The relationship between the press and government is often a strenuous one. At best, things remain amicable with a distinct air of mistrust and obligation. At worst, a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth hatred is directed from one party towards a particular media outlet (see: Rob Ford’s relationship with the Toronto Star). Thus, it was with great pleasure that the Gazette held its annual media forum with the presidential candidates yesterday.
Fortunately, no bridges were burned (as of yet). In fact, the consensus by the editorial board was that, all things considered, the event had gone fairly well. Indeed, perhaps the most talked-about topic for us was Logan Ross.
At last week’s USC presidential debate, Ross, as expected, emerged very much as an inexperienced underdog delivering empty statements. But yesterday, it was like seeing a completely different person. No longer a timid third-year featuring blumpkins in her campaign video, Ross gave seasoned USC candidate Jon Silver a run for his money on many of the questions, leaving us with the collective thought that she might actually win this thing—if Silver and Fearnall split votes.
But no candidate was perfect. Ross was faulted on her proposed “Lunch with Logan” and how it resembled past president Tom Stevenson’s “Tea with Tom,” Silver failed to deeply address how he would fund an increase in academic counselling at Western, McArthur acknowledged she hadn’t been to a single educational speakers’ event at Western in the past year, and Fearnall stressed the importance of a student fee-funded shuttle to London International Airport. I’m sorry, but I don’t think enough students are flying home every weekend to justify spending money on this—and if there are enough students doing this, I’d prefer my money not go towards helping a bunch of rich kids get to Punta Cana.
Another interesting portion of the debate was that, when asked their thoughts about the student-funded executive retreat, most of the candidates said they believed the $14,500 trip to North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida wasn’t worth it— but they didn’t seem to be willing to completely give it up either, should they be elected. Silver came off the best with this question, noting the traditions book proposed by Andrew Forgione and his executive had failed to manifest, and that he didn’t feel students should be footing the bill for food for the executive council while on these retreats.
For us, things grew even more interesting when it came to pointed questions about how the candidates viewed campus media. Sadly, it seemed social media such as Twitter and Facebook were deemed to be more important than our beloved newspaper. Additionally, our website came under attack. Here, the Gazette wholeheartedly agreed. Our website could be way better. In fact, we would love nothing more than to renovate it. But unlike the USC, which has spent over $30,000 on recent website redesigns (which arguably have made their website less functional than ever), we have a budget for our website that can be measured in pennies.
Towards the end of the debate, we turned to students for questions, and pitted candidates against each other.
Ryan Durgy, the student behind Rewd.ca, asked candidates what they thought of the Gazette censoring a student’s death earlier in the year.
Point of information—the death in question was initially broadcasted by the university as a death due to a sudden illness. Additionally, the student did not die in London, nor was she from London. Refraining from publishing gossip and hearsay on highly sensitive matters with little ties to Western is not censorship—it’s an autonomous decision to preserve journalistic integrity. All candidates responded to this question respectfully and thoughtfully.
Giving credit where credit is due, overall, the Gazette was impressed with all candidates and hopes not to receive any press release blackouts from the candidates.