Call it old-fashion, but there’s nothing quite like the feel of a newspaper. The smell of it. The crinkle of it in your hand. The ability to express oneself in a published medium. It offers so much – from news to business to an array of opinions. For some, it is the main source of information. In a way, I was the vein of one of these sources for eight months because I wrote, edited, and published for McMaster University’s student newspaper, the Silhouette.
Initially started in 1930, I was but a contributing member – a News Editor to be exact – to a longstanding tradition. I took the facts and constructed a story, as all hesitantly called journalists would before me. Sometimes I felt I was doing nothing more than mopping a kitchen floor of verbiage. Other times I felt I was performing a triple bypass surgery. Most of the time though, I felt I was having fun.
Now, there is nothing special about being a News Editor. Anyone with half an IQ point and the ability to string together sentences can do what I did. In fact, there is nothing particularly riveting nor extremely passionate about the job itself. The same could be said with all jobs: the job never matters. Instead, only the time spent doing the job holds any significance. This is why some people hate their job – because they feel they are wasting their time.
Luckily, I never felt like my time was wasted. And although my grades took a hit, my organization skills were put to their test, and my social life plummeted faster than a meteorite, I wouldn’t have spent it any other way.
Every Wednesday brought the same ritual: school until five pm, a short fifteen minute dinner, layout, last minute writing, last-er minute editing if there could ever be such a thing, a few panic attacks, and finally, a complete paper at four in the morning. It was arduous. It was exhausting. Often, it was utterly thankless.
But despite working in sweltering conditions, I can’t think of any other paradise. For it is here – among the words, the columns, and the background scene of creative virility that only a newspaper can conjure – where true freedom reigns.
This is because in the world there is nothing more powerful than 26 letters coming together and creating this: a sentence. All humanity has ever known, all humanity has ever expressed, and all humanity has ever understood is trapped in a prison of prose. A sentence is its own sentence, my brother always says. Sometimes these sentences are composed of words explaining some idea or thing. Sometimes words do not have the weight to explain even the simplest of sentiments. But even in this failing, words give us the ability to express ourselves. How we portray that expression is up to the words we choose.
I was part of the Silhouette for that reason. Perhaps I was just encouraging an onset of early alcoholism and perhaps even more truthfully I have a masochistic penchant for taking on more work, but I do believe that the Silhouette, and the work necessary to be a competent editor, has a silver lining. This is because it is the coal that turns into the diamond; the cocoon into the butterfly. At the end of the Wednesday night and the inevitable crawl into a Thursday morning, when the final page is printed, the cover is folded, and the shelves are stacked, I have faded into a silhouette of words. With them, I am not simply a shadow or an outline, but rather part of a team that creates the darkened image of McMaster’s journalism: the Silhouette. My name didn’t matter. What I choose to say did.
Down below is what I chose to say on my last issue. If I’m lucky, I will one day say more. If not, then maybe – just maybe – I’ve said enough, and it’s time for someone to continue the tradition, the history, and the legacy of words. Who knows? Maybe they’ll look back and see something I wrote. Maybe they’ll balk at the horrendous syntactical errors. Maybe they’ll laugh at some joke. Or maybe they’ll just sit there in a dimly lit basement with a server buzzing a tune of electronic frustration and with sweat pouring from what feels like every orifice of their body, and they’ll wish that each inked word was instead carved onto stone, that their memories will last as long as a silly paper does, and that the history of people coming together, joined only by the collective passion of writing, goes on forever.
In the end, they’ll wish that the struggling student journalists before and after them feel like they are part of something greater than themselves: a Silhouette of words.