Fair and equal coverage aren't the same thing

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 13, 2007 Ed Cartoon

In our recent University Students’ Council election coverage, a visible pattern has emerged. Though we’ve featured information on and critiques of all three candidates, we’ve clearly lacked information on candidate Josh Safer.

We’ve given all candidates an equal chance to present their platforms and ideas. Whether they take advantage of these opportunities or not depends on them and, more specifically, their willingness to put effort into their campaigns.

Though Safer may not appear to take his campaign as seriously as Chris Reynolds or Tom Stevenson, he deserves an equal opportunity for coverage in our pages. Despite lacking a concrete platform or plan for the future, Safer is still officially recognized as a USC presidential candidate and we would thus be wrong to ignore him.

However, as in other elections, candidates who fail to show any true promise or serious ambitions in their campaigns are often left by the wayside. A mere presence at debates or a name on a ballot doesn’t mean a candidate has contributed seriously or meaningfully.

Although the opportunities for coverage will always remain equal, the coverage itself might not. If Safer chooses not to engage us when we question him, we won’t give him special treatment. We can’t fill in the blanks surrounding a candidate’s campaign, as we’re not de facto campaign managers and we can’t spin candidates’ actions, or lack thereof, into something they aren’t.

Taking what each candidate gives us helps readers understand the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. If we portray each candidate honestly, voters can judge these candidates for themselves.

The important distinction lies between fair and equal coverage. If a candidate responds to the opportunities we offer and take advantage of every chance to express their views, it’s only fair to represent them, even if they have no official platform.

However, we can’t bend over backwards to represent a candidate if they choose not to respond to us; if Safer gives us no information, we’ll write less about him than we will about Reynolds and Stevenson. The opportunity for coverage remains equal, but not necessarily the coverage itself.

Safer’s campaign strategy differs drastically from his competitors’, but we can’t penalize him for that. However, he should capitalize on the opportunities surrounding him and give campus media and voters information to work with.

We promise Safer fair coverage, but if he wants equal coverage, he must show he’s serious in his campaign for USC president.

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