After a brief hiatus, a longtime student newspaper is now a club for students to produce community stories once again.
The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s (SAIT) premier student publication, the Emery Weal, was brought back earlier this year. That comes after a decision to cut ties with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Students’ Association (SAITSA) was made on March 17, 2020.
According to SAITSA’s manager of marketing and communication, Husson Zaman, the decision to shut down the Weal back in 2020 was due to reallocation of funds and a lower approval rating given through student surveys.
The Emery Weal was established in 1926 and produced a press run of more than 4,600 copies.
“Due to its closure for two years, we didn’t know it even existed when I first started as a student at SAIT,” said the Emery Weal president, Alejandro Melgar.
“However, when we learned about it by one of the professors, we thought we had to bring it back, as it plays a major role in the contributions of student journalists.”
The Emery Weal allows for students from its journalism program, and others, to get published and flex their writing and photography skills. They can also produce other forms of media content.
“We were doing all these new stories, covering topics, but they were just sitting on our computers doing nothing. This caused the motivation to bring back the Weal,” said Melgar.
Since the Emery Weal is now a club with SAITSA, club members meet on a regular basis and get the opportunity to pitch story ideas to the publication.
Once the story idea is approved, content gets created and eventually published online on the Emery Weal’s website.
History of the Emery Weal
The first ever produced press copy of the Emery Weal was published on March 18, 1926.
“Its first issue was actually a single copy printed and passed around for people to read back in 1926,” said Melgar.
From 1926 until 2018, the Emery Weal was published weekly before it moved to a monthly magazine. It was no longer feasible for SAIT’s executive board, who then decided to make it a club instead of having it as part of its board.
“At the moment we’re a club and have decided to opt-in on the offer that they have for the Weal, which was to come back as a club,” said Melgar.
“We do have plans and we do have hopes of actually proposing the Weal as a legitimate publication to SAIT to be able to receive the funding that it needs to actually function properly as a publication.”
The Emery Weal was initially funded by SAIT when it was a legitimate publication. However, according to Melgar, once it was turned into a club, it received a $20,000 endowment to use.
According to Zaman, SAIT clubs always have access to funding through the institution when and if needed.
“There are tens of thousands of dollars available every year for SAIT student clubs on campus,” he said.
Melgar said it helps, but the money can’t be used to sustain the Emery Weal as a business.
“We want to build a structure, build a system, to make sure the right people are in the right positions,” said Melgar.
“That way, we can go back to SAIT and propose the Weal as a publication for them to take back and not just be a club.”
SAITSA is excited to have the Emery Weal back as a club with a publication on campus, according to Zaman. That’s especially so given its rich history and contribution to journalism students.
“It’s a great resource and a great learning experience for students that want to enter the field of journalism,” said Zaman.
“It’s a place where you can do your job and do it very literally, while you’re still going to school.”
One of the crucial and positive aspects of the Emery Weal, according to both Melgar and Zaman, is that it’s completely student-run.
“We’re making all the decisions ourselves of what content we like to include, while receiving guidance from anyone that can give it to us when needed,” he said.
According to Melgar, seven SAIT faculty and staff members have supported the return of the Weal.
Melgar said they’ve already raised the Weal’s profile on campus, especially after its latest article discussing the closure of SAIT’s Campus Centre.