved in the station. 

As advertising revenues shrink and fee-levies remain unmoved, Dubuc is considering setting up a subscription program: listeners can make a pledge to CISM, which would give them exclusive access to content and to their favourite shows.

Back at McGill, Lines said that CKUT is a voice for underrepresented communities and advocates for social change and justice. “I think that that doesn’t always align with McGill’s investors’ interests or opinions,” she said.

Shan shared a similar sentiment, saying that the McGill Daily is “pretty much left with little support from the university.”

In the meantime, CKUT is reaching out to the Montreal community for donations to stay afloat.


An ode to student media

As my time with The Concordian comes to a close, I can’t help but think back on the journey that got me here.

In the corner of my kitchen, on the wall next to my fridge, hangs a white board that I use to keep track of my chores and deadlines. But over this last semester, I have been using that white board to countdown the days until my mandate with The Concordian ends.

If you have ever worked for a student newspaper or a campus radio station, you’ve probably heard the joke that student media is a gaping black hole that consumes all of those who cross its path. Everyone who I know  has worked for a student paper has admitted getting overwhelmed by the seemingly unending demands of the profession. As someone who has been at the centre of this black hole for the past two years, the prospect of stepping out comes as a much needed relief.

But as that countdown on my whiteboard gets smaller and smaller and I think back on what I’m leaving behind, the sense of satisfaction has slowly started to fade away.

I started writing for The Concordian in September 2020, back when I was still an English literature major and was beginning to consider pursuing a career in journalism. I still remember the night my first article, an opinion piece about the 2020 American presidential elections, was published. That article encapsulated so many firsts: my first byline, my first brush with controversy, my first missed deadline, and the first time I felt like a real journalist. 

Nearly every journalist I know started off with contributing to student media. For those of us coming from outside the tightly interconnected journalism world, student media is an important avenue to establish our presence in this daunting media landscape.

The Concordian has opened more doors for me than my lackluster GPA ever could. It was my portfolio with The Concordian that got me into the journalism department. Being on masthead has, directly and indirectly, provided me with some of the best experiences of my life, such as attending NASH 85 and the Thessaloniki International Summer Media Academy. I owe so much to this paper that I don’t think I could ever repay it, even in over a hundred years.

And yet for all the good this has brought me, any picture I paint would be incomplete without  acknowledging the bad. The stress from this job has taken a tremendous toll on my mental health and strained many important relationships. At this point, my trash folder contains more resignation letters than I could possibly count. The only thing that kept me from walking away has been the amazing support of my team. I sometimes wonder if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, both the good and the bad, would I still have gone on this journey?

As the Managing Editor, I followed in the footsteps of many great student journalists before me. Over the last year, I’ve had to grapple with so many questions: Where is my place in all of this? How will I be remembered? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Am I doing a good job?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. I have made more mistakes than I can possibly count. But it’s comforting to know that I’m just a small link in a much larger chain, a tradition far greater than myself. I know that my memory will quickly fade compared to the accomplishments of the greats who have come before me and the promise of those who will come after. In the face of overwhelming adversity, I was able to preserve and hand off the torch to the next generation. 

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to savour this journey. I would tell myself that the stakes aren’t as high as you think they are, the mistakes you will make along the way are to be learned from, and that you can do this work without getting sucked into that black hole because once it’s over, you have to be ready to move on. And yet, I’ve dedicated so much of myself to this paper that it’s hard to picture what my life might look like without it. 

Scientists aren’t quite sure what lies beyond a black hole, and neither am I. As I approach the threshold, I can’t help but stand back in awe of all the beautiful memories that encompass me. 


Concordia student delegation hits NASH82

NASH is a four-day conference held by the Canadian University Press (CUP), which offers various workshops and lectures to journalism students. Whether the subject was global reporting, Indigenous coverage, hate groups in Canada or the climate crisis, the idea behind the conference was to provide tools for students to report accurately on issues that affect their university communities, but also to make the most out of their own newspaper.

“I think the best part of this conference is getting your head filled with all these ideas – maybe it’s just a spark from what a speaker mentioned or a conversation with other journalists – and try to spread that back out into the student journalism landscape,” said Jacob Dubé, vice-president of CUP.

The old NASH tradition enforces the idea that journalism across universities should not be a competition – rather, a collaboration. Dubé mentioned there is something quite powerful about seeing a community of aspiring journalists together in the same room, helping one another.

Indeed, the theme of this year’s edition, hosted by The Ubyssey – the University of British Columbia’s independent student newspaper – was empower.

Keynote speakers included Garth Mullins, host and executive producer of the Crackdown Podcast, who opened the conference Thursday night with a talk on how to properly cover the drug and overdose crisis in Canada. The second guest speaker was Dr. Candis Callison, an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, who addressed the practices and role of reporting on the climate crisis. The final speaker was Anishinaabe comedian Ryan McMahon, who used the stage to confront the colonial narrative in the media and share his view on key qualities and skills future journalists should hold.

NASH is also an opportunity to host the John H. McDonald Awards for Excellence in Student Journalism during the last night of the conference. While The Concordian left without any awards, Ireland Compton, editor-in-chief at The Link, won best Indigenous reporting for her piece: Protest Denounces Federal Decision to Appeal Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

“To be recognized for the work that I’ve been doing is a really great feeling,” said Compton. “I think that we all deal with imposter syndrome from time to time, I know I do, and an award like this is a reminder to myself that I’m on the right track.”

The Link also won the best cover/layout of the year for their gender and sexuality issue, published last March.


Photo by Alex Hutchins


The importance of independent newspapers

All levels of student government should support student news media at Concordia

I think most people would agree that a free and independent press is important. This is true in national, provincial and municipal contexts, but it is also true at our university. Concordia is fortunate to have two strong student news publications. They provide us with a platform to express ourselves, and they hold the university administration accountable. Most importantly, they keep our student organizations honest.

I have sat on committees and council meetings for the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA), and I can say firsthand that the Concordia community is better for the existence of The Link and The Concordian. Yet, our student governance organizations don’t always seem to recognize the important role the student news media plays.

During the polling period of the most recent Concordia Student Union (CSU) elections, The Link published an editorial endorsing Speak Up, one of three slates running for the CSU executive. The Link is not affiliated with the CSU, and it is well within their right to publish whatever they want, whenever they want, so long as it abides by their code of ethics. Even so, in light of the editorial’s publication, CSU chief electoral officer Nicholas Roberts disqualified the entire Speak Up slate. He claims the editorial qualifies as campaigning during the polling period. By disqualifying Speak Up on that basis, Roberts is implying candidates have control over what The Link publishes. That implication directly contradicts the principle of free press.

This incident with the CSU and The Link is just the latest in a long line of infringements by student organizations. Last February, the ASFA executive cut ties with The Link because of a disagreement with the paper’s editorial slant and practices. The Commerce and Administration Students’ Association (CASAJMSB) considered following suit. These actions are inappropriate to say the least. ASFA has since apologized and reversed their decision, but none of it should have happened in the first place. To withhold access and demand changes from the student news media is an imposition on the media’s ability to report freely and accurately. Their ability to do so is always important, but it’s particularly important when the organizations involved are in charge of large amounts of student money.

The CSU and faculty organizations need to take a stronger stand on press independence. Article 425 of the CSU’s Standing Regulations states that the CSU “respects the role and independence of student media and believes that they play an essential role in the University community.” However, that stance is incompatible with other CSU regulations, including Article 316 which seeks to limit what our student news media can and cannot publish during elections.

ASFA is no better. Its governing documents make no mention of press independence or freedom. This has led to confusion over what role the student press plays during ASFA’s elections.

It’s well within the student body’s right to criticize the student news media. We are free to comment and hold it accountable. But, it needs to be made clear that, from a legal standpoint, the student press is free to publish what it pleases, within reasonable ethical standards. It’s not the role of any external organization to dictate what those standards are. Student group candidates cannot—and should not—control what is published, and organizations should not act as if they can.

All levels of student government need to enshrine a commitment to the independence of student news media in their governing documents. They also need to ensure that other regulations, like those governing elections, are in line with that stance, both in writing and in practice.

As a current ASFA executive, I will be working to implement these changes within the federation. I am now calling on my counterparts in other organizations, including the CSU, to do the same. We all benefit from a free press; it’s about time we support them.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


A referendum is on its way

Graphic courtesy of The McGill Daily and Le Délit

The McGill Daily and Le Délit face a referendum that will determine the continued existence of their publications this week, in order to negotiate a contract with the university.

In accordance with the policy of McGill University’s administration, a new Memoranda of Agreement is arranged with independent student associations every five years.

However, in order for a newly negotiated MoA to move forward, a referendum is being held from Jan. 23 to 31. The Daily Publication Society, The Daily and Le Délit’s umbrella association, must prove it has continued support from the university’s student body before arranging a contract with administration.

These renewed agreements enable the DPS to collect student fees that allow for allotted leases, printing costs and distribution of the two papers.

Therefore, both newspapers require a majority of students to vote in support of their continued publication or else they will cease to exist. If the referendum fails, then McGill will terminate the fee-levy of $6 paid by undergraduate students per semester and the $3.35 contributed by graduate students. As part of the agreement, the current fee is binding.

In 2011, McGill’s campus radio station CKUT held its referendum in conjunction with the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at the university where approximately 5,245 students participated with overwhelming support in favour of continued existence. McGill invalidated the results however, forcing the associations to conduct another election. CKUT also recently held a referendum in November 2012 to increase its fee-levy and won.

These set votes can be a source of stress for student associations on campus.

“It takes months of planning and so much time,” said Queen Arsem-O’Malley, the co-ordinating editor of The Daily. “It’s not like it’s really necessary, there are other ways for students to keep us accountable.”

Concordia University does not have the same terms of agreement with its student media associations and CJLO, Concordia University Television, The Concordian and The Link are not required to hold referendums.

Individuals who are eligible to vote must be undergraduate or graduate students at the downtown campus with the exception of continuing education students, non-resident graduate students and graduate students who are enrolled in medicine or dentistry.

McGill undergraduate student Eric Pagé, who does not read either publication on a regular basis, said he was not aware of the referendum until he checked Facebook. Pagé said that his classes are not in the heavily trafficked buildings at the university but that if he has time to vote, he will.

“I’ll be voting in favour of The McGill Daily if I do go because I’m sure it benefits students,” said Pagé. “As well as gives the authors good practice for prospective future employment.”

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