Cormac Watson, the Editor of The University Times, has launched a petition to hold a referendum to amend the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) constitution to include a Board of Advisors for the newspaper.
The Board would consist of experts in media, law and student politics to assist the newspaper in its work.
Watson, who was elected Editor of The University Times in February, pledged during his election campaign to introduce a Board of Advisors to “ensure that the paper meets best journalistic practices and standards in everything that it does”. “Accountability” was one of the core promises of Watson’s election manifesto.
In a press statement, Watson said: “I’m delighted to announce the launch of the petition. Introducing this board was one of the three key pillars of my campaign, and it became clear to me during the election that students strongly support introducing a formal way for the Editor to receive advice on the running of The University Times.”
While the Editor of The University Times already receives advice from experts in the fields of journalism, law and student politics, the amendment would formally create a permanent board of advisors with wide-ranging expertise.
The Board of Advisors will play both an advisory role and also actively keep track of The University Times to ensure that it maintains best practices in its work.
They will meet at least three times per year, and will produce an annual report outlining how effective and efficient the paper has been over the prior 12-month period.
The proposed amendment also includes the establishment of a Standards Editor to be elected every year by the paper’s staff, who will also sit on the Board of Advisors and serve as a voting member.
The introduction of a Standards Editor was part of Watson’s election manifesto, where he explained that their role will be “to ensure that writers are dealing with students and student issues in a sensitive and compassionate way”, and will also handle complaints from students about coverage in The University Times.
In a press statement, TCDSU president Eoin Hand said: “I think it’s great to see Cormac fulfilling one of his main manifesto points. This is a fantastic mechanism to ensure that Editors going forward will have the support they need and that the paper can provide the highest quality journalism it can.”
“The SU supports the spirit and the principle of this amendment”, he added.
Watson said the Board of Advisors and Standards Editor would be “absolutely essential” to ensure that The University Times is “functioning at the highest level it can” and “in line with journalistic best practice”.
He added that, given the “post-coronavirus media and third-level landscape”, the paper would “benefit massively from having expert advice at hand to deal with the challenges it faces”.
“The newspaper plays an important role in College life, and the Editor has been given a lot of responsibility by students. Introducing a Standards Editor – who will sit on the Board of Advisors – will make sure that The University Times is dealing with students in a sensitive and compassionate way.”
Petitions to amend the TCDSU constitution require at least 500 signatures to trigger a student-wide referendum, which would likely be held alongside both class representative elections and the upcoming referendum which proposes wording changes to the TCDSU constitution.