Commentary | Use News to report, not explore

Public Editor

As it stands today, The Daily’s News section is used less for reporting relevant news and more for exploring issues that would best be addressed in other sections of the paper, such as Culture or Features.

According to its Statement of Principles (SoP), The Daily should focus on two broad types of news stories: those relevant and related to the McGill community, and those which depict and analyze power relations. In this light, reporting on the three-cat limit in Rosemont borough (November 24) is weak, and reporting that Google has mapped the Montreal metro system (November 6) is out of place. On the other hand, the coverage of the Adil Charkaoui case or the labour disputes on campus, both of which have been thoroughly followed up, was excellent. Similarly, the News piece informing us that the bike collective in Shatner has time reserved for non-males (November 13) was spot on.

Other news articles are of two kinds, and neither has its place in the News section. The first are really articles that should have made it to the Features section, but for one reason or another didn’t. For instance, I was delighted to read about Antifa (November 17), an anti-fascist collective in Montreal North. However, the article was a meagre 300 words and merely glossed over the collective’s history and current issues. In addition, the text was generously illustrated – much like a Features article – by photographs of tags and graffiti, which, incidentally, were simply horrendous by Montreal urban art standards. Why not have replaced them with a more detailed text and placed the piece in the Features section?

The most prominent and visible kind of articles wrongly tucked into the News section are those dealing with broader issues, only loosely connected to current events. Take for instance the article highlighting voting rights for felons in U.S. presidential elections (November 3). While the subject matter is clearly relevant to The Daily’s SoP, the only news part of this article is the fact that the U.S. presidential election was the following day. This article and many others like it use current events as a gateway to address a wider variety of topics relevant to The Daily’s SoP. However, the very nature of the News section prevents those articles from achieving the depth of coverage for which The Daily should be striving.

It is important that The Daily continue and even increase its reporting of news not adequately covered in other media outlets, including other campus publications. In line with The Daily’s SoP, the News section should report on alternative or poorly-covered issues and keep its readers updated on their developments, but in no case should The Daily be using the News section as a tool to explore those issues. News articles which lump together exploration and reporting often end up failing at one or both. Focusing exclusively on current events, especially those which are underreported, would allow the News section to increase its coverage of events at McGill and in Montreal that readers would not otherwise know about.

The exercise of explaining, contextualizing, and linking issues is central to The Daily, but it belongs in such sections as Culture or Features, or perhaps even an entirely new section. It is up the editorial board to decide whether and how to expand or reform those sections, especially Features, in order to increase the scope and quality of coverage.

Marc Selles serves as the readers’ representative, and his column appears every other Thursday. Send your gripes to publiceditor@mcgilldaily.com.


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