Arcane obstructions

Dear Journal staff,

There's been a lot of confusion about what happened on Thursday at AMS Assembly. This is my attempt to lay it all out for you guys.

First, some background. The AMS has a very basic behind the scenes relationship with the Journal. Basically, the AMS is the Journal's publisher, and so we have to be financially accountable to them. This is why we have J-Board and why we can't spend all of our budget on beer.

Parallel to that, we are afforded editorial autonomy. The only buzzwords we like; this basically means we can write whatever we want.

We also have the mandate to provide meaningful journalism experience for our volunteers, that's you guys. John Stackhouse told us that at least 10-12 people in the Globe newsroom are Journal alumni. Not bad for a school with no formal journalism program.

At AMS Assembly three weeks ago (before reading week) Victoria Pleavin, EngSoc president, drafted a bunch of motions, one for every commissioner and director of the AMS. These range from institutionalizing faculty rivalries to getting the MAC to conduct a campus-wide housing survey.

She wanted to come to Assembly "with a pile of motions to fix many of these problems and more since clearly it's not going to be done with any sort of initiative of this executive." Some of them may have been great ideas, if brought to Assembly with some forethought and consultation with those involved. Her motion relating to the Journal had neither.

The motion for Sarah Kwong, Media Services Director read:

"That AMS Assembly directs the Media Services Director to conduct an analysis of the content of AMS media during the current academic year and to subsequently report on the percentage of content that directly addresses student activities and events."

Because of all these motions, they didn't get to ours until the next Assembly, on Thursday night. Sarah had "AMS media" changed to just "The Queen's Journal", which I supported because it's more honest. We all know who Ms. Pleavin is really after.

It's a grudge. In her statement to Assembly on Feb. 3rd Ms. Pleavin lied and said we ignored the requests of the EngSoc Chief Returning Officer by releasing their election results early. There were no such requests and I have emails to prove it. I'm extremely offended by this, because the writers that worked very hard all election night don't deserve to be slandered.

Ms. Pleavin, in explaining her reasons for the motion, said that engineering students are unfairly represented in the Journal. However, if she looked she would notice we don't really cover any of the faculty societies' events that often. It's not out of malice, but that other things take precedent and that we don't receive many requests for publicity from faculty societies.

So, on Thursday night I got up and tried to defend the Journal. I said all those things in the first four paragraphs and how they relate to our coverage: We cover a wide variety of things to provide good experience for our writers and provide a paper students actually want to read so we can sell ads to cover our costs and be financially accountable to the AMS—the only thing they should care about. This is why we have more than just a News section.

But, the majority of Assembly's members stood up and said things along the lines of "I think it would be good to have this data" without knowing the specifics of the AMS-Journal relationship. I'm disappointed that some of those representatives that are familiar didn't speak up and help clear the air. I also had much more to say when the motion was called to question, cutting off the speakers list. Talk about a dysfunctional body.

There's a reasonable discussion there about our coverage and faculty societies. Perhaps there's more we could be doing about fac socs, but they don't communicate with us about stories nor do they cooperate with us when we do want to write something. It's a two-way street. Ms. Pleavin has been notoriously impossible to contact this year. If you won't talk to us, why should we care about your initiatives?

I don't have a problem with someone doing a study of the Journal's content. Ms. Pleavin could do one herself by bringing up the Journal website and counting articles that address "student activities and events". The percentage that do would probably surprise her.

The point is that the directive is coming from the AMS, a purely governmental component of the corporation that publishes the Journal. They have no place talking about the Editorial content of the Journal, as written in their constitution, even for an analytical purpose.

It sets a dangerous precedent. If you have a room full of egotistical, self-important politicians talking about assessing the Journal, who says they can't start talking about it more? I strongly believe that the Journal's autonomy and effectiveness to report will not be lost in one big fight with the AMS, but inch-by-inch, behind the scenes.

This is why we need to speak out. I want anyone involved with the Journal, or who cares about the Journal, to write a blog post about why this motion effects how you do your job. Emotionally, mentally. Does it make you second guess writing about something or someone?

We need to talk to our friends about it. If they ask you questions, try to answer them or show them this post. If they are dismissive, tell them to look at some other campus newspapers in Canada. They will find that Queen's students are lucky they have the Journal, despite all our critics.

The Journal is an institution of almost 139 years. It's bigger than the sum of it's parts, so we all need to step up and contribute to that sum. We're so lucky to have a staff that cares so much and takes so much time out of their lives to create each issue. Without you I would have no reason to be mad, because there would be no Journal. Speaking out from multiple perspectives will strengthen our cause.

Send your posts to me at this address or to Terra at journal_blogs@ams.queensu.ca.

Tyler Ball
Editor in Chief
The Queen's Journal

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