Picking a bone with campus media


Universities are full of brilliant, smart, and interesting individuals. From societies to lecture discussions, one is bound to impress with the sharpness of their wit and their alternative take on facts and information. Why isn't this clearly reflected in campus newspapers?

This isn't a thorough analysis of academic media and their coverage of events, but an observation I've made over the past few years.

Taking in consideration Halifax-based papers like The Dalhousie Gazette and The Watch (University of King's College), one can notice, with enough comparison, that important elements of news are lacking along with important ethical considerations.

The Dalhousie Gazette prides itself with a constant and thorough coverage of local issues and student-related dilemmas. Great. But the lack of diversity represented either in pictures or in stories could be potentially dangerous for the weekly-mag who's mandate is to represent the Dalhousie student population. From left to right, a range of people are looking to tell their stories, and they're all from different backgrounds. Go on, people.

Unless these stories are told by wannabes.

I have NOTHING against people who enjoy writing and trying out a little journalism here and there. Heck, that's probably exactly what I'm doing being a semi-non-experienced rookie. But, I strongly believe in important, ethical and fact-based coverage -- something that is not taught to new students volunteering their time and effort to campus media.

Last week, I contacted the author of a story because I was to take a picture to tag along with her piece. When asked if I could attend one of her interviews and snap a few shots, she replied that she had done all the interviews by e-mail.

Simple. You write up all your questions, send them off, and give your subject three to four days to type up answers that will make them sound good, research the stuff they didn't know and edit their vocabulary for neutrality.

As we've been taught in J-school, e-mailing shouldn't even be considered an interview. Sure, you're more than welcome to get in touch with your subject through cyber-web businazz as you wish, but why the hell would you not walk three blocks to sit in their office and quiz them on what they truly know? Or just to get a simple answer.

Why are campus media not showing people how to report? Journalism for Dummies? JOUR 101?

I applaud the Gazette's editors for dealing with a huge amount of etiquette mishaps along with missed deadlines and a lack of reporters. Most of them are friends, acquaintances and fellow journos. But it pains me to think that their beautiful editorial work is put the shame by a lack of understanding of serious issues and a thorough coverage of events.

Yes, editors write too. Yes, they pick stories, edit them, publish if they like and trash if they don't. But why, why, why are contributors not shown the basics? Even just a set of ground rules?

Even with a little teaching, I'm 100% sure the Gazette could go a long way, because they already have.

I'm not a professional, but I'd suggest 1. Diversity 2. Interviewing ethics 3. Photos that make sense 4. Events are not stories, they're blurbs. Unless there's SOMETHING HAPPENING or SOMEONE DOING SOMETHING INTERESTING, don't make it a 300 word gangbuster.