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Bananas, empanadas and missing Links

by Archives April 4, 2007

Early Wednesday morning last week, a person or group took The Link off its stands from around the Concordia campus. An extremely stupid act, but nonetheless, an odious crime against the freedom of the press. The person or group responsible for disposing of the papers should be held accountable for this despicable action.

While anyone has yet to be charged with the theft, The Link told The Gazette they suspect the papers were removed because an article on former Chief Electoral Officer Beisan Zubi “ruffled some feathers.”

All signs point to it having been a partisan act on behalf of a slate. Within the context of this year’s contentious elections, it certainly seems plausible that a curmudgeon would have clandestinely unloaded Links in a dumpster somewhere. One can only wonder why.

UNITY executives have condemned the act and say they had nothing to do with it. But, let’s be honest, obviously someone thought they were doing UNITY a favour by getting rid of those papers.

Perhaps it’s because last week’s Link news coverage exhibited heavy anti-UNITY overtones. This bias is nothing new. Last year, they exhibited heavy, anti-Experience overtones. And the year before that. well you get the point.

The Link has demonstrated time and time again that it holds a reckless disregard for journalistic integrity.

Let’s start with the Beisan Zubi piece. Zubi’s political affiliations at the time (she had been running with the IMPACT slate) should have raised suspicions among The Link‘s staff over her motives for “going public.”

In detailing Zubi’s witness account, The Link omitted crucial details of her firing. One of the reasons given by the CSU for her dismissal was “lack of honesty.” Could that at all affect her credibility? A little? Maybe?

An excerpt of the piece:


“Zubi said she met with Council Chair Steven Rosenshein at Mesa 14, on Bishop Street [.] She said Rosenshein ate empanadas [.] Rosenshein said this meeting never happened […] He also mentioned that he didn’t know what empanadas are.”

The problem is Mesa 14 doesn’t serve empanadas. So it’s obviously not true that Rosenshein had empanadas. The Link either dropped the ball somewhere or ran the story without verifying Zubi’s claims. One has to wonder, what else has slipped through the fact-checking cracks?

Basic journalism ethics dictate that reporters investigate claims before an article goes to print.

The Zubi story is not an isolated incident. On Oct. 17 last year, The Link printed a page and a half “tell-all” interview with Taylor Noakes. Noakes is, as many know, a disgruntled ex-CSU employee.

In the article, Noakes accused the Concordia administration of helping the Experience slate win the elections. One piece of “evidence” he offered was an ad in this year’s student agenda. Noakes stated the Concordia Bookstore had taken out an ad in which the administration had inserted a subliminal message.

“TN: It’s got a picture of some bananas, it says ‘you picked the right bunch.’ Again it’s all back door shenanigans. Reinforcing this idea, you know, “Boy, it’s a good thing you chose the right group, cause otherwise you wouldn’t imagine the shit that would be going down.”

Except of course, that this idea was a figment of Noakes’s imagination. And one that proved totally false. See a letter sent to The Link soon after:

“This campaign was launched by the Canadian Campus Retail Associates, of which the Concordia Bookstore is a member. This was a national campaign adopted by numerous schools across Canada; including Queen’s campus stores, University of Calgary, University of Alberta and McMaster University, to name a few.

Needless to say, there were no backdoor shenanigans on the part of the Bookstore.

Sincerely,
Lina Lipscombe
Director of Bookstore, Computer Store, Digital Store”

Again, this could simply have been fact-checked (Journalism Handbook, see ‘fact-checking: an essential part of journalism’), with a simple call to the Bookstore. Someone who sees subliminal messages in fruit is clearly to be trusted, according to The Link. If Noakes was wrong about the bananas, could he be wrong about anything else? The Link staff apparently didn’t ask themselves these questions. Chances are, they were all too happy to run with the story.

But back to the original point: blatant bias chez The Link.

A “news commentary” entitled “Unity Least Transparent” ran on page 4 of last week’s issue. As the headline suggests, UNITY scored lowest of the three parties, with a score of 74/100. Go! and IMPACT each got 100/100.

The problem here is that the exact questions asked were not included. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Reading Public, this would be your first clue that the quiz lacks validity.

Since The Link‘s “commentary” didn’t include even a sample of the questions, readers had no way of knowing if the questions were framed to intentionally elicit certain responses, or even if they were the same for every group.

The fact that this was not done leads me to believe there is good reason to be skeptical about The Link‘s motivation for running the piece.

Another reason to treat this “transparency quiz” with skepticism is that it was labeled as a commentary. In newspaper talk, this typically means an opinion was inserted. Which part was the opinion exactly?

Not exactly responsible journalism. But maybe good journalism is not The Link‘s first priority. After all, one cannot help but noticing The Link has a pattern of highlighting “news” stories that bash the CSU and, most recently UNITY, which has ties to the current CSU. Could there be political motivations behind The Link‘s news coverage?

But what does this have to do with the mystery of the missing Links? Well, let’s take a look at what happened right before the papers disappeared.

Copies of The Link were being distributed downtown March 27 (the day the polls opened), mere hours before someone took them off the stands. At least one person who was distributing the papers was asking people if they “would like a copy of The Link before voting.”

Suffice it to say, any publication aspiring to be a credible news source would have enough respect for the democratic process not to physically hand voters partisan material metres away from a polling station, so I can only hope The Link staff was not aware of this.

And then! Overnight, the papers vanished. But then they reappeared. In Ethan Cox’s hands.

Go! Concordia’s Cox was refilling The Link‘s stands after the issues went missing. This time, The Link was well-aware as its Editor-in-Chief and News Editor accompanied Cox around the campus.

Why would Cox care to help? Maybe because he, along with Zubi and Noakes, know where to turn when they need a megaphone for their political agendas.

The blatant affiliation of a political slate and a newspaper would surely make some uncomfortable. But not ‘Concordia’s independent newspaper’.

Sure, respectable newspapers can, and do endorse political parties, but the difference is they don’t manipulate news to elicit an editorial comment.

If they have something to say, they say it in an Op-Ed.

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