Journal needs autonomy
It was disturbing to learn that the students’ council
at Queen’s University has plans to change how the Editors-in-Chief
of the student newspaper, The Journal, are selected.
The proposal, now being examined by the Alma Mater Society
at Queen’s, would allow some student politicians to vote
in the newspaper’s annual elections. The AMS general
assembly would also vote to ratify the winners of the election.
To the casual reader, this may not seem like a bad idea. In
fact it might appear to open up the election process, potentially
making it more “democratic.” In theory it would
allow the AMS, which owns The Journal and are liable for anything
the paper prints, to keep a check on who is running the show.
But the changes are not as innocent as they seem — in
fact, they are a direct threat to the editorial autonomy of
Politicians should not play a role in choosing who runs a
newspaper, because one of the key roles of the paper is to
scrutinize the government — and in the case of a student
paper like The Journal, the government is the AMS.
One of the suggested changes is to lower the number of contributions
that are necessary for a volunteer to become a staff member
at the paper and thereby be eligible to vote in the election.
Currently, the number of contributions is four, the proposal
is to lower it to one.
This proposal is fraught with problems. The staff could in
theory be filled with supporters of one candidate — perhaps
an AMS-friendly candidate — and thus be elected, even
though they are not the most qualified for the positions.
The purpose of the elections is not to vote in the person
who is most sensitive and complacent to the AMS, but to vote
in the person most qualified to do the job.
One would hope the AMS has enough faith in the staff of The
Journal to elect competent and qualified Editors-in-Chief to
run the paper, just as it has been doing for years.
The editorial autonomy of the paper is under direct attack.
Although the AMS says it does not want to control the content
of the newspaper, its involvment in the electing and ratifying
the Editors-in-Chief would severely influence how the paper
goes about scrutinizing the working of the student government.
Once politics is brought into this process, a newspaper is
no longer serving its mandate to its readers, which is to fairly
and accurately scrutinize the government.
Just because a newspaper criticizes the government does not
mean it is inherently biased against it. It is the paper’s
duty to report both the bad and the good of elected officials.
The student politicians at Queen’s have failed to realize
this. It is the newspaper’s duty to hold the government
accountable, not the other way around.