Student media can’t be silenced

By Liam Dynes
Originally published on Sept. 23, 2003, in The Brock Press

I feel it important to begin this editorial with a bit of a disclaimer. While I am writing from an admittedly biased position, this should not be seen as a detriment – sometimes the only way to get at an issue is to speak from the heart of it. I am speaking today of the National Post’s national campaign to dump hundreds of thousands of free copies of their newspaper on university campuses across Canada.

Student media exists for a very good reason. It exists to give students an independent voice for internal concerns, to give students an opportunity for employment in a professional environment while still at university, to cover issues relevant to the student community that major papers cannot reach. It is not a student newspaper’s place to attempt to outdo a national paper at national news coverage, or to try to poison the minds of students to mainstream media, and yet judging by the behaviour and attitudes of the National Post, that is what student media is here for.

In a recent letter to the president of the University of New Brunswick, David Asper, son of Israel Asper, owner and publisher of the Post, claims that campuses are actively raising ideological obstacles to the distribution of his newspaper. What ideologies precisely are blocking this “daily dumping,” as it is called, are unclear, as the roadblocks on the UNB campus seem to be popping up in all areas – from the student paper resisting competing freely distributed papers, with the full support of their student union, all the way to the university bookstore denying the Post a place to set up racks to distribute their free papers.

Brock, however, already has an agreement like this with the Post. There are free racks in front of our bookstore and in Taro, near the business department. Originally, the racks were supposed to be placed only in the business department lounge, but somehow made their way into the hallways, for some unknown reason.

Some of my major concerns with this issue are of saturation and influence. We at The Brock Press, as your campus media, have a responsibility to inform the Brock populace of relevant news and give them an outlet to express opinions and concerns. It becomes more difficult for us to continue to do this, and to continue to be (or even try to be) the primary news source for the student body when there are readily available national daily papers widely distributed on campus.

This is not to say that students should not be able to have access to major dailies should they wish it – this is what campus stores are for. But there is nothing that says that a daily should have license to dump as many of their papers on university campuses as they like. And the argument that blocking the papers is an ideological move is a specious one. This implies discrimination against the Post specifically, and the implication that reactionary leftist student factions are attempting to prevent the indoctrination of their student bodies by a quasi-Conservative mindset fostered by the Post.

What isn’t seen is the opposition of student press to any daily dumping, not just the Post, and the fact that while Asper claims that blocking the Post prevents “a full range of viewpoints and information [being] readily available to young Canadians,” you can bet he’d be just as upset if a university said yes to him, and then yes to the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the St. Catharines Standard, and the Toronto Sun.

This is a sales move, pure and simple. This is not a move that is trying to foster thought and discussion, or trying to avoid an “ideological monopoly” by only distributing student papers (another of the claims). This is a move solely dedicated to creating a new generation of National Post readers, and frankly, universities are not their salesmen.

The Post should get out and do their own legwork, creating a paper that young people would actively want to go out and buy, not one that they need to go to the lengths of luring students away from their own independent media outlets in order to get read.

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