On Halloween, I received an email that said the U of A Students’ Union (SU) had launched their own “newsworthy” website called The Flame. My immediate reaction manifested in the form of a question: Doesn’t The Gateway report our SU’s newsworthy content? I delved into the articles published in the alleged SU news portal. When I emerged (relatively unscathed), I felt perturbed that our student government, who is subject to their own biases, would be claiming that they are delivering the news to their constituents. The SU can write whatever they want — preferably policy. Just don’t call it the news.

I like when the news is an objective reporting of the facts. I like when the news is not fake. I like when the news is not propaganda. I like when the news is provided by an organization structured by an editorial team, op-ed contributors, and excludes politicians. Which is what the SU is comprised of — a politicized body of students who collectively form our government on campus. They should be less concerned with journaling and more concerned with governing.

Once upon a time, the SU owned and published The Gateway. But in 2002 a referendum awarded autonomy to the student-run newspaper (now magazine). It was reported that “SU ownership of the paper often caused pressures that led to conflicts of interest when producing the newspaper, said (Dan) Lazin”. Lazin was a former editor-in-chief of The Gateway and the campaign manager for The Gateway Autonomy Campaign. It makes sense to me that the organization doing the reporting be separate from the institution it’s trying to report on.

Can you imagine the conflict of interest if Jason “Randy Bo Bandy” Kenny attempted to deliver the news to the citizens of our province?

From noodling around on The Flame’s website, I can’t seem to determine who’s editing the content or if there is a body of editors determining what is “newsworthy” in the offices of the SU. The articles do list the names of the contributors, but I can’t tell who is breathing their political influence into The Flame. This is problematic, as The Flame seems to be creating a smoke screen which is masking how the SU is defining and determining what SU news is.

I’m not looking to burn a witch at the stake, nor do I believe The Flame should be extinguished. I want to know more about what The Flame is. How is The Flame being funded? How does its content get commissioned? What is The Flame leaving out? I would like to know, because I was always told by my mum to never play with fire.

I like our SU government. Many of the current members of the SU Executives I voted for in the 2017 SU election. So I think The Flame is coming from a good place within the SU. However, I find it troubling when the SU says it offers students a range of ways to access news from the SU, because I don’t know what “news” is to the SU.

Hit edit button, rewrite The Flame‘s masthead, and save the changes.

Image courtesy of supplied
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