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Editorial: Addressing the leak from last week

As some of you may have noticed with with the footnote we added to Richard Kemick’s op-ed last week on the UNB Student Union, Ben Whitney, Marc Gauvin and Greg Bailey got to read Kemick’s op-ed before it was published in last week’s paper.

I want to give full disclosure because you, the students who pay for this paper, deserve to know. And having taken four years of communications and journalism, I know transparency is always best.

The leak came from within the office. What’s important is that you know this has never happened before in this paper’s institutional memory and it will never happen again.

The staff member has been reprimanded in accordance with the Brunswickan by-laws, as outlined in our constitution, and has assured me they understand the severity of what they did and won’t do it again.

That person didn’t realize that what they did was unethical, but they have been made aware of the consequences these kinds of actions have toward the editorial voice of this publication. After speaking with them I am confident this won’t repeat itself.

UNB is a relatively small campus with a lot of ties. In this case, it was an instance of a friend giving another friend a heads up of what was coming. But that violated a journalistic standard the Brunswickan has always upheld. Part of Kemick’s piece addressed that the Student Union had not updated its council minutes. By seeing the piece before it ran, they quickly fixed that mistake.

While the minutes were only a small part of Kemick’s overall argument, we understand the ramifications of what can happen in a more serious news article. Occasionally, it’s acceptable to send somebody an excerpt of an upcoming criticism, but not by the same context or motif of what happened last week.

This leak does not take away from the stellar reporting that has come out of the Brunswickan office this year – particularly during the strike/lockout – and that will continue to come out of this office long after we’ve graduated.

We understand that for the Brunswickan and the Student Union to operate properly, both need to remain completely independent of each other. As in any government, the UNBSU needs our criticism to function. Critical voices are vital in a functional democracy. Even when Frank McKenna’s Liberals won every legislative seat in New Brunswick in the ‘80s, the premier allowed the Progressive Conservatives to submit written questions for question period in the legislature. Any government needs opposition and criticism, and that’s one of our roles.

I’ve spoken with Whitney and he understands that even if presented the opportunity, he will turn away from reading unpublished material in the future.

But it really doesn’t matter whether or not I believe him, or the incoming president, because they won’t be presented with the opportunity, period.

I hope this mistake doesn’t compromise the trust you have in us, especially the news department which again has been nothing short of professional this year, and I hope if any of you one day choose to be a part of this staff that you understand the ethics behind working at a newspaper.

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1 Comment

  1. Jordan Thompson Reply

    One quick point, the SU is not a government. It has no inherent jurisdiction nor is there any power delegated from a level of government that has jurisdiction. It’s a non-profit corporation and the exec are the officers of said corporation. This doesn’t diminish the argument that transparency is important and that the Bruns has a role to play in keeping the SU accountable, but classification as government and comparisons to government are not relevant.

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