Criticism of the Campus Times’ coverage is a longstanding, if sporadic, pastime at UR.
And it is a welcome one.
It’s nice to know, of course, that the paper’s readership is broad and attuned enough to elicit letters to the editor. More importantly, that feedback is a way to keep us in check. The Campus Times is accountable only to its readers, after all—they’re who we think about serving with every sentence and every story.
The letter appearing in this week’s issue, by former Campus Times editor and current Students’ Association (SA) Senator Mira Bodek, makes an effort to hold accountable the CT’s coverage this year of the SA Government, which has featured high-traffic pieces on flaws in SA’s 5K Challenge and the bureaucracy’s lagging and divisive rewrite of the SA Constitution.
Bodek’s letter brings up fair questions—why does it seem, for example, that most of the CT’s reporting on SA so far this semester has been negative?
The answer lies in our newsroom philosophy and coverage calculus.
The Campus Times, forever reliant on volunteers, is short-staffed. This is despite the unprecedented uptick in readership and online strides over the past year.
So when there’s only one or two writers to cover SA, as is typically the case, and the choice is between writing about SA Government accomplishments and SA Government failures, we’re going to choose the latter.
This is partly because SA Government can promote itself, and there are better ways for the CT to give our readers value than by simply reiterating SA’s PR.
But it is also because the Campus Times believes in accountability journalism, a press that is predisposed to skepticism and giving voice to the voiceless.
The CT fulfills the second by spotlighting students and staff, and their efforts, on campus. It fulfills the first through its coverage of SA and the UR administration.
Students should see the parallels between SA Government and actual public institutions. It’s not accurate to say that the Campus Times shouldn’t take this all so seriously, that this is “just” student government, when every student living on campus will pay SA $288 in student activity fees over the course of this year and $296 over the next.
Just like professional papers keep tabs on official governments so that readers know where their tax dollars are going, the Campus Times does and will do the same with SA Government and the students it serves.
Our aim is not to needlessly publish articles that only paint SA in a poor light, or to create controversy. But we will not hesitate to aggressively write about our student government when it does a disservice to the student body that put so much of its personnel in power.
The decision is clear.