By Manuela Vega
The Ryerson Student Strike (RSS) accused Ryerson’s independent newspaper The Eyeopener of misrepresenting them in their coverage of the group last week.
In a Facebook post from Sept. 18, the RSS alleges the newspaper used “fake quotes,” “half truths” and “yellow journalism.” The Eyeopener denies these claims.
The RSS has not yet provided The Eyeopener with specific instances in which the newspaper misreported facts or quotes, as requested by the newspaper in their own public response.
“When we don’t have any specific highlighted quotes, any specific proof that we’ve misquoted [the RSS], I don’t really know how to help that situation,” editor in chief of the Eyeopener, Sarah Krichel told RUtv News.
The Eyeopener published a story on Sept. 17, saying at least three student groups were unaware that they were listed as endorsing the RSS. The story made the front page of the newspaper and featured a cover of Eggy the Ram with a moustache, pointing. It reads “Socialist Fightback wants you” and “Fightback said 18 student groups endorsed their strike, but did they?”
Hermes Azam, former president of Socialist Fightback and active member of the RSS said many activists with RSS took issue with the cover and the placement of the story. He also maintains that students with the RSS were clear in their intentions to get endorsements.
“The fact that three execs from student clubs are unsure as to whether or not they were going to endorse [the RSS] yet does not grant an entire front page article with the red baiting, with McCarthyist stuff,” said Azam. “It’s a very dishonest approach.”
Azam emphasized that the strike is not solely a Fightback initiative, but that it is a broad coalition with support that extends beyond Socialist Fightback.
“It’s not Fightback’s strike; it’s the Student Union’s strike,” he said. “It’s everybody’s strike.”
Editors at The Eyeopener defended the decision to put the story and its design on the cover.
“I don’t believe the argument that we’ve blown a simple miscommunication out of proportion because endorsing a strike has real impacts on people,” said a news editor, Emma Sandri. “Stuff like that can hurt how other people see them [and] their relationship with different organizations on campus.”
The reporter for the story, Heidi Lee, said she doesn’t have any say in where her story goes or what goes on the cover, but that her editors said her story inspired the cover. Krichel spoke about the conversation around the design.
“We wanted to make it look like Uncle Sam,” said Krichel. “Obviously, there are politics to the story.”
Lee said she stands by her story, the contents of which students with the RSS also claimed to be inaccurate. Lee shared the recordings of her interviews with RUtv News, which RUtv News confirms were properly cited in the article.
“I did have the recordings,” said Lee. “I listened to them over and over again.”
To this, Azam pointed out that during his interview with Lee, he was asked about the campaign for a student strike and was only asked about the endorsements as an “afterthought.” However, Azam said Lee then followed up with another interview to ask specific questions about the endorsements.
Lee, Krichel and Sandri ask students to read the article, which they maintain is fair and balanced.
Azam says The Eyeopener has not covered the strike’s campaign, goals or successes this year, but Krichel encourages people to look at the Eyeopener’s past coverage of the strike and cuts to OSAP.
The RSS and The Eyeopener are both part of We the Students RU, a collective of student groups which aims to make change against the provincial government’s cuts to OSAP by demonstrating the cuts’ effects on students and schools.
The Ryerson Student Strike is holding a general assembly to vote on a one day student strike against the conservative government’s cuts to OSAP today from 6-8 p.m. in the SLC.
Disclaimer: Manuela Vega and Emma Sandri are both in the journalism program and maintain a friendship; however, this did not influence reporting.