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Communications: Watters aims to clear the static

Haydn Watters, who accomplished the unusual feat of being visible as journalism rep this year, is running for communications vice-president. We look back on his year as a councilor, as well as to what he has in store should he be elected as CVP.

Haydn Watters (Photo: Bryn Karcha)

Once again, we find ourselves with a single-nominee exec position. This time around, it’s Haydn Watters running for communications vice-president. Watters was visible as journalism rep this year, an unusual feat, and started up the “J-School Journal,” a publication specifically for journalism news. He brought issues like teachers only staying in class for 20 minutes and the infamous two elective limit in the journalism program to journalism head Kelly Toughill, and is organizing a student-led evaluation of the journalism department. We look back on his year as a councilor, as well as to what he has in store should he be elected as CVP.
The Watch: Compare what you would do, if elected, to how other communications VPs have done it in the past. Looking back on this year in particular, it seems as though there are so many dynamic personalities on council who are already really good at getting their message out there. Other than serving as a PR tool for someone’s agenda for how council should go, what can you do with the position?
Haydn Watters: There’s the spokesperson aspect to it. But there’s also lots of behind the scenes stuff. You chair the constitutional review committee. They’re in charge of the scribe. The operations that relate to communications, that you don’t see every day, that’s what the CVP is for as well.
W: What are you going to do in working with the outside world, beyond the Quad?
HW: I think I’ve engaged a lot of communities already with Infringement. CKDU really wants to get on board any way they can. They want to get more involved with the KSU. I’m more focused with the students’ role at King’s, but I’d also be communicating with lots of people around the city.
W: So, with your focus on students, why aren’t you running for journalism rep again?
HW: I felt I was making the work for myself. There wasn’t much I had to do in that role. I felt like I was just going in to council every other Sunday, sitting there, and then just leaving. I tried very hard to contribute, but I didn’t feel I was getting much out of what I was contributing. So I thought an exec role was the best way to go.

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W: So, if you’re elected CVP, you’re going to have a lot of interactions with The Watch. If you look at Watch stories, there’s a CVP quote in there all the time. We’ve seen a real move this year, where the specific messages the union wants to identify themselves with have been more controlled than they have been in the past, especially in their relationship with The Watch. How are you going to be different?
HW: First off, things have to be on a one-on-one basis. On the union, you can’t just respond on Twitter. There has to be an interview that immediately follows the meeting. If something happens at a meeting, you have to follow it up right then after the meeting. It’s just as much the role of the journalist to grab that interview as it is the executive member to offer than interview as well. I guess I’m in the dual area as being a journalist and also being on exec, where I might understand that role better than someone who hasn’t been familiar with media before. Also, this is the first year where media has played such a prominent role at council.
W: More or less. I mean, there’s been live-tweeting of council for the past couple of years, but this has been the first year where that live-tweeting has gone and we’ve said “okay, now that we’ve reported this stuff going on at the meeting, but now we need to actually go and talk to the councilors about what happened at this meeting”, and I think that’s thrown some councilors into a bit of a loop this year.
HW: I think council is prepared for that, but I mean, whatever happens at the meeting is open to anyone. I don’t understand why council has been trying to restrict what’s been going on at the meetings. I just think it’s preposterous, and it’s really frustrated me this year on council. The other thing that is frustrating, is yes, we are a council, so it looks like my decision is council’s decision, when I’ve disagreed with council numerous times, and I really haven’t had a platform to show my disagreement.
W: Historically, there’s been a lot of journalism students who have sat as CVP. Why do you think we gravitate to the role?
HW: It’s what we do on a daily basis. I want the KSU to be a bit more fun. Things have been kind of sombre lately, so I want to bring a bit of fun to KSU. I hope that people can see that we’re going to have a fun time next year.

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

25 replies on “Communications: Watters aims to clear the static”

“Other than serving as a PR tool for someone’s agenda for how council should go, what can you do with the position?”
“We’ve seen a real move this year, where the specific messages the union wants to identify themselves with have been more controlled than they have been in the past, especially in their relationship with The Watch. How are you going to be different?”
these are incredibly leading questions and really shoddy journalism. it’s really hard to take the Watch seriously as impartial when you insert your own agenda into something as simple as a candidate Q&A. there is a solid paragraph in there without even a question, it’s just the interviewer airing his agenda about council vs. the Watch. and even at the end, a seemingly innocuous question about journalism students is again painted as “us vs. them”. even the introductory paragraph is littered with editorializing (check out the adjectives).
the Watch can’t be a mouthpiece for the KSU, obviously, but when you hijack something like this to basically ask a candidate about your own issues, it reflects poorly not just on you as a writer and interviewer, but on the publication as a whole.

It’s also fairly ‘shoddy’ to hide behind a blank username like “ajsdkfl”. But please, show us your journalism degree, and maybe you’ll have a leg to stand on when you address “shoddy journalism”.
Find me a news source that you can cite as “impartial”. Because they just don’t exist. It’s not the Watch’s job to be “impartial”. It’s our job to take a critical stance on union action. That’s our ‘agenda’, and we’ve made that pretty clear since Day 1.
I’d like to think that, as co-EIC, I’ve had experience dealing with the union. I was speaking from personal experience. I addressed issues that I, as well as other journalists, students and Twitter users had noticed with the union this year.
A good interview is a discussion between a journalist and the subject. And that’s what I did. Historically, yes, the CVP position has been held by a journalism student. I was curious to get Haydn’s take on it. But go on thinking that I was trying to spin a question.
These aren’t ‘my issues’. They’re questions that needed to be asked, especially with the direction council has taken this year.

It seems like you got very defensive of this very quickly. I do not think that ajsdkfl necessarily needs a journalism degree, Especially if they are just speaking their mind. I tend to agree that it is hard to find an impartial news agency, but that does not mean that you are right to be partial. I personally agree that being impartial and getting both sides is one of the best ways to do journalism, because too much of today is people twisting the truth either for their own benefit or the benefit of their boss etc…
I would also like to point out that as editor of this magazine, I feel like you should act a little more mature when dealing with complaints, starting off with insults to the writer of the last piece, as well complaining they did not leave their name? What purpose would their name change other than someone trying to find them? Their name has nothing to do with their credibility, nor does the fact that they MAY or MAY NOT have a journalism degree which you assumed RIGHT away they did not have. The way you handled this seems pretty immature, but this is in my opinion and maybe I am reading more emotion into the words then are there, because I do not have a journalism degree.

“It’s also fairly ‘shoddy’ to hide behind a blank username like “ajsdkfl”. But please, show us your journalism degree, and maybe you’ll have a leg to stand on when you address “shoddy journalism”.”
there’s a name for this sort of logical fallacy. I can’t remember exactly what it is, credentialism maybe? appeal to authority? one of those things. the idea that because you don’t know exactly who I am, and you’re inferring I don’t have a journalism degree, my opinion is inherently invalid. it’s a) a cheap way to feel like you’re right without actually addressing anything I said and b) complete bullshit.
I’m not expecting the Watch to be impartial per se, I guess that was poorly worded. but “to take a critical stance on union action”? that’s absurd. if a critical stance needs to be taken, then that’s one thing. but jumping into a knee-jerk critical stance, presenting the Watch as the de facto opposition, is tiresome. now, maybe it’s warranted! you clearly seem to think it is! but that’s something that needs evidence. you need to explain why you’re taking this critical stance, not claim that it is the definition of your job. that is also editorializing, not reporting, and you need to make the difference clear.
addressing issues is one thing. but there are far better ways to address issues than this. for example, maybe you feel the KSU is neglecting journalism students. so you might want to ask some people if they feel the KSU is neglecting journalism students. that’s not the same as asking people how they feel about the KSU’s continued neglect of journalism students. i mislabeled that as a leading question before, it is in fact a loaded question. you are presupposing your own assumptions to be universal, and then continuing with the line of questioning. a question like “how are you going to be different?” is an atrocious question when it’s not already established that he plans to be different. and even if it has been, that’s something the reader needs to know, otherwise it comes across as you teling him that he is going to be different, and then veiling it in a question by asking how.
a conversational style is one thing. pushing your own agenda is another. the presupposition that issues you (singular or plural) have will be addressed, because they are legitimate and important, cannot come from the interviewer, even if the interviewee is in agreement. you are depriving your interviewee of a chance to make his own position known without you suggesting it to him.
regardless of whether or not you’re manufacturing issues on your own, when you don’t present any evidence for these issues being widely, it is easy to draw the implication that you are manufacturing them. maybe there are questions that need to be asked, but “you’re going to stop being dicks to us, right?” is not the place to start.

Hi whoever you are,
If you would like to discuss this, I am the other Editor-in-Chief of the Watch. I’ll be in the office tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. You’re welcome to come by.
Thanks,
Rachel Ward

serious question: why are you suggesting I do this? why are open comments allowed if the preferred form of complaint is in person?

Hiding behind a fake username is a great way to say whatever you want, without having to answer to anyone. What I’m concerned about is you being able to have a say on what journalism “is”, without being able to back it up.
Any newsroom around the world takes a critical stance. That doesn’t mean you can label it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Without taking a critical stance, stories don’t happen. It’s as simple as that. The Watch has never labeled ourselves as the de-facto opposition of the KSU, and we think a whole lot of what they do is good.
We’ve explained quite clearly all year why we’ve taken a critical stance with certain union actions, but let me make it clear for you: by sending us press releases, rather than granting us interviews, they’re not letting us do our job.
So, when I said to Haydn “We’ve seen a real move this year, where the specific messages the union wants to identify themselves with have been more controlled than they have been in the past, especially in their relationship with The Watch. How are you going to be different?”, I think that explained why I was taking a critical stance.
Now, on to your very loaded question, you’re comparing apples to oranges here. My question of “how are you going to be different”, was completely fair. It’s a question any reporter would ask any election candidate. But hey, once again, I’m not allowed to question your journalism know-how, right? It’s not a loaded question, and I don’t assume Haydn’s going to be different.
I didn’t “suggest a view” for Haydn to grab on to. Haydn first answered my question of what he was going to do differently, and then we entered into a conversation about council, and how they’ve been thrown for a loop with how council has been covered this year. Then, he commented on that. He commented on that as someone who currently sits on council, and will sit on it again this year. Haydn wasn’t pushed in one direction by the question I asked, and was commenting as a councilor.

what being anonymous means is that instead of relying on my own reputation, I have to back things up with facts and logic. which I believe I’ve done a good job of doing here. I don’t need a journalism degree to know what good and bad journalism is, and the assumption that I do, or that you automatically know better than me because I know your name, is a logical fallacy. please address my arguments instead of my person.
the majority of this comment is bare assertions without factual backing, but I’ll address them anyway:
I understand your issue regarding press releases. in fact, I agree with you! that is not an excuse for conducting this interview, or writing this piece, as you did.
to begin with, let’s look at a better way of addressing this same issue:
“We’ve seen a shift this year with council, where instead of granting interviews, they’ve often sent out press releases. Do you agree with that policy?” – this allows the interviewee free rein to express his own opinion! he can agree or disagree with the policy of sending out press releases! he can explain both sides! if he disagrees, it is him saying it, not you!
now, let’s look at a better way of asking what you claim is a question any reporter would ask of a candidate:
“What, if anything, differentiates you from the current council?” – this allows the interviewee to pick what it is that differentiates him! he can even say he likes the current council!
now we can look at bad ways to do those two things:
“Will you stop sending out press releases instead of granting interviews?” – this is leading. it contains the answer the interviewer hopes to receive. it is answerable with a yes or no. it strongly implies that the interviewer feels a certain way, and wants the interviewee to answer that way.
“How are you going to change the current council’s policies?” – this is loaded! it presupposes that the interviewee disagrees with some or all of the current council’s policies, rather than actually finding out their opinion.
“This year, council has started sending out press releases instead of granting interviews. How are you going to change that?” – this is also loaded! it presupposes that the interviewee wants to change that policy. if the interviewee does want to change that policy, it deprives him of the opportunity say so himself. it also throws the current policy (and thus those who instituted it) under the bus, presuming that it is bad and needs to be changed. this presumption cannot come from the interviewer.
that last one is what you did. the others have shown up to a certain extent in this piece, but the most blatant one is that last example, which, if you rephrase it slightly, is a pretty perfect match for the question you asked. it is a horrible question for a number of reasons.
Let’s look at what you said to defend this question:
“My question of “how are you going to be different”, was completely fair. It’s a question any reporter would ask any election candidate.”
“How are you going to be different?” is an okay question. It’s not great, it’s slightly loaded, but because it’s so open-ended, it’s not something I’d take objection to. However, that is not the question you asked! you presented a certain situation and then asked how Haydn was going to be different in the context of that specific situation. that is very different from simply asking how Haydn is going to be different, because it is not open-ended at all. by limiting him to one specific issue, and then asking how he was going to take a different position, you presumed, without allowing him to say so himself, that he was going to take a different position on that specific issue.
“It’s not a loaded question, and I don’t assume Haydn’s going to be different.”
it is, and you do. see above for why.
as for your last paragraph here, let me say this: a good interview is not about the interviewer’s opinion. you do not get to speak for council. by saying “I think that’s thrown some councilors into a bit of a loop this year” you are presenting your own opinion. maybe some clarification is required, fine. speak for what you do, not the effect it has. in a piece purportedly about Haydn, you managed to sneak in a line about yourself and the effect your own work has had. it’s somewhat relevant to the position Haydn is running for, but when you present your own opinions of what someone else thinks, you are not allowing them to speak for themselves, or the person who is supposed to be the subject of the interview to speak for themselves, or their fellow councilors.
all these things (loaded questions, leading questions, editorializing, inserting your own opinion, speaking for others, making an interview of someone else about your own work) reflect poorly on you as a writer and interviewer and editor. and, given that you are editor in chief, it reflects poorly on the publication. now, will you admit that you were in the wrong, and do better in the future? or will you continue to insist that you are in the right, and back it up with threadbare assertions and cherry-picked lines that ignore context you yourself created?

Haydn could have answered however the hell he wanted. While Ben’s questions were directed from his POV, they didn’t sway Haydn one way or the other. It’s condescending to think that an interviewee is helpless to the whims of a journalist.
Haydn could’ve said “well, no, council hasn’t been this way”, but he didn’t. He agreed with the interviewer in this circumstance.
Frankly, a good interview is about the journalist’s opinion just as much as the subject’s opinion, in certain circumstances. In this circumstance, it was. It was totally fair of Ben to say “I think it’s thrown councillors for a loop”. Again, Haydn, with his knowledge of council, could have very well responded with “well, from my knowledge as a councillor, it hasn’t thrown them for a loop”.
Finally, “now, will you admit that you were in the wrong, and do better in the future?”. Seriously dude? Come down off your mountain.

presumptive questioning is presumptive questioning. regardless of what Haydn could have said, there is no excuse for conducting an interview in the manner it appears Ben did here. I think Haydn did an excellent job of getting his own opinion across considering how poorly the interview was conducted.
regardless of whether they did or did not sway Haydn a certain way, they were framed in a way that indicated an expected response. this is particularly an issue considering that the questions pertained to the interviewer’s own work. that is poor journalism, regardless of the response.

WHO THE FUCK SPELLS HAYDEN, LIKE HAYDN? THIS IS CAUSING ME SERIOUS SUSPICION, I GUESS THE ONLY OPTION IS TO VOTE RON

As a journalism student at King’s that has my own opinions about the Watch and their work (and not all positive, so you can trust me!) – as well as what’s right and wrong in the news world – I wanted to address a few things and make you think.
To start, I will agree with you that some of the Qs in the above Q&A are lengthy and loaded. I do, however, not see a direct sway of Haydn’s answers. He answers with his voice, addressing what was asked of him but also stating his own opinion. He doesnt not even always address exactly what was addressed by the Watch, in his response. I don’t see that he has been influenced in his responses because of these things.
Further, I think you need to consider who you are. Are you a first year student? If so, you don’t know the Watch very well. They weren’t as present as usual in the fall because of certain issues and circumstances. You no doubt read and heard about the issues with the KSU and the press release situation in the fall. The KSU is more present in your King’s experience than the Watch, and you’re therefore going to take sides with them…that’s okay. I’m not saying it’s wrong – that’s how humans work. We go with what we know, what’s comfortable for us.
Finally, while I’m not saying the Watch is or is not correct in what they did and how they formed their questions (I am keeping my opinions neutral), you must understand something about journalism. Whether you’re in the program here at King’s or have a background in the field, or are simply a news-consumer, it is important to realize that not all rules apply all the time. Rules can be stretched and broken in certain situations. I’m not saying this is always right, either. But I do believe that this type of piece – a Q and A about what King’s can expect from Haydn if he is CVP – lends itself to the type of questions the Watch asked. While there are important journalism “rules” and ethics that must be followed, the variety of things covered within the industry open doors for exceptions, changes, etc. One cannot follow the same formula when covering a suicide of a teen as when covering city council. Different decisions are made, different questions are asked, questions are asked in different ways.
Just something to think about…

regarding the first paragraph: it’s often hard to tell if answers have been directly swayed. maybe you can’t see it there, but you can see how the questions were framed in a way that prejudged a position. if they were not framed in this way, then there would be no issue of whether it actually swayed his answers, we would know for sure that what we were seeing was Haydn’s own thoughts. unfortunately, because Ben so heavily mixed in his own opinion, it devalues Haydn’s own words as “agreement with Ben” rather than “Haydn’s opinion”, thus subverting the very point of a candidate profile.
regarding the second paragraph: every assumption you make about me is false. I have no strong feelings on the KSU, I don’t find them to be present in my life at all. I have no strong feelings on the Watch either. what I do have strong feelings on is poor journalism, particularly when it represents my school. I’m also not in first year, for what that’s worth.
regarding the third paragraph: yes, some rules can be stretched here and there, some can be outright broken. fine. I don’t disagree. but that’s not an excuse for fucking up, and then getting incredibly defensive and pretending you didn’t fuck up. now, Haydn did a good job, he expressed his own opinion well, fine, whatever. but he could have said the same things without being fed leading and loaded questions, and then we would know it was him saying it.

Keep banging that drum, pal.
But seriously, what did you think you’d accomplish here? That you’d create some sort of “systematic takedown” of the work Ben did, taking a holier-than-thou stance on what you think journalism should be, and then force him into “admitting he fucked up”? You come across as a real bully here.
But again, what did you think you’d accomplish? That you’d just say all of these things, and then someone would say “alright, you win. You’ve forced us to change, based on your whims. Good work.”
Thank goodness for the comments section here. You’ve been able to complain and make a scene and throw a tantrum. Now, do you feel any better?

i don’t know, I saw something I thought was shitty for ethical reasons and I said I thought it was shitty? I wanted it known that I thought it was shitty? and now that is known, so I guess I’ve accomplished that?
it’d be cool if this sort of thing stopped happening, I guess. I don’t need any personal validation, if I did I probably wouldn’t be calling myself “ajsdkfl”.
reading back over this, I do come across as a bully at some points, and for that I apologize. I still think Ben did shitty work here and I think I’ve explained why it’s shitty. if creating a huge shitstorm means the Watch will crack down harder on shitty work, then I guess I will feel better.
for the record, Ben’s other candidate profile is pretty good and contains none of the problems found in this one. so: good job, Ben.

I sorta promised the rest of the exec I’d stop responding (something Rachel called “baiting the troll”, not that I agree that you’re trolling, though we’ve seen some beautiful examples of that on here), but what the heck. Might as well.
If this had aired as a tv interview between a host and a subject, on CNN or CBC or any other 24-hour news channel, I really don’t think anyone would have had a problem with this. Now, in the case of print, it is so SO subjective, because no one is there to hear the voice of the journalist or the person being interviewed. So, perhaps the people having issues with this interview had issues with the perceived “tone” of the piece.
Did my voice (and my opinions) come through in the interview? Yes. Was that my intention? Yes. I stand by my belief that there was nothing “ethically shitty” in the questions I asked.
For that matter, there seem to be only a couple of questions that people are having issues with. Let’s take a look at them.
“Compare what you would do, if elected, to how other communications VPs have done it in the past. Looking back on this year in particular, it seems as though there are so many dynamic personalities on council who are already really good at getting their message out there. Other than serving as a PR tool for someone’s agenda for how council should go, what can you do with the position?”
Now, some people might read that first as an assumption that Haydn’s going to do something differently. I don’t see that as a bad thing. I want to know, as a jaded 4th year student, what’s going to be different, and I imply that something might be done differently. I have no issue with that. If you do, that’s you, and that’s your opinion, and if you think I shouldn’t have phrased it that way, that’s how you feel.
Then, someone might say that the tone I use while referring to the CVP as “a PR tool” is disrespectful. Well, I talk conversationally. I don’t doddle around with bullshit. I’ve made it clear in a whole bunch of venues that I think the CVP position is kind of pointless, and Haydn even addresses a tweet I made about it. So, yes, my opinion came through here, and someone might say I was “leading”. In a Q&A session, just talking with Haydn, the whole thing felt appropriate. You seem to think that my approach has “devalued Haydn’s own words”, and that’s just not the case.
Haydn had all the opportunities in the world to say what he wanted to say during this interview, and I didn’t sway him one way or the other. It’s not how an interview works. It’s not how this interview worked. I took a specific issue (council trying to control the message they put out there), took my own specific experiences with it, and asked him about it.
Now, you say “maybe Haydn wasn’t swayed by the questions, but there’s no way to really know, and if Ben had worded his question differently, then it wouldn’t be an issue”. This approach takes all responsibility away from the subject, which you seem to be advocating a lot here. But at this point, I’m not really concerned about convincing you otherwise.
I appreciate everybody’s comments on here, and I’ve had quite a few laughs checking in throughout the day.

One other thing. The whole thing about presumptive questioning, it’s just, well, not a very big deal in this circumstance. Sorry if it sounds like sacrilege to you. Really, I mean that sincerely. I really do see how important journalism ethics are for you. And they’re important for me too. Really, they are. I’ve had to tackle some of the most maddeningly hard moral debates about certain stories I’ve worked on before. Trust me when I say I take the upmost care when I’m dealing with sensitive subjects, or ethical problems.
Here, I just never saw one, and I still don’t. In this circumstance, I really do believe that the words I used and the approach I took were fine.
Now, I know I’m going to catch hell for this one, but at this point, I’m not concerned to say it. If I were interviewing a local politician, I wouldn’t take on this tone. If I were interviewing an NHL hockey player, I wouldn’t use this tone. Every situation is specific. I used a very certain type of tone, because, well, this is King’s. I write a certain way here. I write another way in other places. Because, and here’s the bit that’s going to get me into trouble: it all feels a little inconsequential. Student elections, especially at King’s, feel really really inconsequential to me. Sorry, gang.
And I kinda love that about King’s. We can try things in our writing and projects, we can experiment, we can fuck up, and we can get away with it. Even more so than if we were at a larger university.
I really don’t want to offend you here, but the amount of gravitas you put into your critical stance feels waaaaaaaay too heavy for what’s actually going on here, and what I actually said. As a friend of mine said, when she read the comments today: “wow, this person has a lot of feelings to share”. This isn’t a bad thing. We need passionate people in this world. I’m glad you’re one of them. This isn’t meant to be condescending. I just think your convictions could be better placed somewhere else.

YO BEN HARRISON IS REALLY IN THE WRONG HERE YOU KNOW. ITS MAD FUCKED UP WHEN A PUBLICATION THINKS IT CAN PUBLISH SOMETHING WITH A BIT OF OPINION TO IT. IT IS THE ROLE OF EVERY NEWS JUNKET TO AGREE WITH EVERYONE ALL THE TIME. IF NOT THEN ITS NOT JOURNALISM ITS ONLY SPIN. SERIOUSLY WHEN DID THE WATCH BECOME FOX NEWS?

I too am a journalism student. However, letters makes a good point – not in their criticising of the of the article – in noting that they shouldn’t really need to prove themselves or their reputation in order for their arguments to be considered valid. Just my two cents.

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