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On Oct. 16, The Aquinian published a story (“Vice President student life resigns”) on the resignation Nicole Pozer. The official statement was that Pozer’s resignation was due to “personal reasons.” TheAQ’s students’ union reporter, Meredith Gillis, had reason to believe there was more to the story, asked tough questions and wrote the story on what she heard and saw.
The day after publication, the students’ union, spearheaded by president John Hoben, released a letter condemning the paper and calling for a public and printed apology to the student body, the SRC and Nicole Pozer. This letter was released on the STUSU’s website and Twitter, and quickly ballooned into an all-out shit storm.
First, and foremost, I’d like to admit that we haven’t been perfect. It is not easy to produce a clean, error-free paper. We have nine editors on our staff, eight of whom are new to the job. The STUSU’s letter says, “Mr. McGuire stated that it was their responsibility to accurately report stories and that there needs to be more fact-checking done in future articles,” a true statement. In recent weeks, we have instituted systems in an effort to minimize errors. We’re improving and will continue to as the year progresses.
There were multiple issues raised in the STUSU’s open letter, one being that we took a quote out of context. Just because we as a newspaper do not use as much of a quote as a politician wants does not mean it was taken out of context. Can quotes be taken out of context? Absolutely. Did we? No. We aren’t going to issue corrections because a politician doesn’t like, or wants to edit, his or her own quotes.
As for the meeting in question, Hoben and the members of the STUSU executive who signed the letter were upset that theAQ reporter wrote, “members of the union cracked jokes about harassment before the meeting started.”
The letter states: “Before the meeting began, no person had given consent for their remarks to be made public or be recorded. Those present were not notified that what they stated in a public place before the meeting to another person were reportable. It is the same as any other public place. Does the paper have a right to report on an overheard joke someone makes at a private lunch at a restaurant? If I had been on the phone walking through campus, is everything I say on the public record?”
This is wrong and naïve; it is a public place and we have every right to report anything said unless we agree that it’s off the record. Remember when Andy Scott, then Fredericton MP and Solicitor General, was overheard by an NDP MP talking about sensitive national issues on a plane? Given that there was evidence to suggest that Pozer had been harassed, the remarks were relevant to the issue.
While the reasons surrounding a resignation can be delicate and demand discretion, it is not “reprehensible,” as the letter states, to ask Pozer questions after it had been announced she resigned for “personal reasons.” We have the right to ask questions, just as she has the right to give answers. She denied her resignation was for academic reasons; she avoided comment when asked if harassment was an issue. That is what we printed. It was a difficult decision to print the article, knowing Pozer probably wanted the spotlight to go away. We decided that bigger issues needed to be aired out.
After the article came out, Pozer issued a letter to the editor (page 13) saying her resignation was not because of harassment. We changed the online story to reflect this new information. STUSU argues that we needed to acknowledge that this was a “correction,” and that it was not noted anywhere in the article. Yet, this change was an update to the story, not a correction. Still, we should have acknowledged more publicly (as I had only mentioned it on my personal Twitter account) that the article had been changed. As I said, we’re instituting systems.
The most offensive part of the letter (also signed by executive members Alex Driscoll, Fin Mackay-Boyce and Henri Thibeau) is its targeting of the reporter. It says the article was based on Ms. Gillis’s own “speculation, rumours and unconfirmed sources.” She’s accused of “embellishing” of trying to “suggest” and “imply” a “larger conspiracy.”
Gillis reported what was said and done at the meeting. She asked tough questions. As much as the STUSU executive members try to make themselves out as chivalrous defenders of Nicole Pozer, Gillis wasn’t buying it and refused to be bullied.
As you can read on page 3, it’s the STUSU executives who twisted the truth. If anything in this is “reprehensible,” it’s Hoben’s attempts to use the STUSU’s website and Twitter to stir up a mob of AQ-haters.
It is not our job as journalists to make news up to gain readership or stir up hate. We report what happened and seek the truth.
Bottom line: they didn’t tell the truth. We asked questions and called them on their shit. We don’t apologize for that.
There’s an important difference between what Meredith Gillis wrote and what was posted by the STUSU executive on their website and by all the AQ haters on the Twittersphere.
Meredith showed courage.