The cost of telling the truth

With information becoming harder to access, truth takes a lot more to get at

Let’s talk a little bit about the role of a newspaper in the rapidly changing world of information access.

In some ways, we have much greater access to information these days than we’ve ever had in the past. With increased technology and nearly constant access to social media, it’s easier than ever to know what’s happening both locally and globally in a matter of a few minutes. Consider even the use of video footage taken by cellphones in court like in the Sammy Yatim trial—we now have so many ways of seeing events as they happened.

And yet, perhaps because of this, there are organizations that make greater efforts to cover things up that they’d rather not have the public know. Even U of T is guilty of this—I bitterly recall how last year, the media relations department would not budge when asked certain questions (think: strike). Infuriatingly, I now see them actively reaching out to promote (and even help set up interviews for) the stories it actually wants people to hear about.

It’s unfortunately the case that the increasing difficulties in obtaining information also affect the news industry. Even here at The Medium, we’ve experienced firsthand the struggles to getting at the truth of some very serious topics.

In light of this, it can be seen as a good thing that U of T has made a decision to collect data on race within the university, if we’re thinking strictly in terms of access to a greater amount of information.For the representative of the Black Liberation Collective, the move is a “victory” that will help address the needs of black students better. Of course, time will tell how relevant or helpful the information will be by the end of it.

Statistics can give the deceptive impression of objectivity. It’ll be interesting to see how U of T will collect the information, considering race is such a broad and complex topic. How does one define “blackness” or “whiteness” and all the races in between?

Furthermore, we learned this week that the Provostial Committee on Prevention and Response to Sexual Violence recently released its recommendations for U of T. I wonder if now students will have greater access to data relating to the instance of sexual assault on campus.

I ask because in my experience, the university hasn’t always been the most transparent when it comes to criminal activity on campus. If you’ve ever wondered, the reports we receive from Campus Police each week are not the full roster of incidents that take place on campus. And the ones we do receive are pre-approved. I wonder, what reports do we never get to know about?

U of T is not alone in limiting access to information of course. Even student organizations are guilty of failing to provide information on issues that matter. And while we as a newspaper are given the role of finding out things important for our readers to know and reporting them, the limited access we have to important information can be a significant challenge for us when trying to do our job.

And yet, I believe that there are a good people out there who have access to information and recognize the importance of it to become public. Unfortunately, because of the control exerted by powerful organizations, people find it hard to speak up publicly.

My message to those people is to consider this: when we don’t speak out against the wrongs and injustices being perpetrated around us, we let them continue and the perpetrators win. At the end of the day, we all came here to achieve certain goals, and those of us fortunate enough to have achieved positions of power would do well to use them to bring about positive change.

Yes, organizations will try to prevent some things from ever becoming public. As a result, speaking the truth will take a lot of courage and sometimes come at a cost.

But coming from a newspaper that’s determined to expose the truth in an age where information is becoming harder and harder to get, that’s a sacrifice that’s well worth making. And I have faith that the truth can’t stay hidden forever.