You’re no Swift, Gazette

Western’s student newspaper showed an incredible lack of judgment in publishing a series of offensive stories last month.

In their annual frosh issue, the Western Gazette published articles that encouraged the sexual harassment of teaching assistants, drug use and excessive drinking, causing a wave of public backlash.

The Gazette receives a large mandatory student fee; they should be accountable to their readers by writing content that’s informative and beneficial. The Gazette's attitude indicated a blatant disregard of their mandate and the interests of their student readership.

A frosh issue is meant to instill excitement in first-years and alleviate some of the discomfort of starting university. Instead, the Gazette’s frosh issue presented a threatening environment that alienated frosh rather than welcoming them.

Despite public outrage over the issue’s content, the Gazette’s editorial board initially refused to apologize, stating that the stories in question were satirical.

It’s not the place of a newspaper to publish satire; that’s the domain of humour publications such as The Onion or Queen’s Golden Words. By inappropriately publishing satire, the Gazette failed to fulfill its purpose as a news source. The articles themselves can’t by any standard be considered satire, which is meant to criticize an aspect of our reality in order to catalyze change.

The foremost example of satire is A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift, in which he suggests the impoverished Irish sell their babies as food to the rich in order to avoid starvation. Swift’s purpose wasn’t to mock the poor, but to shame the rich for their heartless disregard of the plights of the poor. In their article “So you want to date a teaching assistant”, the Gazette takes no clear stance on the issue, and if anything mocks victims of sexual harassment rather than the perpetrators.

Sexual harassment, drug use and alcoholism are serious issues that students encounter, and shouldn’t be treated in a joking manner.

From Editor-in-Chief Iain Boekhoff’s comments, it’s clear the Gazette believes university newspapers shouldn’t be held to a serious standard. Such statements devalue the potential of student papers to do incredible work.

The Gazette eventually apologized and removed the three articles from their website, but it’s clear that the severity of the situation didn’t resonate. University newspapers have an incredible opportunity to talk about serious issues and to start dialogue. This opportunity was wasted at Western.

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