High school student paper publishes despite extracurricular cuts: Q&A with Proxy editor-in-chief Sabina Wex

Teachers across Ontario are boycotting extra-curricular activities — including the supervision of student newspaper production — as a form of protest in the ongoing contract dispute with the government.

But students at North Collegiate Toronto Institute will still get their news.

Teachers across Ontario are boycotting extra-curricular activities — including the supervision of student newspaper production — as a form of protest in the ongoing contract dispute with the government.

But students at North Collegiate Toronto Institute will still get their news.

The school newspaper's editorial board voted unanimously to go it alone and raised over $1,400 to independently publish a newspaper. The paper won’t be published under its traditional Graffiti title, though. Instead, this student-fundraised initiative is dubbed Proxy.

It comes out today, and Eric Mark Do had a chance to chat with one of the editors-in-chief, Sabina Wex.

Team Proxy. (Photo: Maddie Pincombe)


J-Source: It's been said that it was an “unusual set of circumstances” that made this all happen, including “access to an affluent community for fundraising.” So do you think students from newspapers in other communities, which may not be as affluent, can emulate what you did?

Sabina Wex: I think it will definitely be harder since we did get a lot of student and parent support, who are quite affluent in their own respects. Even in the areas we all live in, even if they're from different parts of the city, they're fairly affluent parts … People are more willing to give us the funds because they know we also come from a school that has a really high reputation. So I think sometimes it might be harder for other schools to do the same thing because they might not have a strong reputation nor do they have maybe enough people with enough money to do it even though they'd love to help them. So it's definitely harder, and we definitely have a huge advantage, but it's great. But I think it could be difficult for some other papers if they were to emulate what we did.


J-Source: Was the publisher/printer the same one that the paper usually uses?

SW: Yes it is. Also, along the lines of (the previous) question, we print a much larger paper than the majority of papers. We print a 32-page quarterly, whereas most schools only do four-to-eight pages maybe monthly or quarterly. So we do a much bigger one, plus colour, so that might also add up. But yes, we do use the same one as we have before. We just stick with him because he's been very loyal to us throughout the years with Graffiti so we thought we might as well continue to support him.


J-Source: Let's say the teachers' strike ends tomorrow. Will you continue with Proxy or would you go back to Graffiti?

SW: I think we would probably go back to Graffiti. I can't say for sure — we would obviously have to take a vote with the editorial board — but I'm assuming we would go back to Graffiti just because obviously it's nice to have funds and not have to fundraise and things like that. But also Graffiti has been around for 30 years — it's Graffiti's 30th anniversary this year — so it kind of has a place in people's hearts and alumni's hearts and in our hearts because it's just a big part of the school. It's Graffiti Day when it comes out it's not Proxy Day, so to entirely change the image of it, I think would almost kind of damage it slightly if it were to come back to the school. So we used Proxy as a rebrand rather than (saying) “this is the exact same paper, but it's just not produced with the school.”


J-Source: If the strike continues until the next quarterly is due to come out, do you think the board would be okay with producing another Proxy edition?

SW: Yes, I think. Absolutely. When we did vote to make Proxy the entire editorial board seemed on board for the future — it wasn't just “oh this is just a one-time thing that we're going to pull off for January and then we can end it.” I think people really like it and it's also gotten a lot of hype, it's a lot more exciting because it's produced by students literally for the students. There's no help from the school. There's no help from an advisor. It's just us. It's raw.


J-Source: What impact did the freedom from supervisors have on the writing in the paper?

SW: I wouldn't say it was a huge difference, that we went outside of the bounds of what we usually would. Maybe there are some things that, they're a little controversial. Our teacher advisor is very liberal, really likes controversy too and interesting, different perspectives. So it hasn't really been blown out of proportion. There's not like a nude person on the cover or something ridiculous like that.

We're not going crazy because we can do whatever we want — there's not a swear word in every single article or anything like that. It stayed basically the same. I'd say maybe we're a little more liberalwith our Facebook page I guess. But I mean, our staff advisor never had that much control over that anyway. He never really had a ton of control. He just kind of oversaw everything to make sure it wasn't out of line or totally inappropriate. It's not really different in its appropriateness-level I would say. I think it's pretty much the same.


J-Source: The editorial board voted unanimously to publish on their own. What do you think was the main reason everyone was on board?

SW: I think it's just really cool, personally. I think everybody was really excited. It's such a cool endeavour to just do something yourself for once, you know what I mean?

I think we're so used to our parents helping us and our teachers helping us and everybody else around us giving us tips, little helpful tips to help us with things — but this time it was just: “No, it's all us, for us and we just are going to do this and run it and make it great by ourselves.”

I think the temptation of independence was really exciting for everybody. Because we are in high school and we're at that awkward stage where we're not quite independent yet, but we feel like we should be so I think that kind of fulfilled that need.


J-Source: Can you talk about the doubt that came up for the paper to be able to publish?

SW: I think there's a lot of people that doubt it because it's such a huge task to raise over $1,400 to publish, to look over everything and just do everything ourselves. We look over articles and do layout ourselves as it is already, but I don't think people realize how much effort already goes into the paper, and plus the money, that's even more. So I think they're just like, “This is huge. You can't possibly do this by yourself. That's ridiculous that you're going to raise that much in a month.” But we did it, so we proved them wrong.