Friday, 7 October 2011

The Eyeopener: Ryerson University's student newspaper celebrates 45 years.

The Eyeopener Founding Editor in 1967

The Eyeopener, the Ryerson University student newspaper starts its 45th year. It's time for a celebration because at my age seeing the 50th is always potentially problematic.

by Tom Thorne, The Eyeopener Founding editor 1967
Forty four years ago the Eyeopener started at Ryerson University. I was one of the founding people involved with cranking up this project. The newspaper came into existence during October 1967, which is 44 years ago and so we are entering the 45th year if its publication. 
We are about to have a celebration at The Blake House in Toronto on 20 October at 5 PM and all former Eyeopener types are invited. 
I was the paper's first  and more pompously, its founding editor. For many years due to the shit disturbing nature of our content being the first editor was a dubious honour at least in the minds of some Ontario Government politicians, Ryerson University administrators, board members and their lawyers. 
The Eyeopener as a black sheep. A carefully crafted reputation.
When I attended post graduation Ryerson events or alumni reunions, administrators treated me as a kind of notorious untouchable celebrity. The passing of four and a half decades has mellowed my reputation as a muckraker and now starting the Eyeopener is  seen as an important historical moment in the life of the university. 
Truly time heals all wounds and the Eyeopener is now tolerated as an institution which I maintain, is always dangerous for any editorial entity with notions of maintaining any prospect of an independent viewpoint.
The last time I was at Ryerson I jointly gave the male athlete of the year award, sponsored by the Eyeopener, along side the university's president Sheldon Levy. Actually I was surprised that we gave any awards to anyone.
However, Sheldon and I downed a couple of glasses of wine at the reception and when he gave me the standard administrator's views of the paper which is akin to someone shaking hands with the Devil. He was the new boy on the block so I asked him a question to put him on a learning curve.
What would Ryerson be like without the Eyeopener?
The question was simple but the answer hung in the air  with  potential complexity. I said: " What would Ryerson be like today if the Eyeopener had never existed?"  Sheldon, who at that time had about year and a bit in his job, looked perplexed. So I pointed out to him that the Eyeopener only ever wanted the university to be better. Our criticisms were designed to probe and make people think and get on with the real job of teaching and learning.
I reminded him what has happened to our campus and how the school has grown and progressed. The nature of a Ryerson education has evolved but has never lost its direction which is neatly indicated in our Latin motto Mente et Artificio which I translate (probably badly) into Think and Do. I think the real translation is With mind and skill.
Although I ,and other editors over the years, were often very critical of the university but the paper can never be associated with disloyalty to the school. We may all have served as yellow journalists on occasion but the Eyeopener has always had a ribald sense of satire and fun, but it never knocks the principles of a Ryerson education. Probing is a significant part of a Ryerson education in my view.
Personally I am very proud of being a Ryerson graduate. We have all fought hard and long for what the school has become today. There was a time when the only way we could do a masters or a Phd was to go to the United States. Thankfully, those days are now over.
Always pushing Ryerson to be better.
When we called Ryerson "The York County Institute of Manual Training" back in 1968 we did so to make students, faculty and administrators realize that we could be much more and be much better. We could be a serious university level place with unique views of learning, knowledge and application of technologies to people's lives.
The Eyeopener is now an institution at Ryerson. That means that it is incorporated into the life and style of the school. It does not mean that it rolls over and plays dead for the status quo. The Eyeopener is a positive change agent or at least I like to think of it in those terms.
It is healthy to present distaff ideas and criticisms because as I have seen over the years many of our late 1960s and afterwards viewpoints and aspirations for Ryerson have finally come to fruition. So when I said to Sheldon Levy, think about Ryerson without the Eyeopener I believe I can say that the Eyeopener has made a difference to the Ryerson way.
Entering my dotage is an eyeopener.
I turned 70 this year and in my dotage I see the bigger pictures of a lot of things I have been associated with over the years. The Eyeopener is my first real project that stuck. When I left Ryerson I ended up at TVOntario and again for 11  years had a seminal input about how that organization developed.
Also at TVOntario and in private business I was in at the start of digital on-line services that that were groundbreaking and innovative. The Eyeopener set the stage for how I approach media production and I believe that Ryerson teaching staff also set me on that course. Ted Schrader was a mentor in journalism and Syd Perlmutter in broadcasting. 
Ted Schrader was a tenacious journalist (the old school) but his high standards left a brand on me for life. Syd Perlmutter's contribution to my media production training was always to bring a more humanity and a sense of humour to our work. Syd remains a true mensch!
Then there was a tough lady, Christina Macbeth, who had the most exacting standards as she strived relentlessly to teach us  how to write useful prose. Her method was to tear shitty prose out of your typewriter, scrunch it up and deposit it in the waste basket with the comment: "Thorne you can do much much better" or equally "That writing is too needs a rewrite." Macbeth's teaching style would make contemporary educators squirm but it made us work harder and better.
The birth of the Eyeopener was in many ways influenced by my professors. They were all supportive of the paper and critical of it if it was sloppy or if we turned mean. Ted Schrader who was a journalism law and libel expert helped me deal with an early big story by advising us how to give back documents intercepted between a lawyer and their client. The client was Ryerson. Receiving those documents was an indictable offence. What a learning curve!
We handled that story and published it. That episode was great training and experience.  The Eyeopener was and is not just a yellow sheet.  It is and has been a crucible for learning our trade and a place where you can take journalism risks that very few journalism employers will ever allow you to take.  
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.
To RSVP for the Blake House do at 449 Jarvis St. Toronto on 20 October 2011 at 5PM please contact this email:


  1. Those were the good old days.

    1. Nice to hear from you. It's time for another Eyeopener social event. I'm not getting any younger!