The Ubyssey Reportcard

Posted by: | March 26, 2007 | 22 Comments

The following was submitted Feb 15, 2007 to the Ubyssey Editorial board and was rejected based on “libellous grounds”.

“The Ubyssey Reportcard”

In 2005 the Canadian Medical Association Journal’s editorial board was
threatened by its publisher, the Canadian Medical Association. The
editor-in-chief John Hoey was dismissed after he published two
controversial studies which put its publisher in a politically awkward
situation: a study on the way pharmacists dispensed Plan B
contraceptives and a story questioning the appointment as Minister of
Health in the Conservative Canadian Government, given his support for
privatisation of health services. As a consequence the entire
editorial board quit in protest, as their right to full editorial
autonomy in the future had been threatened.

Another incident occurred in 1993 when The Ubyssey newspaper published
an issue with unquestionably sexually violent content, whereby
sponsors and the University’s women’s office not only complained to
the paper but its publisher, the Almar Mater Society (AMS) itself.
What followed was a series of poorly thought out events: the AMS shut
the paper down in 1994. It then tried to set up a publishing board
which still allowed the AMS some political influence over the
editorial direction of the paper. Finally, a passed in January of
1995 whereby “members of the AMS recognize the Ubyssey as the official
student campus publication, [and] that 5$ per active member per year
(pro rated for part time students) be collected […] for the
publication of an autonomous student newspaper at The UBC.” (AMS
Archives) And this is where we are now.

Though I can’t speak for the years when I wasn’t around, our official
student newspaper has since held a fluctuating amount of suspicion
towards the AMS. Perhaps rightfully so, given the collective impact
it has had on the paper historically, though it should be noted that
there are now no procedural avenues for the AMS to influence its
annual political will onto the paper.

I wanted to note that this letter has been submitted on February 15,
2007 before the AMS Executive Reportcard has been published. This is
important as I am not publishing this as a backlash of The Ubyssey
editorial board’s assessment of the exec whose performance I’ve
overseen this year as a member of AMS council.

Rather, I would like to write on the overall holistic performance of
the newspaper this past year, consolidating the general displeasure
expressed throughout the year by, but perhaps not limited to, the
people I interact with on a regular basis, including many students who
are not employees of the AMS.

I had about thirty or so people talk or write me on their thoughts of
The Ubyssey newspaper. I also met with an editor and the business
manager of the paper for just under two hours, read all the archives
of the UBC library and the AMS on the paper, and obtained a copy of
The Ubyssey’s constitution in order for me to grasp at of how the
paper is run and governs itself. The question I received when I
entered the editorial office (“are you going to overthrow us?”) is
hopefully addressed in this letter.

Unlike commercial media which relies on its sales for funding, the
quality of The Ubyssey and other student newspapers relies vulnerably
on the time and talents (or the glaring lack thereof) of the editorial
board. The business office faithfully receives the funding each year
from its 40 000 students except for the few who opt out. It is not
accountable to the owners at a very steep price.

There are positives to this. Its “relative freedom”, to quote the
latest Constitution of the paper, allows it to “examine issues and
events neglected by other media”. It goes on to state: “Its mandate
is to cover issues and events which affect students. However, no
subject need fall outside the grasp of the student press, and student
publications best serve their purposes when they help to widen the
boundaries of debate on education and social issues. Thus, we intend
to defend freedom of expression, and make possible an atmosphere of
critical inquiry and imaginative thought. In pursuit of these
ideals, the student press shall employ educative, investigative and
active methods.” (emphasis added)

On June 1, 1993 Alayne Armstrong, President of Canadian University
Press writes to the members of AMS Council, “…journalists bear a heavy
responsibility to the community they serve and the people they report

It is mostly this “heavy responsibility” which I feel like the paper
has completely neglected this year. The paper shouldn’t be a mere
stepping stone for individuals to receive jobs in commercial
newspapers. That doesn’t mean that the paper cannot be funny,
cynical, or irreverent. But it should do so in an informed,
intelligent and insightful manner, especially because in addition to
its basic standards it enjoys the title of being the ‘official’
newspaper on campus.

To give an example of what the paper missed this year in terms of
University relevant news:

The inauguration of Professor Toope as the new UBC President was a one
liner in the August 2, 2006 issue’s “News Briefs”. In stark
contradistinction, the Harvard Crimson offers several opinion pieces
and dedicated front page covererage to their new President (Drew
Faust). The atmosphere and direction of UBC is going to change quite
considerably under new leadership. In particular, teaching and
learning is going to be much more prioritized as was outlined in his
inauguration speech and mentioned insistently at Senate and Board
meetings. It’s unfortunate that the paper didn’t think this was
important. It did, however, feature a picture of a vandalized
President in its “joke” issue “The Jübyssey” on December 8, 2006. Is
this responsible journalism?

In the past years I’ve seen Ubyssey reporters at senate meetings and
at the duration of AMS council meetings. Here is where a lot of the
discussions related to the University take place. This year, the
only time I’ve seen a reporter stay for longer than when they finished
the free food offered at Council meetings was on February 7. Things
that were discussed at this one meeting and could have been reported

For the very first time in UBC history, the University is creating an
Ombuds office, that deals with student issues that require resolutions
with instructors, and vice versa. The AMS Foodbank has become an
official AMS service, which guarantees funding for its operation.

The spelling of university officials has been butchered more times
than I can count. Out of all things to be spelled phonetically, names
would be my last choice. Additionally, editors could have simply
copied and pasted those names from the UBC website. While this “may
not be a big deal”, I doubt the paper is doing its reputation a favour
when making sloppy mistakes like this not only once or twice, but in a
consistent manner.

Furthermore, the paper reported stories several months behind.
Glaring examples of this include the brief AMS/GSS conflict, Translink
introducing community shuttles 2.5 months after service started. 6
months after the Chem/Bio and CERC building was opened, the Ubyssey
bothered to report on it with glorious praise. The building is ugly,
the space around it is horribly laid-out and landscaped, and one floor
was not built because they blew through the construction contingency
before they even started digging the hole. None of
this came up.

At SFU, the executive and most of the board were impeached, after a
long and drawn-out battle that was convoluted. There was only one
news article on this, at the bitter end. Kwantlen’s exec were
removed and the results of a general meeting overturned by court
order, and nothing was written. Douglas Student Union is in
receivership, and nothing has been written. VCC’s King Edward Campus,
I understand, is having similar problems. In at least one of these
cases, money from a health plan was used to buy a commercial building
in New Westminster , and health plan money was also given to one
employee who needed a new house.

BoG rep and graduate student Lauren Hunter has spent countless hours
pushing for a grad student scholarship, including making presentations
to committees of the legislature. It’s widely expected to be in the
budget. No coverage.

To quote a student, “while the paper has devoted itself almost
entirely to arts, culture, and sports, news is shamefully, utterly
neglected. This has been the case for some time, but seems
particularly bad this year. Opinion on AMS elections: nobody cares
or should vote. It’s certainly not the Ubyssey’s job to inform
anybody, I suppose. “

Speaking of The Ubyssey’s coverage of the AMS Elections, the January
16 editorial criticized the boring platform of Jeff Friedrich (now
President elect) and its lack of change. This was an interesting
practice of journalism, as they had not even read or seen his platform
(which was finished and distributed two days after the editorial was
published). “The student press shall employ educative, investigative
and active methods”- right…

While The Ubyssey’s apathetic attitude towards the AMS Election has
already drawn editorial responses, it was merely an example of the
overall performance of the paper when it came to news.

July 13, 1995. The Ubyssey’s first editorial after it reopened
stated, “So join the staff. Write letters to the editor. Vote. And
if you aren’t interested or cant’ do any of those things, at the very
least read The Ubyssey. You might not get politically involved, but
everyone should be politically aware.”

Are students politically aware? When I asked the Ubyssey Business
office how many times it assesses its readership, the answer was twice
in the last fifteen years. There is no way an internal reflection of
the editorial board could be incited, given that there is no
measurement of readership or student engagement with the paper. The
paper doesn’t know how it’s doing and it doesn’t seem to care. In
fact, talking to one of the editors, he proudly proclaimed that the
paper was doing just as well as it was 3 years ago, a presumption
based on what?

I know many students who simply stopped reading the paper. Talking to
the business manager, he announced that he assumed everyone read the

So the answer to whether I’m going to censor the paper, the answer is
no. In my opinion, the greatest form of censorship is to run itself
the way it has this year.


22 Comments so far

  1. Paul on March 27, 2007 9:50 pm

    Well that was an interesting read. I was wondering when and where this was going to come out – I would have guessed the next issue of the Knoll.

    There’s a lot of issues you’ve raised that would take a very long time to discuss, and for the most part already have been over the past few years.

    I do want to respond to a couple of things though:

    1. You included the part about not covering President Toope’s inauguration in the perspective you wrote to the Ubyssey. As with the perspective, here you make it seem like we never covered him coming to the University. You point to the Crimson and their decision to give him plenty of coverage. In all fairness, we did run two large stories when it was announced he would be the president back in March. Unfortunately this issue came out on a Friday, so it was on the back page, but there was coverage on who he was, what his priorities were, etc. So fine, go ahead and criticize the paper for not writing a longer story about his actual taking office (although I personally think a news brief was sufficient), but at least give us credit for the stories we did write about him.

    2. SFU can cover their own student society from minute to minute. We did run the story when they were thrown out (I think Eric actually wrote it for CUP) and I don’t see why that was insufficient. Should the Peak have covered the daily goings on back in the SPAN days leading up to Bernie’s firing and the censures? Besides, doesn’t that just take away space from all those pressing stories about UBC student politicians who have such great ideas about the University and want to read about themselves in the paper?

  2. Gina Eom on March 29, 2007 7:19 am

    Paul could you please point out to me what part of this opinion editorial is libellous?

    Other publications are taking it up and I’m sure whichever publication is rumoured to publish it will receive a panicked email from Eric (oh wait, some of them already did).

  3. Paul on March 29, 2007 8:00 am

    I don’t think I ever accused the article of being libellous in my comment.

    But if you’re just asking me my opinion of whether it’s libellous or not – I’m not sure. Last year when I was editor, we had our law student/president in to give us an hour or so presentation on libel, and I still don’t completely understand it.

    The understanding I have of libel is that it is any statement that defames someone in the eyes of a reasonable person. Tim mentioned truth as a defense to libel – it is, but it’s rarely used as the burden of proof is high (especially if the other person denies it). The damages awarded are higher if a truth defense fails.

    Again, I’m not a media lawyer, but those are the things I know about it. Eric knows much more than me, so I’d take his allegation seriously.

    And last point. Other publications considering running it should at the very least give the Ubyssey a chance to respond – either by writing a story about the report card and interviewing the Ubyssey in the story, or by allowing the Ubyssey to write a response alongside it.

  4. Gina Eom on March 29, 2007 3:55 pm

    Here’s a “partial” list of (libellous, apparently) “inaccuracies” which Andrew Macrae was able to generate after nine days:

    My responses are in brackets.

    “Here is a partial list of innacuracies and problems with your letter:
    – You claim that you “read all the archives of the UBC Library and the
    AMS on the paper.” However, this cannot be true because of the list of
    errors that follow. [Truth seems to be very subjective here Andrew.]
    – You claim that the Ubyssey’s quality “relies vulnerably on the time
    and talents…of the editorial board,” which is “unlike commerical
    media which relies on its sales for funding.” This is entirely
    innacurate since we rely on a student levy as well as revenues from
    our ad sales for our funding.

    [Student levy vs per copy sales. read the entire section on that]

    – You claim that “the inauguration of Professor Toope…was a one
    liner in the August 2nd issue’s ‘News Briefs.'” However, we actually
    wrote several stories when he was hired and when he was inaugurated.

    [Search your own archives – that’s all i have to go by. If your archive is incomplete that is your office’s standard of competence, once again. I should note that since then, they did add more archives to their online list such that more articles were visible BUT they still did not have more coverage of Stephen’s inauguration. So nothing libellous.]

    – Immediately after that, you claim that the only time you have ever
    seen a Ubyssey journalist stay for an entire AMS Council meeting was
    February 7. You are wrong, and I know that our news editors fequently
    attend entire meetings – perhaps you were not paying attention, but
    they assure me they were present at more than one meeting and I have
    no reason to disbelieve them.

    [What is your definition of “frequently”? This again is a subjective remark. I will compare this happily to other years I’ve sat on council and draw upon the memory of other councillors. Further, Andrew forgets to ask the editors of term 1.]

    – You claim that we have mispelled many university officials’ names.
    If you are going to make an accusation like that, then the burden of
    proof is on you and you must provide at least one example.

    [The burden of proof will be happily provided (to your embarassment) – one example that comes right to mind: Anne deWoolf]

    – You claim that we waited several months before reporting on the
    AMS/GSS conflict, implying that we do not care about issues on campus.
    This was because we had to wait for the GSS to reach a decision before
    they would talk to us. It is responsible journalism to wait for both
    sides of the story and not rush to print with only half the truth.

    [How is this inaccurate? Especially interesting since an editor agreed with me that it was written much later than it should have been. Responsible journalism, right?]

    – You then claim that the Ubyssey wrote “only one news article on this
    [the impeachment of the SFU executive], at the bitter end.” We
    actually wrote 3 articles. You then add that “Douglas Student Union is
    in receivership” – this is also not true.

    [I referenced three pieces of evidence to the DSU receivership: the NOW, the PEAK, and a formal letter sent out to all DSU members by the college’s VP.]

    – You then quote a student’s disparaging remarks about the paper. You
    must provide the student’s name if you are going to quote him or her
    like that.

    [Again, how is this libellous?
    I must according to which procedures? Please provide me a reference to this. Especially if this student wishes to remain anonymous, what are the provisions to that? Thanks./ He did not offer me the procedure in the code.]

    – You also claimed to have talked to an editor and state that he could
    not possibly know how the paper was doing three years ago. He does
    know because he was at the paper three years ago.

    [You should read my text again – I was asking what standards he was using to make that statement.

    Many thanks, and looking forward to your complete list of “corrections”. ]

    So those were the grounds The Ubyssey claims my letter to be libellous, and they have been unable to give me a “complete list”, which just speaks to their inability to come up with better reasons.

    I think overall, the paper’s state is dismal. Huge stacks of the paper are not picked up, thrown away, and replaced with other stacks that are not picked up.

    Colleen Tang’s journalism is painful and gives me a headache. Other’s are slightly better.

    How do you recommend or suggest the paper salvages itself? To self-congratulate themselves in complacency is a disservice to the students, would you not agree?

    Thanks for your response. I appreciate dialogue that is not defensive.

  5. Anonymous on March 30, 2007 12:18 am

    The Ubyssey should welcome criticism. This talk of libel is positively elitist! What, is the Ubyssey trying to “protect” its “brand” from negativity? Not only should the Ubyssey welcome criticism of itself, but it should by a WAY more active in criticizing the centres of power in in the univiersity, without being scared of being charged with libel. I see an ideological relation between the Ubyssey and the University Administration: they are more concerned with brand image than democracy. Up with critical thought and decentralized information! production

  6. Anonymous on March 30, 2007 3:49 am

    I am not engaging in this discussion to comment on whether or not the letter you wrote to the Ubyssey is libelous or not. It appears that the conflict you have with the Ubyssey runs much deeper than the issue of your letter.

    I am writing to say that even though this blog is ‘your space’ and you should be able to discuss whatever matters you feel are important that does not mean you are immune from libel law found in the Canadian Criminal Code.

    Questioning the validity of libel accusations in your response regarding “a ‘partial’ list of (libelous, apparently) ‘inaccuracies’” is perfectly legitimate. However, you should be cautious of making statements that are fully defamatory.

    In this particular response that you posted you refer to the letter you wrote to the Ubyssey and also continue on to state your feelings about the paper’s “dismal” state. It is this section of your response that is particularly dangerous to you.

    The definitions of libel and defamation are incredibly complex. A defamatory statement can be as simple as “an attack on a person’s ethics, motives, competence, trustworthiness or morality.”*

    Freedom of expression is an important part of living in Canada, but freedom of expression is not a defence for libel or defamation.

    “For the purpose of defamation law, posting information on a website or blog is tantamount to publishing it in a newspaper.”*

    My dialogue is not meant to be defensive and should only serve as a warning to you or anyone posting here. Libel and defamation law extend to the internet. You are not safe by writing personal opinion on a personal blog space and you are not safe even if you have a small number of hits to your site. Information published on the internet can be read by anyone anywhere and is admissible in courts of law in any country of the world.

    Libel and defamation not only hurt those who the comments are made about – but can also be an incredibly nasty black mark for those whose words lead to libel action, especially libel action that they lose.

    As a university student and prominent member of the AMS it looks like you have a bright future ahead of you. It wouldn’t hurt to get your AMS Insider partner – who is also a law student – to check over all the content of this website to ensure that neither of your futures becomes tarnished by libel action.

    Discussion and debate is of great value – but so are Canada’s personal protection laws.

    *from “Media Law for Canadian Journalists” by Dean Jobb, 2006

  7. Gina Eom on March 30, 2007 5:14 am

    It appears that the conflict you have with the Ubyssey runs much deeper than the issue of your letter.

    I have no clue why everyone thinks that.

    I harbour no historical grudge but I find it problematic that they do not admit that they are not living up to the standard of a student’s “official newspaper”.

  8. Tim Louman-Gardiner on March 30, 2007 5:40 am

    Anon 8:49 –

    I’m well aware of libel and defamation laws. First year torts was one of my best courses.

    You are not safe by writing personal opinion on a personal blog space…
    Actually, you kinda are. Not because it’s a personal blog, though. But because “fair comment” is a perfectly reasonable defence to libel.

    SO when Jack Layton says that “millions of homeless are dead becsause of Paul Martin’s dismal social welfare programs,” that may be ignorant and stupid, but it’s not libelous because it falls under fair comment.

    Gina’s use of the word “dismal” was preceded by “I think that…” And makes no factual representations of any kind. That’s akin to you saying “this blog is libelous” – each of those statements is equally likely to attract liability.

  9. Anonymous on March 30, 2007 5:43 am

    The standard “of a student’s ‘official newspaper'” is not a set of characteristics that must be met. The paper is to report on issues that are important to students. I don’t think “the standard of a student’s official newspaper” is actually defined anywhere. Standards that aren’t clearly defined are interpreted differently by different people. Something or someone can only be held to standards if those standards are clearly defined and applicable to that thing or individual.

    It seems to come down to this: you feel that the Ubyssey has not always had great reporting and this year is a particularly bad year.


    Just keep in mind that the AMS has not always been a fantastic and accountable student government.

    In these two cases staff and University situations change each year. I believe that both the AMS and the Ubyssey overall try to do the best job they can at the time and under the circumstances.

    Media outlets have a responsibility to report on the goings on of the local government. The local government has a responsibility to be accountable to those they represent.

    Neither entity can do a perfect job of either task. This paradigm between the media and governments has pretty much been the same since the two entities were created.

  10. Gina Eom on March 30, 2007 6:09 am

    I agree with you – a standard here is not defined. My problem is the Ubyssey doesn’t have a standard. It just takes the ~200 000$ annual budget (give or take) and just uses it to its delight. One year they could JUST write about Culture, there is no codified mechanism in place to reprimand the staff in the same year, unless through drastic measure.

    A large part of my discussion with the Ubyssey office was whether or not they had some sort of standard of excellence (readership, for example, the other being bi-annual surveys and proactive feedback polls of the student body) – they mentioned they didn’t.

    Further, I don’t like how any crusador for the Ubyssey like yourself (the crop of former editors/staff/volunteers/hacks) immediately defends the Ubyssey citing the AMS not doing that great of a job either. You’re right, and I criticize the AMS and the undergraduate societies more than I critize the Ubyssey.

    Let me ask you this – is the health and fitness of the paper somehow dependent on the AMS, and why does it continuously feel the need to enter a non-existing competition of which is more relevant to the students?

  11. Anonymous on March 30, 2007 6:27 am

    The judge presiding over a libel or defamation case will be the one to determine if fair comment would actually hold up. I suggested that caution should be used. I did not say what an outcome might be. Additionally, I wasn’t the comment about the Ubyssey being “dismal” this year that caused me concern. The comment I was concerned about simply appeared in that section of the response, hence why I said that section of the response is particularly dangerous. I am suggesting caution, not claiming to know what a judge would decide.

    Fair comment can definitely be used as a defense, but it cannot be used in an effort to avoid the challenging task of proving the truth of a comment.

    I also believe that to succeed with the defence of fair comment the comment must be based on fact and the facts must be included in the item published. The comment that concerned me had no explanation or reasoning found in that response.

    Additionally, I never said this blog is libelous. I simply said “you should be cautious of making statements that are fully defamatory.”


    Your example of Jack Layton’s comment was great as a teaching example – but if a media outlet is reporting on this it is important to know where this comment was made. Depending on where a politician makes comments like these the appropriate defence might not always be fair comment. If the comment was said in, for example question period, the more solid defence would be qualified privilege.

  12. Anonymous on March 30, 2007 6:46 am

    I agree that the Ubyssey should have some standards defined and others re-evaluated. The constitution has not been updated in a long time and it needs to be looked at very carefully. I am not pro everything the Ubyssey does. I never have been. I am trying to comment upon the specific issues that you bring up here in this particular posting on this blog.

    I do not feel that the “health and fitness” of the Ubyssey depends on the AMS.

    Does the AMS criticize the Ubyssey because it feels the Ubyssey’s comments are a detriment to the “health and fitness” of the AMS? I don’t have the answer to this and obviously each AMS member would have their own response.

    The fact that this entry on this blog exists is proof that both that both parties are deeply engaged in this “competition.” I would disagree that the “competition” is really about which entity is more relevant to the students. It seems to be a somewhat indefinable “competition” that has existed since before the Ubyssey became antonymous from the AMS.

    Why is debate, discussion and “competition” between a university newspaper and the student government a bad thing?

  13. Spencer on March 30, 2007 6:45 pm

    Here’s a couple of comments that I previously posted here:

    I should note that things like the size of the paper’s circulation, how many issues it prints a week, how it monitors readership, and how it recruits and maintains staff (i.e. volunteers) are not fundamentally editorial decisions but ones that should be planned for and implemented at the level of the Ubyssey Board of Directors. Greater efforts should be made to advertise these directorships rather than a small notice in the Ubyssey. If they’re going to be elected along with the AMS general election then there is no good reason that the AMS should not be advertising the positions as well. It may attract more “political” types but I feel pretty strongly that the division between church and sta… editorial board and board of directors is strong enough to withstand any real dilemmas. And maybe it would be appropriate to say you can’t be a current member of AMS Council.

    The fact is that the editorial board need to have the support system to produce excellent content and while the business manager does a good job of managing contracts, etc., he’s not a student and has not been for some time. The kinds of problems I listed above are ones that would be best analyzed by the student board of directors. These problems are ones that substantially limit the ability of the editorial board to be relevant and effective.

    Riddle me this – if one was to discover that effective readership was closer to 6,000 per issue, could circulation not be reduced by 4,000 and the extra money used to give honouraria for additional staff writers? Or maybe other forms of volunteer appreciation.

    Something to think about.

  14. Spencer on March 30, 2007 6:49 pm

    Also here:

    I would suggest that there has been historic problems of communication between the Ubyssey and the AMS and that has served to hurt both organizations. Ubysseyers denigrate the AMS in print and consistently call it out of touch, etc., and AMSers do the same and say the Ubyssey is irrelevant. I would suggest that the assessments in both directions are accurate and the only way to overcome it is for both institutions to collaborate and tackle systemic problems of communication together.

    One way to do that is to actually do in depth interviews with each of the new executives, talk about what they are trying to accomplish this year and check up on that progress throughout the next twelve months. That means you’ll be able to accurately reflect on their success/failure when their term is up and talk about those issues throughout the year. It doesn’t mean you won’t be critical of them, but at least you’ll be contributing to the debate.

    Just because the Ubyssey circulates 10,000 papers per issue does not mean those papers go read. In the same sense, just because the AMS represents 43,000 students does not mean those students are heard. The problem goes both ways and for two long both the AMS and the Ubyssey have kept their heads in the sand.

  15. Paul on March 30, 2007 11:30 pm

    Spencer –

    In respone to your riddle. If the circultation were to decrease, then our ad revenue would go down. I’m not sure how the numbers would play out, but I’m pretty sure we’d have to sell adverstising for less and thus might not have that much extra money.

  16. Maayan Kreitzman on March 31, 2007 7:22 am

    But, how can you tell your advertisers what your circulation is if no information about readership is available? Printing n papers may not correspond to the value an advertiser gets, since that corresponds to the readership which is probably lower than n. Has the Ubyssey intentionally neglected to take readership surveys for this reason?

  17. Gina Eom on March 31, 2007 7:48 am

    plus the Board of Directors can set advertising rates each year, so the next year you can increase the ad rates. your paper still enjoys (abuses? doesn’t live up to?) the title of “official newspaper”

  18. Anonymous on April 1, 2007 5:32 am

    Shame on whoever wrote this:

    “It is this section of your response that is particularly dangerous to you.”

    Why are you threatening students!?

    “My dialogue is not meant to be defensive and should only serve as a warning to you or anyone posting here. Libel and defamation law extend to the internet. You are not safe by writing personal opinion on a personal blog space and you are not safe even if you have a small number of hits to your site. Information published on the internet can be read by anyone anywhere and is admissible in courts of law in any country of the world.”

    I can’t believe this! If this is someone from the ubyssey, please tell me who it is. I can’t believe it! Threatening students with libel because you think they are inaccurate about your reporting! “Warning”, “danger”, “not safe”! You are damaging your own credibility! Your threats are the real scandal. You wouldn’t have a chance in hell in court. Give me a break. Reveal yourself so I can write an article about how someone at the Ubyssey is threatening people. I can’t believe it.

  19. Anonymous on April 1, 2007 5:35 am

    furthermore, it’s like we’re in an elementary school yard and you’re saying “my daddy’s a lawyer”. grow up and start doing good investigative journalism. stop threatening people!

  20. Paul on April 1, 2007 6:49 pm

    Maayan and Gina –

    It’s not like the Ubyssey is the first newspaper in the history of the world to print more copies than are actually read. There’s extra copies of major newspapers at almost every news-stand. There’s often tons of 24s sitting in the boxes that never get picked up.

    Furthermore, in the last couple of years, we’ve had boxes upon boxes of AMS Insiders in our office. Does that mean the AMS is intentionally misleading advertisers by not conducting surveys on what the actual number of students who use it are? No, it’s ridiculous to make that claim. Free newspapers especially can almost never tell how many people read their paper. Advertisers choose to put ads in the Ubyssey because they are targeting students and the Ubyssey is still the most widely read and most frequently produced publication on campus. If their ads aren’t yielding any results (i.e. their sales stay the same over a given period), then they would stop advertising right? But we’re still getting lots of advertising – what does that say?

  21. Gina Eom on April 2, 2007 2:53 am

    Paul, your arguments don’t make sense to me.

    – “If the circultation were to decrease, then our ad revenue would go down. I’m not sure how the numbers would play out, but I’m pretty sure we’d have to sell adverstising for less and thus might not have that much extra money.”

    -“Free newspapers especially can almost never tell how many people read their paper.”

    (Bullshit. Just last week I read the 24, which you use in your example, and they had a viewership number printed. Also, Fernie has done readership assessment -except only twice over 15 years.)

    -“Advertisers choose to put ads in the Ubyssey because they are targeting students and the Ubyssey is still the most widely read and most frequently produced publication on campus.”

    -“If their ads aren’t yielding any results (i.e. their sales stay the same over a given period), then they would stop advertising right? But we’re still getting lots of advertising – what does that say?”

    (That’s exactly what I said, so I doubt you would lose much revenue from ads.)

    The argument of circulating less but focussing on quality means the same amount of readership (NOT circulation) which equates to a steady stream of sales to the sponsors.

    However you are resistant to this idea now.

    What does that say?

    Well to me it says
    1. you’re just killing lots and lots of trees. The argument that other free papers do the same is a mismatched comparison, because the Georgia Straight and other free publications actually track their readership rate. Why do you think that is? Because their free circulation depends solely on advertisement so it’s in their best interest that lots of people read the paper.

    2. You guys have only done this twice in 15 years, and a large chunk of your budget comes faithfully from students like myself. So the onus to check readership comes really more from caring – and seeing how often you have done this (twice in 15 years) it shows how much the paper cares about student engagement.

  22. Paul on April 2, 2007 7:22 pm

    Gina –

    First, it’s amusing that you start off by saying that my arguments don’t make sense, and then in response to one of my arguments, you write “That’s exactly what I said.”

    Second, we’re really not killing that many trees. Newsprint is heavily recycled. Wasting some ink? Yeah I’ll give you that.

    Now I think I should clarify my free newspapers can’t tell how many people read their newspaper comment. 24 might have a printed number, but it’s a huge guess. The problem is that there aren’t very many reliable methods for checking on readership numbers. Three possiblities come to mind for the Ubyssey:

    1. Call up every student on campus and ask them if they read the Ubyssey. While this might give us a very accurate count, there are some obvious logistical problems (e.g. getting every students phone number, the prohibitive cost).

    2. Count up all the issues that weren’t picked up in the newstands. This is probably what 24 does, but it’s still problematic. It doesn’t tell you anything about what sections were read, or if the paper was even read at all. It also doesn’t tell you anything about “engagement.”

    3. You could attach a voluntary survey inside the paper. We did this, but as with a lot of other campus surveys, we didn’t get a big response. I think it was like 30 or so forms that got sent back (it was before I got to the paper, so it’s hearsay I’m relying on). While the comments were useful to the editors, it didn’t give us very much accurate info. I think Gavin spent 10,000 dollars on a similar voluntary response survey back in late 2005.

    My whole point is that yes, we could come up with a very general figure on how many students read our paper, or at least how many copies are picked up. But because the number would be such a guess, I doubt it would change very much from year to year.

    We’ve already agreed that advertisers have other ways of seeing if their ads are worthwhile. As for checking readership numbers because we care and are funded partially by the student levy, you’ve got a good case, and if you’re prepared to accept a very innaccurate number, I don’t see any harm in doing it.

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