Student Government Orders Audit of Campus Newspaper

The student government of Canada’s Queen’s University has ordered a review of all content published over the past year in The Queen’s Journal, the QU campus newspaper.  According to editors, the audit is “a direct threat to the editorial autonomy” of the paper.

In a motion approved by an overwhelming majority earlier this month, the university’s student-run Alma Mater Society (AMS) specifically “directs the Media Services Director to conduct an analysis of the content of the Queen’s Journal during the current academic year and to subsequently report on the percentage of content that directly addresses student activities and events.”

Translation: Student government members do not think the Journal is reporting enough on student life, and they want to prove it.  The motion offers no information on what actions AMS might consider once the results are compiled.

In reply, newspaper staffers declare the motion mean-spirited and misguided on multiple counts.  Most disturbingly, according to a Journal editorial, the review subverts AMS’s own bylaws, which state the paper should remain “free from the influence of student government and outside institutions with regards to its editorial integrity.”

In addition, Journal staffers argue, the findings will not offer any meaningful new insights.  Editors are well aware the paper does not cover even close to everything going down at QU.  It’s not laziness.  It’s news judgment, and the reality of working with a small staff balancing schoolwork and social lives along with sources and scoops.

As the editorial notes, “Ideally, the Journal would possess sufficient resources and staff to provide comprehensive coverage— reporting on every event of any relevance to the Queen’s community.  This is not the case.  For this reason, the editorial staff must decide what material appears in the Journal— and consequently, what material is not covered or published. This decision is directly based on the editors’ perception of how accessible the story is to the Queen’s community as a whole— in other words, its relevance.”

The words relevance and relevant appear a combined 11 times in the editorial.  The strong hint the newspaper seems to be sending to the AMS through their repeated appearances: A student newspaper’s value to its campus goes far beyond “directly address[ing] student activities and events.”

As the editorial explains, “The community of this university is composed of a diverse group of individuals with an equally diverse range of interests. In order to reach as much of the student body as possible, the Journal strives to cater to a variety of interests by offering news, athletic, creative and artistic content, in-depth coverage and human interest material. . . . [I]t’s crucial to recognize the distinction between relevance and comprehensiveness.  The Journal may never be entirely comprehensive, but it is always relevant.”

Comments are closed.