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The Eyeopener is one of two weekly student newspapers at Ryerson University in Toronto. It has a circulation of 10,000 copies per week during the school year.
The Eyeopener is published by Rye Eye Publishing Inc., owned by the students of Ryerson as a non-profit corporation. Most of the writing is done by contributors (as is the case with most campus newspapers) but the paper's masthead is elected towards the end of each academic year, by the previous year's masthead and volunteers who have made a certain number of contributions. As of 2008, the minimum number of contributions to be eligible to vote is six. While contributors and editors are often students of the Ryerson School of Journalism, students in other programs are more than welcome to write for the paper.
The paper is composed of several main sections; news, arts & life, biz and tech, sports, features, community, video, and an editorial and 'fun' page.
It was started on September 26, 1967, by Tom Thorne, a Radio and Television Arts student upset with the amount of editorial powers held by faculty members at The Ryersonian. He took the name from a muck-raking turn-of-the-century weekly published in Calgary. It has received awards for its journalistic coverage and has garnered much acclaim for its often investigative style of reporting.
In the first issue, Thorne wrote: "Our publishing aim is to make crystal clear what is going on at Ryerson without the dubious benefit of a ... newspaper laboratory staining and processing student opinion in the name of 'professionalism.'"
True to its forerunner's reputation, the early days of The Eyeopener were marked by clashes with the administration and student government alike. In January 1970, the chair of Ryerson's board of governors, William Kelly, threatened to sue for libel after a satiric article appeared under his byline.
In October 1971, Ryerson president Donald Mordell decided that any campus publication that discussed the board of governors should be subject to the president's approval. The Eyeopener responded with a front-page editorial, headed "A Proclamation."
"In no manner whatsoever will The Eyeopener become a part of such a binding and illegal request ... We have the right to speak and we demand our right and take the right. As for the administration ..."
Beneath which, in inch-high type, the words "FUCK YOU," accompanied by a drawing of a hand making an obscene gesture, were printed.
In February 1975, to illustrate the lax security on campus, a photo essay showed editor Gary Curtis stealing typewriters, and even a photocopier, while guards watched.
In 1990-91, another breach of security was uncovered. These were the early days of paper recycling on campus, and the traditional image of investigative journalists going through the trash to get the story was turned on its ear when The Eyeopener's bins were returned each week, full of exam papers, inter-office memos, confidential documents—and, oddly enough, a complete list of names and phone numbers for the members of the 48th Highlanders pipe band.
After the story ran on page one, the administration responded by taking away The Eyeopener's recycling bin.
Also in 1990-91, Ryerson's Gay and Lesbian Club lodged a harassment complaint against "The Ryersonian," alleging that an article it published was homophobic. This prompted the school's director of campus safety and security to release a report in December 1991, suggesting that a code of conduct be imposed on all campus media, and that a "media-watch tribunal" be formed to respond to complaints and mete out punishment.
Eyeopener editor Mike O'Connor came across campus security guards emptying the paper's distribution racks and throwing copies in the garbage. In their place, the guards were placing copies of the administration's report. A front-page editorial harked back to the 1971 outrage, appearing under the headline "Fuck You" in red 168-point type.
Response ranged from those who considered the headline insensitive, as it was printed very close to the second anniversary of the Montreal massacre, to a pair of journalism professors who applauded The Eyeopener for being "obstreperous" and encouraged it to keep on doing so. John Miller, chair of Ryerson's journalism school, pronounced that the headline was "Fucking marvellous." Ryerson president Terry Grier condemned the headline, but admitted he hadn't read the editorial beneath it.
At a meeting of the board of governors, one of the governors admitted to not knowing what "The Eyeopener" was, and asked if the administration published it.
Many of the paper's more daring journalistic ventures ran under the byline "Scoop Gerbil," which commemorated the paper's 1970s mascot of the same name.
The other campus newspaper at Ryerson is The Ryersonian, published by the university's Faculty of Journalism. The Ryersonian has a circulation of approximately 5,000 copies a week. The Eyeopener upped its circulation to 10,000 issues per week from 8,000 per week at the start of the 2007-2008 academic year.
The Eyeopener completed its fortieth year in September 2007, but the 2006-2007 masthead opted to hold formal anniversary celebrations in the fall of 2006 instead. Reasons for this included the fact that this publishing year was the paper's fortieth—and was, therefore, "Volume 40." The paper celebrated by producing and publishing an anniversary book, featuring interviews with and contributions by alumni about their years at the paper. The books also featured a detailed retrospective that outlined the paper's history and profiled some of its more prominent alumni.
The Eyeopener also held a large anniversary party; dozens of alumni attended. Poster-sized printouts of an iconic cover from each of the paper's four decades were printed and displayed at the party, where they were signed by the attendees from each decades. The signed posters are now on display in the paper's newsroom.
Former RSU president Barry Hales, who approved funding for the first paper, attended the party. First editor-in-chief Tom Thorne did not attend because the Eyeopener failed to notify him about the event. He did, however, write an introduction for the Eyeopener 40th anniversary book and, had he known the date of the party, would have been there. Reached at his home in Belleville, Thorne said "I am shocked that I was not told about the 40th celebration. I never miss Eyeopener events and this one was important to me, so why would I not attend?" Thorne went on to suggest implementing an annual event. "I'm not getting any younger and looking ahead to the 45th or 50th anniversary could be problematic."
Eyeopener editors were surprised to find that Thorne had not been invited, as at least one member of the 40th masthead was told that he had reportedly said he was looking forward to the event.
The paper has been known to be somewhat more controversial than its RSJ-run counterpart. The Eyeopener is generally thought to be somewhat left-leaning and is often editorially critical of Ryerson Students' Union and the University's administration. Its annual Love and Sex issue, a Valentine's Day tradition, has also drawn both positive and negative attention. The 2001-2002 Love and Sex issue was thought to be particularly controversial; its contents were denounced as pornographic by students and faculty members alike. The 2004-2005 issue featured erotic literature and artwork without any full-frontal nudity.
Another of the paper's traditions is an annual 'parody' issue, designed and intended to lampoon a different reputed daily newspaper every year. The 2004-2005 edition skewered the National Post with a satirical issue called the Nearly Post-Mortem. The edition parodied the Post‘s stereotypically conservative viewpoint, insinuating that its readers and editorial staff were homophobic and anti-progressive. RyeSAC executives sent an open letter to the paper condemning the parody issue and suggested that the student union would be withdrawing its funding and requiring the Eyeopener to work with a third-party board to develop editorial policies. It was later suggested that the entire initiative was spearheaded by only one of RyeSAC's four executives (with support from a small group of students outside the RyeSAC executive) and was later dropped. Other recent parody issues included takes on The Globe and Mail - the Olde and Male; the Toronto Star - the Subpar, and the Toronto Sun - the Spun.
RyeSAC members also actively protested the paper in 2003 when the editor-in-chief referred to the then-RyeSAC president (who was openly gay), as RyeSAC's "token gay guy" in an editorial. Some RyeSAC and RyePride members also informed the Ryersonian editorial staff that they planned to deface the Eyeopener office. Ryersonian staff members didn't let the long-time rivalry between the two campus papers stop them from notifying campus security. Several students were detained.
The Eyeopener also dropped the F-Bomb in 2006, when editor-in-chief Robyn Doolittle published an editorial slamming journalism professor John Miller. It was aimed at the former journalism chair—now a tenured professor—whose changes to the curriculum cut off the paper's supply of fourth-year print journalism student volunteers (as they were required to write for the Ryersonian). More specifically, Miller told Eyeopener staff that he expected two editors to resign from their elected and paid positions despite the fact that they were not given any notice of this new curricular requirement at the time of their election to the Eyeopener masthead.
The editors were eventually allowed to keep their jobs, but any final-year print student who had not already been elected to the masthead was required to write for the Ryersonian and could therefore not write for the Eyeopener. Doolittle's tongue-in-cheek editorial promised free beer to any student of Miller's who wrote for the Eyeopener using a pen name. This was the target of a Ryersonian editorial a week later, titled "Beer for truth? Not if Robyn's buying." The Ryersonian masthead cited the CBC Code of Journalistic Conduct as evidence that Doolittle had compromised the Eyeopener's integrity, but did not make any specific mention of the situation that sparked her editorial in the first place, nor did it defend the rights of students to choose which paper with which they wanted to volunteer. It concluded with the statement: "Our advice? Instead of selling yourself for a pint of warm beer, pay the $5." Doolittle's response took the form of a letter to the Ryersonian stating that she would never buy anyone warm beer.
At the end of every publishing year, the paper's masthead selects the three best stories from each section not written by editors and submits them to established editors in the industry, who then rank them. The list of the best stories of the year is traditionally published in the final issue of the year.
Awards are also given out to members of the masthead at the end of the publishing year for excellence in various categories. Most of these were created by outgoing editors-in-chief at the end of their terms as a way to give something back to the paper. Until 2006, the major awards were the Kenny Yum Memorial Award for consistent excellence in headline writing, the Monica Bodirsky Award for excellence in layout design and the Shane Dingman "Second to None" Award, presented to the editor or editors whose headlines and layouts were consistently thought to be second-best behind the winners of the other two awards. Bodirsky was a layout and design manager at the Eyeopener; Yum and Dingman were editors-in-chief. The name of the headline award is a deliberate misnomer, as Yum is not deceased.
A new award was not created until 2006, with the introduction of the Tom Sapiano Award for the best published photograph. The following year, Robyn Doolittle added two new awards for excellence in investigative journalism and newsroom leadership.
Love & Sex issue
It is also an Eyeopener tradition to devote all or part of the issue immediately preceding Valentine's Day to issues surrounding love and sex. The "Love & Sex" issue has become known for its regular use of full-frontal male and female nudity, though this has not been done every year. "Love & Sex" issues have featured erotic fiction and photos, and articles about the sex trade, STDs and sexual orientation, among other topics. The Eyeopeners Love & Sex issue predated Eye Weeklys similarly themed annual issue, and many Eyeopener alumni believe the alternative weekly got the idea from the Eyeopener.
April Fool's Day issue
The issue published the week of April Fool's Day is also traditionally the Eyeopener's parody edition. The paper emulates the layout and editorial style of a major publication and pokes fun at its coverage and staff. In past years, the paper produced parodies of the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and Toronto Sun on a rotational basis, with some mastheads opting to parody smaller papers such as Now, a Toronto alternative weekly (the parody was called 'Later'). The 2005-2006 masthead, sensing that the short-lived commuter daily Dose was not likely to survive much longer, produced 'Doze' that spring.
In 2007, responding to controversies that dogged the Ryersonian, the Eyeopener parody focused on the paper's longtime rival instead of a major daily. The 2008 parody targeted Metro, a commuter daily published by Torstar.
The Eyeopener has published an annual magazine issue in the second term since 2005. The first magazine issue focused on the "state of the university," since Ryerson was in a period of transition between outgoing president Claude Lajeunesse and his successor, Sheldon Levy. The 2006 magazine had a similar theme, though, since this was the first magazine issue following the controversy surrounding the 2005 parody issue and the furor surrounding the publication of the controversial Muhammad cartoons, the main editorial was about freedom of speech and expression.
The 2007 magazine had a different theme all together: "Ryerson hates you." It contained features about ways in which the university administration and bureaucracy had unwittingly created frustrating experiences for students, including the failure of RAMSS, the university's then-new course management system that, in the most extreme examples, would not allow students to register for courses they required to graduate and even dropped courses without notifying the student. In a similar vein, the 2008 magazine took on the quality of the education offered by Ryerson with the "Your Education is a Joke" issue .