Coco Chanel once said, “Friends, there are no friends.” She was probably referring to the fashion world, or perhaps about life in general. But from what I’ve seen at The Medium in the last year and half, she might as well have been talking about journalism.
Journalists have no friends. Neither do newspapers. We make friends, often, but the relationships tend to be short-lived. We also have quite a few enemies, as well as lots of people who are mildly displeased with us and a bit wary too.
Yet they all read our pages. This, ultimately, is what matters.
From the beginning of the academic year, the UTM administration has advertised its efforts to prepare against the swine flu. It put up ads throughout the campus and posted guidelines on its website. We talked about it in this paper and splashed it across the cover page, which I can only assume made everyone happy. Students were better informed, UTM appeared ready and caring, and we looked, well, informed and caring.
Contrast this with what is happening now. UTM has modified the library hours, killing them, if you will, thus turning us into the only U of T campus without a 24/5 library. Yet none of the students I spoke with had a clue about this. Could it be because no ads were placed on campus? Could it be because the changes were only mentioned, ever so discreetly, on the library website?
I can only presume, now that we are bringing this out into the open, onto our cover page, our website and our Twitter stream, that UTM officials won’t be happy with us.
Something similar happened last week with members of a certain UTM academic society, one that we have had certain scuffles with in the past. As I stood at the Get Experience Fair, flanked by two of our editors, two guys with ties and a girl in a dress snatched the latest issue of The Medium from our table and proceeded to read the article on page three, jabbing their finger at it and muttering things like, “That’s not true.” They never looked at my editors or me in the eye. They didn’t engage in a respectful debate. They just blabbered for a good two or three minutes before shaking their head in disgust and pacing away.
I thought the article that so angered them was pretty fair. Something tells me they didn’t agree.
To the UTM officials who might not be ecstatic with us, to those two guys with ties and to everyone whom we will upset this year, I say this: it’s our job.
It’s our job to talk about the things that happen on campus. Some things will make people look good. Others will make people look bad. More to the point, it will make the same people look good today and bad tomorrow. Or the other way around.
Our critics will say that we have an agenda and that we’re biased. If what they mean is that we have an opinion, they are right. The issue of objectivity in journalism is a tricky one. I have always maintained that journalists should be aware of their biases so that they can keep an eye on it. Pretending not have a bias will only result in it sticking its head out somewhere between the lines.
I prefer the concept of fairness. We strive to be fair, and that means being balanced. We strive to present both sides of an argument, to obtain quotes from all, to hear everyone involved before we write the story. That’s what we tried to do in the last issue, the one with the story that two guys with their ties didn’t like, and in this one when we covered the new library hours. Sure, we interviewed students who were upset and we interviewed UTMSU President Joey Santiago. But we also interviewed library representatives.
To be sure, I appreciate why some people wouldn’t want some things to be advertised or exposed. We at The Medium don’t walk around talking about our typos, of which there have been more than an accept able amount in the last two issues.
In the end it comes down to this: we have to write the story. Someone alerts us about underage drinking? We have to cover it. The library closes down earlier than most students find convenient? We have to cover it. The university prepares itself for swine flu? Guess what we have to do.
We won’t always please everyone, but then neither should we. For if we did, if we worried about the feelings of everyone, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs.