Right now, we’re probably the only publication that gives a fuck about Tom Raue.
As the only editors in the world covering the ongoing saga of his potential expulsion from the USU Board in depth, we find ourselves questioning what exactly it is we’re supposed to be doing.
First and foremost, we recount facts, describe perspectives, and try to make sense of unfolding events. We do that with no claim to a capital-t Truth, but with the hope and belief that, imperfectly, we can disassociate our own values from the events and opinions before us. A journalist’s intention should be to gather and disseminate information, and to represent, as closely as possible, the issues that most affect their readers.
So we went to court and we read its judgment. We talked to Tom and we talked to Hannah. We sought to find and report facts. At every point, we tried to describe what actually happened, because, as journalists, we have an obligation
to at the very least try to tell “the truth”.
But, beyond the idea of the journalists-as-truth-tellers, we aspire to the idea of journalists-as-activists. It is not a commitment to objectivity that motivates us, but a belief that searching and reporting is a means to an end. For us, that end is holding power to account. We are compelled to monitor power critically, to test its justifications vigorously, and to watch its actions closely. If an activist must have a cause, ours is this: to keep the bastards honest.
Power, more than anything, explains human events. Behind the actions of individuals and the laws of institutions sits power. Without monitoring power we are impotent in deciding what matters, who we should talk to, why events occur.
Stories of power and oppression litter history. The power animating this particular story is that of an institution: the USU, the omnipresent $22 million student organisation. As a recipient of SSAF funds, the USU gets your money each year even if you are not a member. Moreover, it dominates campus life. Decisions of USU management affect the buildings you walk through, your food options and how clubs and societies are funded.
To understand the events of the last week and the events of the next month, we must conceive of them as events driven by the power relations that exist within the USU. We must see them not only as the interactions of the individuals quoted in our news pieces, but also as the interactions of the positions those people hold.
Information kept confidential in the interests of the institution was leaked by a member of that institution who was censured by the executive of that institution. Facing removal for threatening that institution, he may be forced into bankruptcy to protect the bottom line of that institution.
The implication should be clear: the power of the USU joins the dots of the facts and characters of this story. Now, go back to the front page and read between the lines.
Astha Rajvanshi had no part in the production of this editorial due to her role as the Immediate Past President of the USU. It does not necessarily reflect her views.