By Thea Gribilas and Abeer Khan
The first thing young journalists learn is to write clearly, concisely and accurately. It’s what we’re taught in school and it’s what we, here at The Eyeopener, practice in our reporting on a daily basis.
We check our facts and make sure that what we’re reporting is true and reflective of the information that we have at the time of publication.
On Jan. 25, we published a story highlighting the concerns over increased security on campus. In the story, we detailed how Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) announced a “partnership” with Toronto Police Services to have officers on campus.
The word “partnership” that was used in the article was taken directly from a TorontoMet Today—TMU’s own in-house publication—statement published on Jan. 10.
It said the school would be “partnering with Toronto Police Service to have officers on foot and bike patrol who proactively engage with our on-campus community to provide an additional layer of support for our security team.”
In that same edition of The Eye, editor-in-chief Abeer Khan wrote an editorial—an opinion piece—questioning TMU’s lack of transparency regarding the partnership.
The Eye was subsequently emailed by the school requesting an “immediate correction” due to there being “no formal partnership between Toronto Metropolitan University and Toronto Police Service (TPS).”
In another email, a university communications representative said while the university did use the term “partnership” to characterize its relationship with TPS, the university did not mean they had a formal partnership. Instead, they were referring to a “working relationship between two parties.”
Well, the Merriam-Webster dictionary and the Cambridge dictionary disagree with that definition.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines partnership as “the state of being a partner” and the Cambridge dictionary defines partner as “a person or organization you are closely involved with in some way.”
The definition of the term partnership seems pretty clear—and it’s not TMU’s definition.
Yet the university continued to dispute our definition (the correct definition) of the term they used.
A reasonable person would assume the university would correctly characterize its relationship with the police
We argued via email that since the university itself uses the word “partnering,” a reasonable person would assume that the university would correctly characterize its own relationship with the police.
The university representative replied back, saying “a reasonable journalist would ask for clarification before running an accusatory editorial based on the interpretation of a single word.”
We have three issues here. First, it is the university’s responsibility to ensure that the press releases they send are factually correct and mean what they say.
Second, an editorial is meant to be a place for fair comment—where a writer can look critically and offer opinion on issues that are impacting the community.
Third, the onus is not on the editorial staff to clarify the definition of a word that is clearly used, nor is it principled for the university to amend the definition of a commonly used word to fit their own narrative—which is what they have done.
Despite these facts, the university maintains we got it wrong.
While we stand by the fact that we reported on what the university itself said, a clarification has been issued on our stories to help reflect their definition of partnership and to ensure our readers are correctly informed on the happenings of the school.
With that being said, in the future, TMU Public Relations needs to ensure that they mean what they say and say what they mean.
This editorial was written in response to a Letter to the Editor submitted to The Eye from the university’s public relations team.