Why CUP needs to die

By Robert Murray

You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about the problems of the Canadian University Press.

By Robert Murray

You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about the problems of the Canadian University Press.

Massive deficits, declining membership and, most recently (this is the best one), terminating its president-elect’s position and appointing a new national executive without consulting its membership. It’s not pretty. No longer is CUP half-full or half-empty. It’s just empty and about to shatter into a million pieces.

Don’t get me wrong—no matter where I write or what I write for the rest of my life, CUP will always be the place that I got my start in journalism. I am a proud CUPpie and always will be. While CUP afforded me and many other students with their start in journalistic careers throughout the past three-quarters of a century and counting, the organization is now a shell of its former self.

Its situation is bleak at best. Some may keep the faith and say we need to “#KeepCUPStrong” but at this point, it’s a losing battle.

Related content on J-Source:

As both an alumnus of the organization and a daily sports reporter, I have concluded that one thing does need to happen to the once great organization: CUP needs to die. It’s no secret that the main problem CUP has faced during its decline has been retaining members.

The large papers wanted a bigger say, the smaller papers felt like they had no voice and, like most families with three children, the medium-sized papers were simply forgotten. When the large papers didn’t get the say they felt they deserved, they left CUP immediately, taking their revenues and resources with them. What those papers left behind was a trail of infighting and petty attacks that brought the needs of individuals ahead of the needs of the group.

Somewhere in the past decade, CUP lost its way. There is no one specific person to blame for CUP’s failing. If the blame had to be pointed in one general direction, though, it needs to be squarely pointed at the students who sat on their hands, allowing CUP’s credibility to be gradually eroded.

Whether they got out when the going got tough or sat at a board table twiddling their thumbs, these separate courses of action by the current generation of students will only continue to plague CUP until its eventual demise. At the rate they’ve gone over the past few years, thankfully that may not have to be too much longer.

CUP may come back someday and I welcome that day with open arms. I would love to see CUP succeed to the point that it can become a successful organization again and produce the next generation of journalists in whatever medium they eventually choose to enter.

Perhaps someday, student journalists will care about something larger than just their individual needs or their individual paper’s needs, without masking it behind a national organization they claim to care about.

Perhaps someday, students will rise above personal vendettas and concern themselves with more pressing issues.

CUP and its successes will never be forgotten, regardless of what happens in the short and long term. However, it won’t do any good if the current generation of students continue to embarrass its reputation beyond repair. If anything comes out of CUP’s smouldering ashes, I hope it’s a sense of optimism that students may one day care enough to form a similar organization. When that day comes, I hope they get things right.

Until that day, student journalists across Canada should just worry about improving their writing and allow CUP to fold peacefully.

Robert Murray is a multimedia sports journalist at Fort McMurray Today. He worked at the Canadian University Press in the 2012-2013 publishing year as its national sports editor and also served for two years as the sports editor at The Argosy, Mount Allison University's independent student newspaper, which is a member of CUP. Photo courtesy of Sandy Chase.

Correction: An earlier version of this column erroneously said the president-elect’s contract was eliminated. We apologize for this editing error.

Clarification: CUP has run a deficit for two consecutive years. After laying off several of its staff and restructuring earlier this year, CUP is now projecting a small surplus. 

Related content on J-Source: