Commentary | The Tribune needs a lesson in journalism

It is appropriate that the Tribune’s editorial on AUS this week (“Making AUSes of themselves,” September 28) led with the phrase “emergent details.” That accurately describes their approach to this story all along – basing their articles on only those sensational facts which have floated to the surface.

Had they read The Daily’s articles on frosh, they would have found a complete accounting of the causes of the over-budget food orders they mentioned in their front-page article (“Arts execs reveal $30,000 Frosh budget deficit at Council,” September 28), an episode which they cherry-picked from Council and provided no follow-up research on.

Had they consulted the publicly available AUS budget or paid attention at the Council hearing they sat in on, where they took the time to misquote AUS VP Finance Majd Al Khaldi in order to incorrectly and publicly blame me for the costly mistake that resulted in ordering too much food, they might have noticed that expenses this year were under projections. (Al Khaldi’s response to the error can be found in the comments section of the online version of the article.) It was the shortfall in revenues, attributable to under-registration, which caused frosh to go over budget.

The event’s financial woes were therefore caused in large part by the increased cap for registration, something that both the Tribune and The Daily have acknowledged in the weeks since frosh. In the Tribune article, a councillor was quoted as stating that “raising the cap was the biggest problem they had.” Since The Daily actually took the time to talk to coordinators and attend the Council meeting in early September, they were able to report that the decision to raise the cap was persistently and openly contested by the coordinators both before and after it was made by the former VP Events. With that information in hand, it is hard to conclude, as the Tribune has, that the coordinators were to blame for the budget shortfall.

In their editorial, the Tribune also took the time out to malign the stipend increase as “the congratulations that running in red apparently earned their Frosh coordinators.” Again, an attempt at research would have revealed that total compensation for the frosh coordinators decreased from last year. This is to say nothing of the fact that the size of the event increased significantly and against our opposition during the planning process. It was precisely the fact that we managed to pull off an event despite the “oversights and miscalculations in the planning process” (as the Tribune put it) caused by issues in the Events portfolio that earned us the increase.

Most concerning was the childish, sophomoric, and personally damaging tone of the editorial. This was wildly inappropriate for what was once a respected publication. The Tribune appears to have made next to no effort at anything remotely resembling investigative journalism on this issue, and what information it has come across has been gleefully and irresponsibly misreported for the sake of sensationalism. On the same page that they accuse the AUS executives of “doing their best imitations of real politicians, mimicking everything from their fiscal irresponsibility to their inconsistent commitment to honesty,” the Tribune editorial board mourns the fact that “campus debate suffers from the hostile tone its participants often assume” (“Editorial to Restore Sanity,” September 28).

The hypocrisy in this juxtaposition is breathtaking. Openly and viciously attacking fellow McGill students with a tone more befitting a gossip column than an editorial does not foster respectful debate. They repeatedly raised the theme of transparency, but made no effort to act as the organ for that transparency through detailed research, balanced reporting, or a level-headed perspective.

Standing up for transparency and accountability is both necessary and commendable. The choice to sling mud instead of following up on that stance reflects a lack of serious inquiry and has accomplished little more than further confusing the issue and damaging reputations. The Tribune needs to be accountable for their editorials and articles, especially when they choose to write them in a way that is personally destructive to other McGill students. Their editorial on AUS stated that they wish to “foster a culture that rewards competence.” If this commitment is genuine, then we should expect resignations from the editorial board – or at the very least a public apology – in the near future.

Casey Adams is a U2 Political Science and History (Joint Honours) student. He was an AUS Frosh Coordinator. Write him at caseyjamesadams@gmail.com.


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