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Rad press: Giving a voice to the voiceless at UBC

Revolution often begins at universities, and campus media is the bedrock of student activism. Until this summer, however, there had been a gap in critical, independent media at the University of British Columbia. One radical group of students have thus mandated themselves with writing for the voiceless and the oppressed of their society.

The Talon was born of a perceived need for ''critical media on our campus,'' said Alex Mierke-Zatwarnicki, one of The Talon's founding editors. ''In the process of aiming for the objectivity standard, the typical student newspapers, I think, do a real disservice to students who are from marginalized groups, who do have critical perspectives, who are having a harder experience, and their voices are really not being heard in traditional campus press.''

This fight encompasses allying for everyone from the Aboriginal population from whom the UBC grounds were possessed, to backing the corner of feminist and LGBTQ rights.

Amongst their mandate is a promise to be accessible to all readers, and mindful of the intersectional needs of marginalized groups on the UBC campus, but also with a wider lens on the Western World at large.

By avoiding jargon and centering on student-related issues they strive to accomplish these goals. The site is easily navigable, divided up into several sections by different social issues. The effect is that social justice becomes more easily accessible, a less daunting undertaking for the budding student activist. Above and beyond it all, the editors at The Talon aim to start conversations and foster critical thinking.

''One of the first articles we published, which was called 'Reflections on student leadership,' basically talked about the way the university's leadership initiative produced these carbon-copy leaders and had this really strict idea of what leadership is,'' said Mierke-Zatwarnicki. ''That article did a great job of talking about these high-level political theory concepts of meritocracy and capitalism that we learn about in class, but related it to the experience of students and things that were happening every day at the university.''  

Everything at The Talon leans towards a strong left, as evidenced by not only their support of such politics as the call for UBC to boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS movement), but also in their hyper-democratic horizontal editing structure.

The web-only presence of The Talon has allowed them to keep costs and funding needs next to non-existant, a structure which marries well with their rejection of traditional deadline-and  editorial hierarchy-based journalism.

While reporting is certainly a part of their formula, hard news is more often than not justified by a think-piece angle. They use current events to spark a conversation rather than lay out facts.

Looking back on their first year, Mierke-Zatwarnicki is optimistic on their ability to continue building a publication rooted in their values. At the end of the academic year, they will be publishing an anthology of their best pieces of the year in a special print edition.

Sara Baron-Goodman is a journalism student based out of Montreal. She is currently the Life editor at The Concordian.

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