The Silhouette must improve reporting on student politics

October 10, 2019
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes
Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor 

By Anonymous

The Silhouette needs to do a better job of scrutinizing student politics, especially pertaining to the McMaster Students Union. A free press is essential to holding governing bodies  accountable, but unfortunately, the Silhouette is letting the McMaster Students Union get away with a lot more than it should.

Currently, the Silhouette’s news section is mostly a pro-establishment mouthpiece: it gives the MSU a platform to broadcast its messages, but rarely challenges what the MSU puts out. Critical and insightful articles on political issues, such as the Maroons investigation, are the exception when they should be the norm.

For example, last month, in the midst of the Student Choice Initiative opt-out period, the Silhouette simply summarized political talking points from the MSU board of directors, instead of seriously analyzing or critiquing what our student government had to say. As a result, the MSU is able to brush its problems under the rug, and the Silhouette rarely bothers to question what the MSU publicly says. This apathy is unfortunately not new. 

In 2016, the Student Representative Assembly ordered the MSU to lobby for the removal of Glenn De Caire, McMaster’s director of Parking and Security Services. While the Silhouette has covered two protests against De Caire and a tribunal case, the Silhouette has never reported on how the MSU responded. Even though the MSU has failed to produce results for the past three years, the Silhouette has neglected to report on why this is the case, or call out our student leaders for failing at their jobs.

In July, when MSU president Joshua Marando called for the Student Representative Assembly to de-ratify the Dominion Society, the Silhouette closely followed the MSU’s lead. Rather than asking difficult questions — such as why Marando personally voted to ratify the club on July 21, despite an SRA member publicly voicing concerns on June 23 about alleged white supremacist connections — the Silhouette simply copied and pasted from his public statement for their news headline. Rather than holding our elected officials accountable for overlooking the white supremacy concerns, the Silhouette literally parroted the words of a politician scrambling to contain a political scandal.

Finally, just last Thursday, the Silhouette reported that the SRA de-ratified the Chinese Students and Scholars Association — a full week after Hong Kong’s SCMP got there first — but quickly retracted their online article. The article failed to acknowledge the evidence in the The Globe & Mail of the CSSA’s connections to the Chinese Communist Party, failed to consider any of the documents on the SRA website and failed to investigate rumours that the MSU board has been trying to avoid or hush this issue.

I am not alleging that there is censorship — after all, these examples have each received at least some coverage in the Silhouette. Rather, the Silhouette rarely follows up on political articles, thus allowing the MSU to simply wait for controversies to blow over. What limited political coverage there is usually just summarizes or repeats what the MSU says, such as with the Dominion Society. Anything more substantial, such as last week’s CSSA article, is often not thoroughly investigated.

The articles on the MSU’s failed lobbying strategies regarding De Caire, the real reasons behind the clubs department’s recommendation to ratify the Dominion Society (after having already heard of white supremacy concerns) and the MSU board’s mysterious avoidance of the CSSA issue could all easily be front page headlines. This makes the Silhouette’s lack of reporting all the more inexplicable. 

If the Silhouette is going to prioritize sundry stories like new buildings on campus over political controversies in the MSU, then their content is insufficient. Students are kept in the dark about the MSU’s internal problems, voter turnout is low because of our student paper reporting in-depth on politics only once a year during presidential elections and the lack of public scrutiny means the MSU board feels little pressure to treat the SRA as anything more than a rubber stamp.

We need a dedicated section for student politics, like with sports or arts and culture, to provide in-depth, year-round political coverage. Alternatively, at the very least, there could be a designated political correspondent, or the news section could up the quantity and quality of their political stories.

A student paper that uncovers the ongoings of the MSU each week would significantly help improve transparency, students would be engaged with politics year-round and ultimately, the MSU would become more democratic due to improved public oversight. The Maroons investigation is merely a taste of what’s possible if only the Silhouette was more inquisitive and kept the MSU on its toes.


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