Thursday, March 09, 2006

Letter to The Sheaf,

I write this letter in complete disbelief, although not at the cartoon many people are talking about. The cartoon can be characterized at best as inappropriate; however, I am in disbelief over the internal steps taken by the Sheaf and its Board since the cartoon issue has hit the major media, namely the Board's acceptance of the letter of resignation by
editor-in-chief Will Robbins.

As I have always understood it, the independent media, including student newspapers, have served two major functions. First, to be the strongest defender of freedom of the press, and secondly, to effectively fill journalistic gaps left by the mainstream media. While the publishing of the Capitalist Piglet cartoon, particularly following the decision not to run the Mohammad cartoons, was a mistake, it is within every right of the paper to do so. Independent media has always been and should continue to be controversial. While this is not an excuse for the promotion of hateful messages, the issue at stake here is of a publishing error that has been apologized for, rather than unrepentant spread of anti-Christian messages. This means that even had the decision of running the cartoon been made by the editor-in-chief and not an oversight, it would not be, in and of itself, sufficient grounds for dismissal. Absolutely no policy was violated.

Secondly, the U of S needs the Sheaf to report effectively on issues on and around campus that would otherwise not be reported on. We cannot afford to lose this medium for connecting students. Student apathy is a crisis on this campus, as it is on most others. The most effective method to deal with campus apathy is communication through the student newspaper. Several people have taken issue with the quality of that reporting. I challenge them to do something proactive about it and begin to volunteer for the Sheaf. Certainly the answer is not to remove the leadership of the paper. This will only degrade the quality and increase questions of the papers effectiveness and ultimately legitimacy.

When calling for action on this issue I would sincerely hope that people remain rational. Depending on who you talk to, the cartoon published last week ranges from tasteless to offensive and while that is an issue that needs to be addressed, our campus community must understand the fundamental importance of an effective student paper. The efficacy of the Sheaf is severely compromised by the decision to accept the forced resignation of the editor-in-chief, Will Robbins. I sincerely hope that reason prevails and this decision is reviewed.

Students can still make a difference on this issue by doing two things: 1) Support the Sheaf. Independent media is essential in a university community that is promoting freedom of thought, expression and information. We can't afford to lose this valuable resource. If you find the content offensive, change it, students have that power 2) Let the Sheaf know that they made mistakes. Contact editor@thesheaf.ca and tell them that accepting the resignation of Will Robbins is the largest mistake that could be made and a blow to the legitimacy of our student paper.

Gavin Gardiner
6th Year Student
Arts and Science
University of Saskatchewan

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