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CUP Editorial: King's College students' union should work with The Watch and release funds

The need for accountability never goes away and student journalists are best positioned to fill that need.

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(CANADIAN UNIVERSITY PRESS) If there’s one universal truth for student journalists it’s that they don’t do it for the money. Most get small honorariums and fuel their work with a passion for the trade. But the money issue comes up a lot in the student press — someone has to pay for the ink and paper.
For The Watch at the University of King’s College, that issue is prominent. Their student union has not released the media levy the Watch is owed or work with the magazine toward a solution. As a result, the student journalists have had to forego their honorariums to keep the magazine in print.
The issue is a 15-year-old policy requiring for The Watch’s board to approve the release of the student levy. While the vote has taken placed and passed unanimously — twice — the student union is claiming it illegitimate, and questioning a new board member’s position.
The two student union members, who are also part of The Watch’s board, said they were unable to attend the meeting along with another student member. This strained the quorum needed for the vote in question along with the release of the money, requiring every other board member to be present, which they were.
The levy for the year is $12,300, $6,150 of which The Watch usually receives in the first part of the school year. They haven’t gotten a cent, instead using the magazine’s savings and cutting staff honorariums to keep the newsmagazine in print.
The staff did this because they believe in student journalism. It’s an important part of the media landscape, often breaking stories larger media outlets don’t have the resources to cover. The Watch, for example, has contributed to ongoing coverage of the Dalhousie Dentistry scandal. The articles have been reprinted by Canadian University Press members across Canada.
Student journalism works to keep decision-makers on their campuses accountable. Without a watchdog, some student unions or administration members could fail in keeping the best interests of students in mind. The need for accountability never goes away and student journalists are best positioned to fill that need.
A lack of funds has put The Watch in a difficult and precarious position. It is unethical and inexcusable for the student union to withhold the levy and refuse to work together with the magazine to resolve the issue. Not only is it denying the journalists hard-earned pay, if The Watch ceases publication due to a lack of funds, the students would be denied an important service.
The student union exists to help and serve the young people attending university. By not working together with The Watch they are not fulfilling their mandate. What they need to do is work with the magazine to change the outdated policy, get the cheques signed, and put The Watch back into business, pronto. There is simply no other option when it comes to the student press on campus.
Read the editorial on the Cup newswire here.

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. 

6 replies on “CUP Editorial: King's College students' union should work with The Watch and release funds”

While the whole school suffers, journalism’s main outlet included, the KSU reps still hold on to their honorariums. Good to know their priorities are straight…

It’s not news that the KSU and the Watch have butted heads over editorial content before. I hope this isn’t a case of the KSU flexing their muscles against students they claim to represent.

Half of leading a society is making sure the society is constitutional throughout the year and dealing with the minutia of the KSU’S constitution, which, admittedly, can be dumb. I’ve talked to a few KSU members, and the KSU wants to give the Watch it’s money, and if the Watch wants to continue to be funded by the KSU it has to abide by the sometimes ridiculous clauses of the KSU’s constitution and the requirements for quorum. I feel very badly for the student writers who aren’t getting paid, but this is a problem that both the KSU and the Watch share and to pin it all on the KSU is dumb.

Hi Jonny,
Thanks for this. I agree, constitutions are extremely important. I’m a big supporter of strong governance. We’re working right now to improve our governance structures in order to avoid such confusion in the future.
We have two documents in circulation at the moment. First, we’ve been using a member written and approved constitution for the last six years. Last spring, the student union discovered a fourteen year old agreement document, which no one currently at King’s had seen. This is where the confusion started. There are slight differences between the two.
We’ve sorted that out and had a third vote which matches everyone’s version of quorum. We’ve received a quarter of the levy and are waiting for the rest of it.
To be 100 per cent clear, all of our student writers have been paid on time all year, despite this issue. We write cheques once a month, and none of those have been delayed. We have been able to pay printing costs and contributor fees because staff agreed to forgo their own payments until the full levy is released by the student union.
Thanks again,
Rachel Ward
Publisher

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