Tartan needs kick in ASUS

Despite this year’s hurdles, whoever ends up managing the Tartan next year should work hard to fulfill the publication’s potential as a campus institution.

Last Thursday, the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) Assembly voted in favour of keeping their comatose online news source, the Tartan, running for another year. The outfit has published little content over the past year and its future was in question before Thursday’s vote.

If the Tartan gets up and running, it will represent healthy competition for the Journal and other media organizations on campus. Competition will improve media content and could result in a wider variety of perspectives on campus issues.

Student newspapers and magazines represent vital opportunities for writing, visual arts and collaboration in a social setting. Fledgling outlets like the Tartan should be nurtured rather than abandoned if only because the current campus media landscape is relatively sparse.

While the Tartan has become notorious in certain circles for its lack of content, this notoriety doesn’t extend beyond the student media and student government “bubbles”. For this reason, ASUS Assembly’s decision to keep the Tartan’s current name was correct as its brand hasn’t been tarnished in the eyes of most students.

The way forward for the Tartan lies in developing a clear mandate, as well as structures, policies and a hiring process conducive to long-term success. The Journal benefits from an “institutional memory” derived from 140 years of existence. Crucially, the Journal’s Editors in Chief are elected rather than hired, a key element of its editorial autonomy.

Editorial autonomy continues to be an outstanding issue for the Tartan. It can’t claim to be autonomous if it continues to hire former ASUS executives as editors. If editorial autonomy is the intention, it should be carried out in practice.

The Tartan’s challenges are not insurmountable. Queen’s TV is an example of a campus media outlet that has made huge strides in the space of a year. The Tartan’s new leadership should consult with other on-campus media organizations so it can draw on the experience of those who have overseen successful turnarounds and implemented effective policies.

Last Thursday, ASUS Assembly saved the Tartan from disappearing completely. Now, the publication needs diligent oversight.

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him.

— Journal Editorial Board

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