Let us get the message out! Free press means free people

by | Oct 10, 2015 | Editorial

There have always been two different perspectives on journalists: they report the news and keep the public informed on topics they otherwise wouldn’t be aware of; or they benefit their publications by tricking people into believing a certain aspect of a story. Regardless of which of these is true (although we will argue the former) a community, especially within a college, should stand behind their news outlets and support them in their efforts to keep everyone informed.

Community support isn’t always felt from within Humber’s student newsrooms. It is too often difficult to set up interviews with staff and officials within Humber – even Humber Students’ Federation often makes itself elusive — and even more difficult to share all the news that needs attention because of multiple boundaries. Our goal is never to portray any person, group or aspect of the community poorly, but if there is news to report, it is our job to do it. That is exactly why we are here: to learn, to research and to offer reporting on matters of concern to the whole Humber community.

The reality of our relations with many in the school is that, when there are events to be given attention, groups to be profiled and anything positive to report, interviews fall into place readily and we can have the story out in hours. If there is a difficult, awkward or controversial matter to be reported, we are shut out almost immediately.

This isn’t new to the student newsroom and, quite frankly, we approach some situations more aggressively than we normally would because we anticipate the resistance. There will be endless unanswered phone calls, emails and cancelled interviews. It’s time to share a secret though: cancelling on a journalist will only make them dig more.

Again, there is no one on our team that wants to bring down the community we’re trying to inform. We just want to do our jobs and be respected as the professionals we are becoming, just like any other program on our campuses.

When there is a news story, like someone being disqualified from an HSF election, or a varsity team being suspended, it is not only our instinct as journalists but also our jobs to find out what happened and how it’s going to impact the people around us. We work to find every possible detail and keep people aware. It is especially important when dealing with young adults who may not be in tune with every aspect of the school to help them make informed opinions and decisions, not least when it comes to something like their own student government that handles more than $10-million of their tuition money. But when something like this situation happens and journalists are shut out, or any media professionals are ignored, it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the role of journalism, which is not simply a public relations service to promote good news but a vehicle of inquiry into things that matter to the community as a whole.

If journalists we were to disrespect any part of Humber, which is certainly never our goal, we would be reprimanded immediately, already by our own faculty supervisors, let alone everyone else.

Yet Humber journalists are often disrespected in our pursuit to cover stories of significant community concern, like elections, sports and violence. We are expected to be thankful even for the opportunity to try to provide coverage. Trying is not what we’re here to do. We are here to make an impact, to open minds and to make this community a stronger one.

We understand some issues carry legal concerns. We know that at certain times, departments like Health Services can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of student reporters seeking interviews with medical professionals, and that these encounters are not always convenient or comfortable.  But being kept in the loop, or at least given the respect of an interview with a person of interest shows a lot of trust that we don’t see as often as we should.

The mentality of “what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room” is unacceptable, with the whole Humber community kept in the dark by the decision of a few people.

Our journalism program not only trains a next generation of communication professionals but was built and is meant to help Humber stay connected since We Are Humber, We Are a Community and We Are Supportive.

Let us do what we are being trained to do and there will be an open, educated and respectful community that will have more people eager to join our home.