On Biases And Conflicts of Interest

In “On Biases and Conflicts of Interest” (Vol. 31, Iss. 27) The Link reported that The Concordian’s editor-in-chief Sarah Deshaies reported on ASFA while she was a sitting councillor. She did not. The Link regrets this error.

Over the past five years, rising tuition costs have excluded thousands of students from a university education in Quebec.

Tuition fees have gone up by 30 per cent since 2007, and last Thursday the Charest government announced that those increases would nearly triple bt 2017.

Meanwhile at Concordia, the university has been rocked by a crisis in governance that has propelled it into the national spotlight for all of the wrong reasons.

Students at this university are also locked into a questionable contract with Concordia’s administration to buy and maintain a $43 million building in downtown Montreal.

You would think that as students prepare to elect their next union representatives, these crises would be the topic of discussion. Instead, the discourse of this campaign has been hijacked in an attempt to discredit this newspaper and a presidential candidate.

Last week, a perceived conflict of interest was mentioned in a post on the Maclean’s On Campus blog and was the supposed reason for a protest outside The Link’s offices one week before the Concordia Student Union’s election began. The intent of both parties was to assert that The Link has a bias.

The Link’s Editor-in-Chief Justin Giovannetti has a longtime personal relationship with CSU presidential candidate Lex Gill. But had either Jacob Serebrin—the author of the post and the former editor-in-chief of The Concordian—or the protestors outside our office bothered to pick up the phone and make the most basic inquiry into the matter, they would have learned that the newspaper had already taken the necessary measures to offset any conflict of interest.

At a Feb. 11 editorial meeting, the newspaper established firm guidelines for the upcoming elections. Under these guidelines, any editor with ties to candidates has no oversight or input into The Link’s election coverage. News Editor Christopher Curtis is solely responsible for assigning and editing election stories.

But even with these safeguards in place, it’s been all too common during the campaign for candidates to counter media scrutiny with personal attacks to The Link’s credibility and its editorial staff.

On Feb. 17, one Action candidate went so far as to approach one of The Link’s editors and threaten to have our funding pulled by the CSU if our election coverage was overly critical. Another engaged in the protest outside our offices, and has since refused to speak on record.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the point of our detractors is not to hold us to our ethics, but to attempt to discredit us for political gain and to distract you, the students, from the real issues at stake in this election.
Though we’ve taken proactive steps to avoid bias in all our coverage this year, this issue is now being used now to deflect the important issues and avoid addressing the pertinent facts.

Additionally, conflicts of interest exist everywhere at this university. Under Serebrin’s tenure as editor-in-chief of The Concordian, one of his editors reported on the Arts and Science Federation of Associations while sitting on the ASFA Council. That same reporter—now The Concordian’s Editor-in-Chief—then reported on the CSU while also having been a salaried employee of the student union earlier this year.

This isn’t an attack on any one slate or on The Concordian—a good newspaper that provides a service to students—it simply is meant to illustrate how one perceived conflict of interest is being used as political ammunition in a fiercely contested election, while all the rest are overlooked.

Conflicts of interest are common and often unavoidable. They are generally not born of malice, but simply represent a reality of working in a very small and tight-knit political community.

The important thing is to handle these conflicts of interests proactively and professionally, which we did internally regarding the election. The Link does regret, however, not publically explaining our solution to counter this alleged bias sooner.

The reason we’re doing it now is because our integrity has been called into question on the national stage and our readers deserve an explanation. We need to make it clear that these conflicts of interest are far more common than Serebrin let on.

But most importantly, we believe The Link’s integrity and dedication speaks for itself.

On our Oct. 5 cover, we accurately predicted that former Concordia President Judith Woodsworth’s resignation was imminent. Coverage of the events surrounding her dismissal earned The Link praise from local and national media—including Maclean’s magazine.

A month later, after the CSU refused to disclose the location of the proposed $43-million student centre, The Link was the first to reveal that the destination was the Faubourg St.-Catherine. When details surrounding the building’s acquisition were vague, The Link was the only media outlet offering any in-depth investigation into how student money would be spent on the project.

And earlier this year, The Link was one of only two newspapers to be nominated for four national journalism awards by the Canadian University Press.

We take our responsibility as a trusted media source seriously. We aren’t on the side of any one candidate; we’re on the side of truth and accountability. And unlike CSU executives, we don’t draw a salary. All of us are balancing upwards of 40 hours a week working for this paper on top of classes and part-time jobs. If we wanted any one candidate to win, we’d run our own damn slate.

But this ends here. The Link will continue to offer students the best and most comprehensive coverage possible during this important election period and we refuse to engage in a cheap, political smear campaign.

We’ve wasted enough time and ink addressing this issue, and now it’s time to actually cover the election.

Any questions about our coverage— http://thelinknewspaper.ca/contact


Laura Beeston

Managing Editor

Christopher Curtis

News Editor

Adam Kovac

Features Editor

Megan Dolski

Opinions Editor

Christopher Hampson

Sports Editor

Ashley Opheim

Fringe Arts Editor

Alex Manley

Literary Arts Editor

David Barlow-Krelina

Graphics Editor

Julia Jones

Online Editor

Diego Pelaez Gaetz

Copy Editor

Erin Sparks

Photo Editor

Julia Wolfe

Layout Editor

Alex McGill

Student Press Liason