January 30, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 67  

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Student newspaper at Queen’s under threat?

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

The heads of the student newspaper at Queen’s University have come under close scrutiny by the Alma Mater Society, the undergraduate student government, which is reviewing how the top editors are hired and fired.

“We feel [the report] would really infringe on our editorial autonomy,” said Sarah Hammond, one of two Editors-in-Chief at The Journal.

The hiring process for the editors could be changed if the suggested by-law amendments go through, including reducing the number of article contributions a volunteer needs in order to be eligible to vote for the editor, from four to one. Hammond called the idea “ludicrous,” saying it could allow for voting blocs to co-opt the democratic process of electing next year’s Editors-in-Chief. “They could easily overwhelm it.”

The controversial discussion paper — put forward by executive members of the AMS — would also greatly simplify how the editors are fired by giving that power to the AMS Assembly and one other governing body, Hammond explained. Currently, each of three student groups including The Journal’s editorial board have to approve a dismissal by a two-thirds vote, she added.

“It’s all done to make The Journal’s editors more accountable, but we don’t see the connection,” Hammond said, adding the review process took the newspaper by surprise.

But the VP-operations of the student society — who has responsibility for the AMS-owned Journal — said the review was planned well in advance, when last year’s student council passed a strategic plan calling for the process. “It required the [AMS] executive to review the governance and structure of the Queen’s Journal,” said Erik Gaustad, adding the discussion paper is only putting forth ideas, not explicit recommendations.

Gaustad also dismissed suggestions the student society is trying to take over The Journal in order to approve its articles. “As far as the content is concerned, we should have no control over it,” he said. “Maintaining the editorial autonomy is our No. 1 priority, but we have to look at accountability.”

Currently, the newspaper’s editors cannot be fired by the AMS for contravening the society’s rules. “They’re completely separate from our policies and regulations,” Gaustad noted, adding all other AMS employees are subject to the policies and also have to undergo sensitivity and human resources training.

“The current process of selecting the Editor-in-Chief has been going on for a number of years without complaint,” said Paul Yeoman, president of Western’s University Students’ Council in reference to The Gazette.

Hammond said The Journal is waiting until next Thursday, Feb. 3 when the AMS will return with a final draft of the proposal. “We’re looking at all of our options — including going independent.”



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