Sunshine Lists and future concerns

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By Lee Richardson

In the run-up to the end of the semester, something surprising has happened: Both university students and those effectively in charge of their academic careers have become a focus of the mainstream media.

In terms of attention to the students, it may not have been pretty – with all the hallmarks of a reactionary media jumping onto something it doesn’t fully understand – but the recent hazing story has brought attention to Ryerson in a way that I don’t remember happening before. The university, its students and its faculty were a part of the national news feed.

Not long after the coverage died down, Ryerson remained somewhat in the media’s sights as a new story emerged. The Sunshine List, a strangely-named ranking of Ontario public workers who earn over $100,000 annually, was released on Friday, March 29. With it came the understandable media coverage – audiences like money stories. Particular attention has been given to those earners who received much bigger salaries this year than last, as well as those who receive what could be argued to be excessive, overblown wages for their workloads.

Not surprisingly, presidents of research universities can easily meet both of those criteria. This, again, has led to Sheldon Levy’s name being highlighted in a mainstream news capacity. As one of only 10 Ontario university presidents earning more than $400,000, his name had a right to be mentioned.

Though while this media attention was nice in that it got Ryerson, university students and those within adminstration noticed, the media is fickle. The hazing story is practically already forgotten, and the Sunshine List story is on its way out. Old news.

That’s where student media comes in. Over the course of the past twenty-something weeks, we’ve covered both of the aforementioned stories and a lot more: (A quick summary of the most memorable and important stories is included in this week’s news section.)

But unlike the mainstream media, we keep an eye on these stories, following up in order to determine if students and their lives could be affected by intricate developments which the mainstream generally disregards in favour of flashier news.

As The Eyeopener’s mandate says, the role of the paper is to provide information every week to readers on matters that affect student life.

Without being self-congratulatory, as we’ve reached the last issue of the publishing year I can say we’ve achieved that. How well is not for me to say, but while it is sometimes scrappy and we often suffer from our resources, we get the work done.

However, as with the vast majority of media outlets, there is concern about the way forward.

Declines in readership and revenue are evident across the media industry as a whole, and it’s happening in campus media across the country too. While student apathy at Ryerson has been covered before, it is apparent in terms of The Eyeopener too, especially in terms of comments and feedback regarding stories.

This is my concern: That there is news that is of importance to students that is not being seen. For instance, a potentially huge story is the Ontario government recently lowering the cap for tuition hikes to three per cent – annually for the next four years – down from the current five per cent. That two per cent cut will cost universities millions, and how they react to that loss will impinge on students. We are lucky that so much independent student media has a unique perspective on such issues – in some cases issues which could slip by the mainstream media.

This is part of my reasoning for what I’ve attempted to achieve as EIC since August 2012, and this is my belief of why good student journalism matters. Hopefully, with well-defined stories, student media can turn around this sense of apathy in regard to student participation that is occuring nationwide.

Aiming to diminish this sense of apathy has been part of my life at The Eyeopener in one way or the other for the past four years – because I know the mainstream media isn’t going to do it. Whether I have been successful or not is up to you.

PS – With this as the final issue, I have some thanks to say: I wouldn’t be putting this issue together without every person I’ve worked with at The Eyeopener over the past four years. Every one of them have taught me something worth knowing. Special thanks to Amit, Shannon and Lauren.

It’s been fun – I won’t forget this. Thanks for reading.

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