Coverage without action

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 22, 2007 Ed Cartoon

During an information session about a new OSAP website at Toronto’s Bloor Collegiate Institute Feb. 5, Chris Bentley was interrupted by student demonstrators.

Bentley, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, was forced to retreat hurriedly from the protesters and the announcement was cancelled.

The protesters gained access to the announcement by posing as student journalists. Student activists from York, Ryerson and the University of Toronto confronted Bentley in the presentation intended for high school students.

It’s understandable that protesters are willing to do what it takes to get their messages heard. Masquerading as an employee of a student newspaper is an effective avenue to deliver a message and get a broader range of people talking about your grievances.

Although clearly not full-fledged professionals, student journalists still contend there is a degree of professionalism in their work. Student media have a hard enough time being taken seriously; this kind of subterfuge on student protesters’ part certainly doesn’t help student journalists’ case.

It was indicated that only two of the 19 observers signed in as members of the media were actual reporters. If these activists can take such measures to infiltrate an information session, perhaps the student media should do a better job covering these events.

The fault shouldn’t necessarily fall on the shoulders of the Toronto universities’ newspapers. But could the student media act as a better liaison between the campus and its politicians, so this kind of embarrassment could be avoided?

The student paper definitely has a role to play in student activism. As a media outlet for students at this institution, we at The Gazette have a responsibility to cover student issues. Student media should decide what to cover based on how much a given event or issue affects and interests the student body.

However, there’s a difference between coverage and action. It’s desirable for us to represent both sides of an issue using words, but it’s problematic when we go further than that.

By actively participating in a student issue, a university newspaper takes a stance on it rather than reporting it objectively. Obviously, the newspaper’s job is reporting and not picking a side in a conflict. No one will ever be completely happy with the depth or breadth of the coverage, but it’s still vital to do so objectively " for a student newspaper or any other media outlet.

Regardless of how justified you felt the student activists were in disguising themselves, an event like this gives us pause to evaluate and recognize the role of the student paper.

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