NUJ casts referendum to cut University Times funding as a threat to editorial independence

Catherine Gallagher

Reporters from University Times observed what they believe was the start of an initiation ceremony organised the Knights of Campanile society.

The National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) ethics council has strongly defended the professional standards of The University Times’ coverage of alleged hazing by the Knights of Campanile society.

At the end of February, reporters from The University Times (UT), one of Trinity College’s student newspapers, observed what they believe was the start of an initiation ceremony organised by the society.

The UT reported the initiation moved to the on-campus apartment of the society’s president. Reporters placed a recording device near the apartment door. The device was subsequently discovered and taken by a member of the Knights of Campanile.

Based on notes taken by reporters listening close to the apartment, the article was published on March 15th. It stated that society members were jeered and shouted at. It added that members could be heard being told to eat butter, followed sounds of people by gagging and retching.

The attempts of reporters to record the event has resulted in heavy criticism. A petition has brought about a referendum which will take place this month to ask students to vote on a proposal to significantly cut the paper’s funding.

Seamus Dooley, official spokesperson for NUJ Ireland denounced the plans for a referendum: “The referendum is intended to deprive the UT of funds. It has been initiated by vested interests who oppose the legitimate, investigative journalism of the newspaper. The decision to hold the referendum has been influenced by a misrepresentation of the ethical practices of the Editor.

“In that context, this referendum is a threat to editorial independence and to the viability of UT,” Dooley told The College View.

In his opinion, Dooley said that student journalism in TCD is compromised. However, he welcomes the support from other journalists and the general public across social media in the wake of the fall-out.

“Student newspapers matter to the student community even if no one outside the college gates is aware of their existence.

“This issue is given an additional importance because of the involvement of a secretive society with a prestigious membership and long history,” he said.

Journalists took to Twitter to advocate their support of the UT’s coverage, such as the political editor of the Irish Times Pat Leahy, acting editor of TheJournal.ie Christine Bohan as well as former editors of the UT.

Editor of the UT Eleanor O’Mahany and TCD Student Union President Shane de Rís were unavailable for comment at time of going to print.

 

Catherine Gallagher

Image Credit: Róise McGagh