EYE TO SONIAN: DON’T FEED THE TROLLS

In Editorial /

By Patrick Szpak

The Ryersonian’s March 21 cover is causing a small discussion among those who care about such things around Ryerson’s campus. For us, their timing couldn’t have been better, since the story, dubious as it is, is perfect fodder for our parody insert of The Ryersonian and the reason why we have Hitler on our cover, which, to be perfectly clear, is a parody of The Ryersonian’s story on a local racist and bigot.

Stripped of its pretensions, The Ryersonian story is not about racism on campus (which does exist), or sparking debate about racism (the debate is already underway, you may have seen the posters advertising elimination of racism day), but is in fact about a bigot and his thoughts on Ryerson and one of its students. Perhaps good news judgment, in this case, wasn’t exercised. (Goodness knows we’ve been there too.)

In a story that began with a bunch of clowns running a laughable Facebook site called “I’m a White Minority @ Ryerson” — a story the Eye decided to ignore weeks before the competition gave it front-page coverage — The Ryersonian has followed every lead. Through its own coverage, The Ryersonian has propelled the story further and further, finally ending up in the sewer quoting the cretins at stormfront.org. The star source in the story is Don Andrews, an old racist troll The Ryersonian coaxed out from under his bridge to adorn their front page. His connection to Ryerson? He graduated from here almost 50 years ago. Great. Oh, and he runs a racist website on the Internet (wow).

On a campus where more than a third of students are visible minorities, racism, in its many forms, is a topic for discussion and a story for newspapers. Vigilant and strong reporting on systematic racism on campus and racist acts by students or professors is needed to expose racism and its injustices. However, just because a news story’s subject is racism does not automatically make it strong or news-worthy.

Reporting on racism has its pitfalls, like having to talk to racists and bigots, and then having to put what they say on the printed page for all to see. If a paper chooses to talk to a bigot and let them say their piece on the front page, they should be doing it for the right reason — namely, exposing racism on campus to the public eye, hopefully as a means of rooting it out. It becomes a problem if a bigot is given front-page prominence simply as a means of boosting a story’s stature and sensational appeal as a substitute for substance. Not to say that The Eyeopener has never used sensationalism to stir public debate, but careful judgment is essential.

From the beginning, The Eyeopener has chosen not to follow this story, even if it has meant being out-scandaled by The Ryersonian. Not that we haven’t thought about it. Fierce debate has ensued about whether to/how to cover this escalating story. After being scooped on the “Loreto Death Threat” issue two weeks ago, two Eye reporters were finally assigned to the story, although after the initial competitive shock wore off, we decided all the original reasons for not following the story were still valid, and the reporters were called off.

When the debate is not about the content of the story and the injustice it has uncovered, but rather about a paper’s decision to run the story, we have entered a troubling area where it is the media that are playing too big a role in making the news through the controversy created by their sources or subjects.

It is our belief at The Eyeopener that The Ryersonian’s recent front-page news-feature of confirmed bigot Andrews’ deep thoughts on racism, and his opinion of Ryerson Students’ Union VP Nora Loreto is not only questionable, but parody-worthy. We want better reporting on racism, not sensational reporting on racists. With respect to our colleagues at The Ryersonian: Stop feeding the trolls.

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