What a tumultuous time SAIT students, Canadians, and the world have been a part of these past couple years!
Within the same time COVID-19 has affected us and our lives, SAIT saw the loss of their own student publication, The Emery Weal.
COVID-19 had nothing to do with the loss of the Weal, but the timing can speak to a common theme of loss in our society; whether through people’s livelihoods, businesses, jobs, or loved ones.
Seeing a publication that has been around since 1926, one that has the title as the second-longest-running publication in all of Alberta, see closure must have been hard for those that have received their start in journalism through the Weal.
The Weal carries a legacy throughout the journalism community in Alberta, with many journalists and editors moving on to become notable journalists in their own right, so it was not an easy decision for SAITSA to make when they decided to part ways with the publication in February 2020.
The Alberta government helped make the decision for SAITSA with budget cuts to post-secondary education, with a drop from $5.4 billion to $4.8 billion by 2023.
SAIT even laid off over 200 employees when the cuts were announced.
Losing the Weal was one of those things that was disappointing for many on the outside, and heart-breaking for those on the inside.
The Weals start turning
When I started as a journalism student at SAIT, I wasn’t aware of The Emery Weal; in fact, I had no idea there was a student paper.
Granted, this was a time when students could not be on campus, so myself and others weren’t aware of anything going on at SAIT.
However, after being in the journalism program during my second semester, my classmates and I met a professor by the name of Gregory Fulmes (Greg FUL-MES), who taught ethics. He talked about the Weal with a sense of pride, but also with a longing for the once notable student publication.
We would go into ethics like we normally would since that was the class he was teaching; but somehow someway, the conversation would get back to the Weal.
It was exciting when he talked about it, almost like we were kids at camp gathered around a fire while Fulmes would talk, all while our eyes filled with wonder at the possibilities that we could bring to the Weal.
The ideas ranged from being in charge of our own stories to joining forces with the Radio Television Broadcast News program (RBTN), Film and Video Production program, and the Graphics Communication and Print Technology program (GCPT) to create a multi-media publication, exceeding what was once a student newspaper.
Every time he talked about it, my classmates and I were filled with excitement, Fulmes was great at hyping us up. It was a nice change of pace from the fatigue that would build up from looking at a screen all day.
Making the cut
At around this time, I would get to know Paola Hinojosa, our multimedia director, and she carried a great passion for the Weal.
She drummed up documents with lists of interest for the Weal, and we would meet with our classmates to talk about the Weal and what we wanted to see from it. Hinojosa is a very passionate woman, and it was great to work with someone that cared about the Weal as much as she did.
We started off with an entire list of interested classmates in shaping the Weal, but as our program grew more demanding, it became understandably difficult to commit time to the Weal. After the Winter 2021 semester ended, the Weal wasn’t talked about again until August 2021, which started our journey of reviving it.
Now that we are graduating, Hinojosa has since left the Weal; however, we now have a new multimedia-director, Rory Carroll. Carroll, like Hinojosa, has been involved with the Weal since the very beginning, and we were both happy he was able to take on this role.
Hinojosa remains extremely passionate about the Weal, and I’m very happy to have been working alongside her because much of this would not have been possible without her.
Spinning our Weals
COVID-19 carried its own ups and downs for millions of people, and the Weal was like a convenient project to help forget about the virus that would eventually spread throughout the world.
The Weal, just like COVID-19, was tumultuous in its beginnings, with a slow start at that.
There was confusion around getting started. We were figuring out ownership of the publication while waiting around to see where it would go (SAIT, SAITSA, or independent).
Essentially, we needed to work out the legalities behind the name as it is a legacy for SAITSA and SAIT; but ultimately, we carried on with the Weal as a SAITSA club, and we couldn’t be happier.
We were helped greatly by the SAITSA team, like club coordinator Kat Dulay, to the former Emery Weal editor and instructor Heather Setka, who only wishes to see the Weal return as the student paper that the students deserve. Rob Galbraith has also been a great help by maintaining the photo upload server all these years.
Classmates in the journalism program have also been a great help by providing submissions to get us started, and it has been a great pleasure to be a part of that passion and desire to see the Weal come back to life.
The future of the Weal
I must admit, it is sad to know that I will not be able to see our vision come back fully as I am graduating in June of 2022.
However, what has kept me going is remembering that glimmer of wonder and hope that Fulmes shared with us in our first year at SAIT. That feeling is one I want to share with the next generation of students so that they can carry the Weal on in their own way.
We are still a club, so while members can contribute to the Weal on a weekly basis, we also want to have workshops to help out any members with their photography and writing. Mentorship is still important, and we want to help any club members have fun while learning how to work on stories.
For us, this is a legacy we wish to leave behind, and we’re proud to be working on this publication with the students at SAIT, to once again bring back the glory that was The Emery Weal.
After all, we want this to be that voice for the students, and by the students.
Alejandro Melgar is a second-year graduating student in the online-print journalism stream. He is the editor-in-chief of The Emery Weal and is a contributor. You can find his work on LiveWire Calgary and on his website here.