Print Edition: January 25, 2012
It’s 10:30 on a Thursday night, and the waters of Victoria harbor are a black, cold reflection of a stark sky. The icy streets are rife with chilly homeless persons and bespectacled student journalists, an unlikely juxtaposition explained by BC politics and an ink-stained pilgrimage from across the nation. The Canadian University Press (CUP) conference has engulfed one of the downtown hotels, and the harbor core is positively seething with wispy hipsters in tight jeans.
Some are slogging their way to The Bard & Banker, a Scottish pub, but most are searching for the Lucky Bar, the local dance club doubling as the official party venue of the evening. Victoria has never been so young, so opinionated, so jaded about the state of our environment/politics/society/economy/booze prices. Everyone has a speech to make, everyone has a story to write, everyone’s out to change the world. It’s a heady feeling.
I’m still thinking about the morning’s seminar on Advocacy Journalism, a seminar taught by an editor from Vancouver’s alternative Xtra publication, Robin Perelle. I respect her, both for her honesty and her belief that Advocacy is about giving everyone their “best quote” so that all sides, even those with which you disagree, can feel fairly represented. I know that Perelle and I disagree, yet I’m encouraged by her most memorable quote: “If you have to silence your opponent to win an argument, you may want to change your argument.” I’m mulling over the implications, testing applications, even as I pass the eternally open 711 and turn the corner towards The Lucky Bar.
There is a bowl of condoms displayed prominently on one of the conference tables beside the breakfast buffet. It is a large bowl, yet while I was picking out bacon at breakfast I noticed it was significantly less full than the night before. At first I think it’s a joke, but then I remember that there are 340 conference delegates in the hotel and I do a little mental arithmetic. I decide that it might be a joke, but that it also might not be, and that I’m probably better not knowing.
It reminds me of Jeremy Vandermeer, an editor for the online publication Cannabis Culture, who opened his seminar with the dubious admission, “In the interest of full disclosure, I’m pretty baked right now.” He went on to deliver an eloquent talk on the advantages of decriminalization and the plight of one Marc Emery, who was deported in 2010 for selling seeds of a particular variety, and currently resides in a US prison. Vandermeer’s disclaimer might have been a joke, it might not have been, once again I’ll never know.
The Lucky Bar is small, smoky, and jaw-rattlingl loud. It’s my first time in a club and I stand in the corner and watch faces appear in the smoke, watch people bounce and rebound around the floor like plastic spheres in a McDonald’s ballpen. Earlier they were maturing journalists asking esoteric questions from behind skeptical facades, but now they have been reduced somewhat. Here there is only the question of who will be lucky enough to dance with the c ute girl, and who will sway awkwardly in the corner, yearning for the confidence of print and politics. It comforts me a little to see that here, at least, we have something in common. Here the clashing perspectives are not so obvious, at least as long as none notice that I’ve been nursing the same drink for the better part of an hour.
They are amazing people, these hipster journalists, and they are profoundly, amazingly, unfairly well-informed. They are the future of Canadian print, web, and broadcast journalism, and between swearing like sailors and drinking like pirates they are solidifying the nature of that future.
They make one little Mennonite feels like he’s a long way from Abbotsford.