Opinion: "The Ubyssey 2016 Election Coverage: When Bias Supplants Truth in News"

While the Ubyssey has often underwhelmed the students of UBC by focusing on lighter subjects at the expense of harder hitting campus news - the kind that UBC Insiders (consisting of only two organizers) continually breaks each week - the Ubyssey’s coverage of the AMS elections has perhaps heralded a new low for our student paper. Up until Monday evening, the articles concerning the candidates and the election process have been amazingly immature, biased, and at times even mean.

Screenshot of the ubyssey.ca homepage on February 28, 2016

Just for starters, trying checking out the Ubyssey website (pictured above) - it doesn’t take a genius to realize that even the placement of different candidate bios is anything but accidental. The link to Ubyssey golden child Jenna Omassi’s profile is the largest and  most visibly situated. Her highly-clickable, much coveted position is followed by two of the least electable candidates, whose names include the words “Sugar” and “Aloha.” The link to the profile of Omassi’s actual competition, Ava Nasiri, is conveniently situated at the very bottom of the section without any of the benefits of the textual highlights of Omassi’s profile or the video stills of Sugar and Aloha’s profiles.

Such blatant promotion would be perfectly fine if the Ubyssey did not continue to masquerade itself as an unbiased, informative source of journalism on campus. As the campaign progresses, that claim is becoming increasingly tenuous.

Like most disgruntled yet innately lazy students, I was willing to overlook the fact that the Ubyssey’s article by Jack Hauen on candidate websites was inane, poorly researched, and hurtful towards certain candidates like Reda El Maazi (I wonder what would pop up if we Googled you, Jack Hauen - perhaps we should use anything we find to judge your capacity as an editor). I was also willing to accept that the Ubyssey would publish and promote former Features Editor Arno Rosenfeld’s “opinion piece” largely supporting Omassi as if it were truly just an opinion piece. I was even willing to accept that the Ubyssey staff is so entitled that they felt it was appropriate to write a frankly quite meaningless and misguided attack on the AMS elections staff when they were inconvenienced by the workers’ disorganization, stating pointedly that the all-candidates’ meeting was “a waste of time for everyone in attendance who wasn't a candidate” (the Ubyssey recently altered this article and edited out the sentence, "Hopefully, next year's staff will have some qualifications past being a frat bro or sorority girl” in a failed attempt to rescue the sinking ship that is this elections coverage). However, after looking at the layout of the candidate profiles on the Ubyssey’s website I finally have had enough. This sort of “journalism” is not journalism at all. It is unfair, biased, and quite frankly very disappointing to see at the university level.

Screenshot from Facebook in response to the Ubyssey's disparaging article on candidate websites

Most of the time, the obsequious and magnificently self-congratulatory circle jerk that is the UBC elite is entertaining for the rest of the student body. However, the magnitude of this advantage, of the “unbiased” press’ clearly biased support, is too great. The Ubyssey needs to take a break from the circle jerk and perform some of the desperately needed objective journalism they’ve striven to provide for the student body since 1918. That, or stop pretending that your petty opinions and favouritism are newsworthy.

 

Will McDonald, Supervising Editor for The Ubyssey had this to say when asked for comment:

"At The Ubyssey, we try to cover all angles of the AMS elections to help students cast an informed vote. That means our coverage includes objective debate recaps, candidate profiles and results in the news section, some lighter, opinionated stories on the blog and endorsements, editorials, op-eds and letters in the opinions section.

We encourage feedback from students and coverage from other media outlets. We stand by our coverage across all sections of the paper and our efforts to inform students."