The quality and diversity of students at McGill is not reflected in the coverage of The Daily. While the paper could be the crème de le crème of student journalism, The Daily is not living up to its full potential and is alienating both readers and writers.
On a superficial level, The Daily has recently been overly sloppy. The copy and section editors should be doing a more thorough job. There are multiple typos and spelling errors, not to mention embarrassing mistakes like crediting articles to the wrong authors or getting the date wrong on the front page.
A careful review of any major newspaper will show a roughly similar pattern in frequency and, to a lesser extent, type of errors. Nonetheless, The Daily performs below average in this regard and there is room for easy improvement.
A more serious problem is that The Daily suffers from a striking uniformity of content, tone, and opinion.
The Daily’s Statement of Principles (SoP) mandates the paper to “depict and analyze power relations accurately in its coverage.” The Daily regularly publishes specially themed issues – including gender, meat, and mental health this semester.
This approach greatly facilitates the analysis of particular topics and power relations by allowing for an in-depth and multi-faceted coverage. But the chatter around campus is that this approach has also alienated students who do not appreciate the same themes, or understand them in the same way as do the editors. There is a genuine sense of exclusivity to The Daily that many members of our community find intimidating and even uninviting.
This uniformity of content and opinion manifests itself most alarmingly between the articles The Daily publishes and the letters sent in by readers. The newspaper’s self-defined “fundamental goal” is to “serve as a critical and constructive forum for the exchange of ideas and information about McGill University and related communities.” This goal cannot be achieved if there is no debate about the paper’s content.
Yes, The Daily has fulfilled part of its mandate by serving as a forum for a healthy debate on a pro-choice club at SSMU and a less-than-enlightened debate on the sexiness of hijabs. However, there has been virtually no criticism about what The Daily chooses to cover or how that coverage is conducted. When the letters are not about current events or Star Trek, then they loudly praise coverage of previous issues and offer only gentle suggestions.
Simply put, The Daily is preaching to the choir. The newspaper neither represents, nor does it interest, a large part of our University. It is an indulgence by a sizeable minority of people who feed off each other in a closed loop.
The beauty of The Daily is that anybody can contribute. Yet talented and opinionated writers are shying away from contributing to the newspaper because of its sense of exclusivity. Similarly, many readers ignore The Daily because they do not feel represented by or concerned with its coverage.
Marc’s column will appear every other Thursday starting next year. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.