Strength in numbers

By Katherine Fernandez-Blance, Assistant News Editor

I recently conducted a survey of all the articles I had ever written for the Queen’s Journal. This wasn’t done to pad my ego, but rather in light of the motion passed at AMS assembly that will now require the incoming Media Services Director to undergo a similar assessment of all of the Journal’s content, correlating percentages to coverage of ‘student events’ and ‘student activities.’

I write this article fully condemning the motion and the rationale of those who helped it pass. The results of my survey did not shock me, but for those who are for the collection of data in this manner, please read on to enlighten yourself as to why this is a motion that will waste resources, hinder editorial autonomy, and prove entirely irrelevant to the student body.

I’ve written for the Journal for the past two years. Because my stories have been predominantly for the News section, that is where my numbers are based. I only analyzed my own articles because I lacked the time to do the same for others in the News section.

Since I started in 2009, I have written 52 stories. By even skimming through them, I found that 48% are immediately directly related to student events or activities. This was obvious by looking at the title of the article in most cases.

9.6% dealt with issues that affected members of the administration, 7.7% dealt with news on a more local or provincial scale, and 3.8% (two articles) focused on professors winning awards.

The way the Journal is run isn’t always the most transparent and I believe that this is where a lot of the confusion and anger stems from. In the News section, once a month we write three or four articles for the ‘Campus Catchup’ section. These short articles relate to occurrences that are happening at other Canadian universities. 13.5% of my articles fell into this category.

The Journal is one of the few student newspapers in Canada that doesn’t regularly report on events at other universities. We like to keep our content focused on issues that directly affect Queen’s Students. The articles written in ‘Campus Catchup’ do not involve Queen’s activities or events, but as the writers, we believe that they are of both interest and relevance to students since many of the issues addressed can have national implications for postsecondary institutions as a whole.

The final area that my articles fell into (17% of them) was gray. This is the crux of the matter in practical terms. Does an obituary of a student fall under ‘student activity’? How about Islamic history month, which many Queen’s students participated in in October, though the month was part of a national movement? The registrar’s office forcing some engineering students to pay extra tuition wasn’t an event undertaken by students, but it was an activity that effected students.

Where do you draw the line?

Collecting these results took me the better part of an hour. Translate that into a survey of every section from every issue for a year. This has never been part of the Media Services Director’s portfolio, so where will this extra time come from and where will resources have to be drawn from?

Is it realistic to assume the Director will be pouring through every article written for the Journal in the past year? If not, will they have to search for buzzwords like ‘student’ or ‘event’ and then tally everything up? What happens to articles in the gray area, like I have mentioned above?

I am trying to appeal to you from a practical perspective, so I will only touch on editorial autonomy.

Please think about this motion with some common sense. Once all the ‘data’ is analyzed, where do we go from there? If the Journal is found to have less than an ‘ideal’ percentage of content that focuses on ‘student events’ and ‘activities,’ will we be recommended to improve this? Who will decide what the appropriate percentage is?

You don’t have to be involved in the Journal at all to realize what this motion implies. It is NOT up to the AMS to decide our content, but with this motion, those who support it are treading a very fine line.

The information we present in each issue is not inaccessible. You can see in every issue for free, online or in print, where your student dollars are going towards. We aren’t trying to hide anything, but this motion is.

Please consider the implications of this motion. If it’s a waste of time, why do it? If it’s not, what precedent will this set?

Vote to reverse this motion at the AMS’s AGM: Tuesday March 22nd, 8:30pm, Ban Righ Dining Hall. Vote for common sense, and for your campus newspaper.

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