Saturday, December 4, 2010

Past Deadline: Happy 17th Anniversary

On Saturday I attended what I guess could be called a “mini reunion” of my journalism class. Actually, by the end of the event we had decided we were really the advance party scoping out the situation for future milestone reunions.

See, this year marks the 17th anniversary of our graduation from Carleton University. When this reunion was proposed, a few of us scratched our heads in wonder at the concept of a 17th anniversary event – especially since we did not mark the 10th or 15th occasions. You know, though, the whole 17 thing grew on me. For instance, 17 is much less aggressive than 20 or 25. Seventeen doesn’t make me feel particularly old. In fact, I liked being 17 and tried to stay that age up until about last year, so I am fond of that number.

While we didn’t have a huge turnout, several folks did come out and a few came from fairly long distances to attend. It was interesting to hear how many of us actually worked as journalists after graduating, and how many leveraged the degree into other things. I enjoyed telling people I had eventually crossed over from journalism to what we fondly call “the dark side” (PR).

We visited some of the old stomping grounds on campus, including St. Pat’s (the journalism building), where we were guided about by one of our journalism profs. It’s interesting to see the changes. When were there in the early ’90s, technologies were on the cusp of something new. We worked on computers that used DOS, which many of you young gaffers have probably never even heard of, just as the world was switching to Windows.

In radio production we learned how to edit in analog using razor blades to cut our reel-to-reel tapes. (And, yes, you can bet there were lots of references to stressed-out students working late at night in tiny rooms with razor blades.) The technician we worked with 17 years ago happened to be at the school during our visit and we had a long chat about the pros and cons of the changes in technology.

Rows of computers can be found in classrooms where only desks existed. Paste-upboards have been replaced by editing software in the print newsroom. Online media is now part of the curriculum. We weren’t using the interwebs much back in the day. The telephone room where scores of us huddled with phone books trying to track down sources is still there, virtually unchanged, but is rarely used in this age of prolific cell phones.

Then it was off to the TV studio where, again, we were greeted by new technologies. For example, our supply corner for making graphics for our newscasts has been replaced by editing software. No more posters – sigh. In fact, a lot of the in-studio roles we learned during newscasts – directors, production assistants, camera operators – have been replaced by computers. And the 17 tonnes of equipment we had to lug around in the early ’90s? It’s all much lighter and handier for dainty journalism students.

Then we trucked over to the site of the new journalism building being constructed on campus, complete with a glassed-in studio facing the Rideau River and the O-Train.

Of course no journalism reunion would be complete without visiting old drinking haunts, so we went to a virtually unrecognizable campus bar and had a lovely time catching up.

Now we’re busy thinking of what we’ll do for the big 20th reunion, especially since all the old familiar journalism spots will have moved to the new building. A reprise field trip to the Robert O. Pickard Sewage Treatment Plant has been proposed (ah, memories). Perhaps we should tour the city via OC Transpo for several hours looking for a meeting to cover. Or maybe we could arm ourselves with digital recorders – no – cassette recorders for old time’s sake – and scrum someone on Parliament Hill or at city hall. Or maybe we could lug 60-lb sandbags around to simulate the lighting equipment we had to transport for TV reporting.

Oh, it could be such fun! I wonder, though, if we should have it on our 19th anniversary just to be different and to prevent us from feeling elderly.

Published in The Perth Courier, Dec. 2/10


Gen said...

Sorry I missed this...I will try to make the next one. Sometimes I wish we could all go back and do it again. Good times, good people.

Larry said...

Yeah, I went by Carleton a few months back, and got lost in the Unicentre. The current campus plan is to take every square inch of lawn and build on it. And thank goodness, because when I graduated in '87, none of us figured the university would survive into the '90s.