UPDATE: Daily editor stipends — 13 editors each get $2,320

I recently found a couple interesting emails to dailywatch@gmail.com that accidentally went to the spam folder [March 13-14]. One writer had issues with a remark I made in this post, regarding the stipends The McGill Daily’s editors received in comparison to The McGill Tribune’s stipends.

I emailed Byron Tau (who wrote the Trib article on the alleged copying of other articles’ text by The Daily’s Features editor) to find out the Tribune’s stipends. Tau tells me

The budget changes, but most of hte section editors make 250 a semester. News makes 300. Managing and ed in chief make a lot more, but I don’t know how much. We also get bonuses depending on how well the Trib does — and I’m not sure the amounts.

That means that most Tribune editors get $500 per year, disregarding potential bonuses. They publish only once a week, unlike The Daily, but they don’t have a wire service, which The Daily uses every issue.

The guy who emailed me was an editor for The Daily. Last year, he says regular editors got $290 per MONTH. With eight months of publication, that means that most [13] of the editors of The Daily each got $2320 per year. The editors [4] of a few smaller sections, such as Mind & Body, get half that much.

So, an editor of The McGill Daily typically makes over 4 times as much for his/her extracurricular troubles as an editor of The McGill Tribune, a newspaper that publishes half as much. The Daily editors whose section is only once per week —

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Kael gets a shout-out

John Semley in The Tribune writes a little piece on the great Pauline Kael, whom he calls “the cure for film criticism.” The American director Jonathan Demme once said,

If you’re a filmmaker, you read what Pauline Kael says about you, and you read it in a certain way. I’ve had my mind changed on several occasions by her. She has a point of view, an artistry that’s extraordinary for a film enthusiast [to read]. When The New Yorker comes out and you see that, by God, she likes your movie, it’s a spectacular feeling, and you read it over and over. When she doesn’t like your movie, you read that one only once.

Kael was also responsible for a general change in writing style at The New Yorker, which in turn helped to expand the possibilities of culture writing at other major publications.

Semley quotes Kael about the role of the critic. I wish I could find this interview I remember in which she spoke directly about that, but if I can expand on Semley’s quote from her essay Circles & Squares, which she wrote to compare well to the formal film criticism the essay was discussing:

The role of the critic is to help people see what is in the work, what is in it that shouldn’t be, what is not in it that could be. He is a good critic if he helps people understand more about the work than they could see for themselves; he is a great critic, if by his understanding and feeling for the work, by his passion, he can excite people so that they want to experience more of the art that is there, waiting to be seized. The art of the critic is to transmit his knowledge of and enthusiasm for art to others.

Semley mentions A.O. Scott, David Edelstein and Stephanie Zacharek, as her critical prodigy, although the list could go on (especially if you’re not buzzed by those reviewers), and includes Roger Ebert, the most commercially influential movie reviewer today. Among directors, she was friends with both Jean Renoir and Sam Peckinpah, two great directors almost as different as you can get. It’s a good piece by Semley and nice to see in a university newspaper toward the end of a year.

If the Public Editor’s going to write about “Sparing the Rich” again, he might mention another article with intentional copying

Someone points out to me that this Daily article, by ex-Features editor Martin Lukacs, from the spring before last evidently got some “textual inspiration” from this article in The Guardian five months before. Right now, the last section of The Daily article stands out to me as having similarities to The Guardian piece by Robert Reiner. The clearest example is that Reiner writes in The Guardian:

Sir Ian’s basic question, “What kind of police service do we want?” cannot be considered in isolation from the question of the kind of society we have and want. Policing is a symbol, not a source, of the character of a civilisation.

And the ex-Features editor writes in his concluding lines:

By shifting the terms on which we think about policing and crime, we take the first step towards ensuring real security in the future. The question of what kind of police service we want cannot be answered in isolation from the question of what kind of society we have and want.

The Guardian is not credited at all, and the copying is obviously intentional. I find it hard to believe that the writer wasn’t aware that people would see this as plagiarism.

There are also some smaller bits of identical text. But ignoring the identical text, other aspects of the article — such as taking Reiner’s use of a quote from the novel The Long Goodbye and some analysis similar to Reiner’s — would make a situation analogous to, though worse than, the one The Harvard Crimson had, for which they discontinued the author’s column and printed an immediate retraction.

There’s no retraction yet for actions of the guy whom they replaced with James McNultey and now Omar Little from the cable show The Wire

Walzer’s suggestion about sending mercenaries to stop the slaughter in Darfur wasn’t as radical as it seemed

Following up on this post, I just saw, via Matt Yglesias’ blog, that someone has pointed out that “private contractors” are already used for refugee security:

In Kenya, ArmorGroup guards protect UNHCR refugee camps; PAE and AYR Aviation are working with the UN and African Union in Sudan; in Liberia, Dyncorp is training that country’s new military. Moreover, no one, including the contractors themselves, are advocating that Blackwater or any other private group should go into Darfur with guns blazing. I have yet to come across any serious player in the industry who is advocating a combat role for private contractors. In fact, quite the opposite.

Blackwater offered to guard villages and refugee camps, as its mission.

Indeed, in last week’s WSJ, Peter Charles Choharis, a former UNICEF relief worker called for the use of private contractors in Darfur, operating under the following criteria:

The Security Council should consider employing contract armed forces to protect civilians and relief workers. These forces would have a very limited mandate to create safe havens for civilians, and would operate only until traditional U.N. peacekeepers can takeover. Because they would be authorized by the Security Council, would not directly take part in hostilities, and would use force only when necessary to protect innocent civilians and relief workers, they would not be mercenaries, which are prohibited by international law.

Private forces could also act as a humanitarian force-multiplier. Protected by these forces, NGOs will be able to provide food, water, medical treatment and shelter much more quickly, thereby saving countless more lives. Beyond supplies, providing security to vulnerable civilians can help avert traumas like rape and mutilation that can scar entire societies and make national reconciliation more difficult.

Daily wins referendum with an 80% YES vote

It’s not on The Daily’s website yet, but it’s on The Tribune’s. As expected, The McGill Daily will not have difficulty planning its budget next year or producing two print issues per week, which would have been the result of a NO vote.

… No word yet on whether The McGill Tribune will be able to survive the mighty lawsuit threatened by the Coordinating Editor of The Daily, when The Tribune endorsed a YES vote for the social good called a free press.

[ UPDATE: Election results are up on The Daily’s website now. Their news story quotes the current student rep who was the Features editor for last year’s inexplicable “Jewish Like Me” piece:

DPS Board of Directors member Jeremy Delman said he hoped the support for The Daily’s existence evidenced in Friday’s results would convince the administration that a follow-up referendum in five years’ time is unnecessary.

… Not very comforting to hear from a student rep if you’re a believer in voting rights, since Delman doesn’t say votes should take place every 8 years or 10 or whatever.

As though trying to outdo himself in audaciousness, here Delman writes a Hyde Park called “Yes to Accountability, no to neverendums,” in which he uses variations of the word “accountability” to refer to a principle that instead comes under the word “inclusivity.”

Delman waxes on with the usual line about how the content of The Daily can change by its getting volunteers with more diverse opinions (that is, if group pressures in the EdBoard don’t conveniently dissuade them from fully participating, or at all). Delman’s incorrect use of the word “accountability” throughout the piece is either Orwellian nonsense, or an embarrassing confusion of language by a former editor. ]

Coordinating Editor of The Daily threatened … to sue … The Tribune

It looks more like ego bias than a substantive argument, if we draw on the account of Byron Tau, the Opinion Editor of The McGill Tribune (and the writer of the story on the alleged plagiarism in The Daily). I have permission to quote him:

Drew Nelles contacted me by e-mail immediately after our affirmative endorsement went to print, threatening legal action (on a charge of libel), and saying that he was outraged and shocked that we didn’t contact him for his side of the story. I told him that were perfectly capable of reading and interpreting the DPS constitution ourselves, and that we didn’t necessarily need to tell his side of the story in our op-ed section. Further, I said that we’d provide him whatever column space he, or the Daily, or the DPS wanted in order to draft a reply or debate the issue in public. The crux of his complaint was that he was angry that we accused him of “lying” (which we never did…we merely took issue with how he represented the DPS constitution in the press). I pointed out that what we wrote was an almost exact paraphrase of what appeared in the Gazette, so I’m not exactly sure what his complaint is. I haven’t hear a follow up from him or the Daily since, except for the DPS Hyde Park that appeared today.

So The Tribune supports The Daily in the referendum based on the desirability of a free and competitive press — or in the language of the YES vote, “a free and critical press [which] is essential to a vibrant campus society and a healthy democracy” — and Nelles returns this support by threatening a lawsuit and attempting to squelch serious criticism by the press? … The Daily is the anti-establishment newspaper, right?

I don’t understand this libel accusation against The Tribune, except as a product of Nelles’ blind range. After I read their endorsement, I assumed some people at The Tribune agreed with me that Nelles made a mistake and did not responsibly correct or clarify himself in time for the students to have the full facts when voting. I myself didn’t accuse Nelles of lying. I even emailed him to give him the chance to “clarify or correct,” three or four days before I posted.

This looks like another situation where a recourse to victimhood trumps The Daily’s Coordinating Editor’s taking responsibility for his words and actions — and sometimes taking a hit in deference to the ideals of journalism.

Maybe Nelles simply freaked, but The Tribune’s criticism of Nelles’ remarks seems to have pressured other members on the Board of The Daily to (mis)read a whole Article’s worth of meaning into one line of The Daily’s Constitution, 16(4a). (That line only tells us that if a student gets any bright ideas, he/she should know that they can’t try to force a referendum by going to the top electoral officer.) Nelles’ outrage may have somehow pushed many on the Board toward an interpretation of The Daily’s Constitution based on isolating one line from the rest of the document.

In 1986, the students had referenda rights, to the extent that they could oust an editor. We don’t have those today. Now we can vote to refuse a fee increase, and the University lets us vote every 5 years, when we can take into account The Daily’s pluses (mostly certain writers, illustrators, photographers, etc.) and minuses, the biggest one being the lack of accountability relative to other independent student newspapers.

[UPDATE 5/16/08: After the mini-controversy about this, including Nelles’ threat to sue, the Daily decided to reform the Constitution to allow for referenda in situations other than fee increases — but this was after the last issue for 2007-2008. ]

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I’m not in favor of getting back referenda rights to the extent that we could decide when Continue reading

Hey, Hillel members, these guys are much hipper and more righteous than you

Letters like this are not what you’re supposed to sign when you’ve been writing/editing stories (Dave Gruber, Simon Lewsen, Martin Lukacs) relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or might want to write/edit them in the near future (Max Halperin).

They can get that from many journalistic codes of ethics, including the SPJ’s, which states that

Journalists should […] — Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

Or closer to home, the ethics code of the Canadian Association of Journalists states:

We will not participate in demonstrations or sign petitions if there could be an appearance of conflict with our role as fair and impartial journalists.

Or they can take the advice of Amanda McCuaig, President of The Daily’s own news organization, the Canadian University Press (CUP). She mentioned to me in an email a while back:

Really though, avoid writing news on something you’re too close to. Features, opinions, etc are fine, just be sure to let the reader know.

Besides the issue of journalistic integrity and conflict of interest, there’s a phrase in the letter that seems to forswear all “Israeli military invasions or embargoes of Gaza,” as though under any circumstances. The people at the left-wing Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz would not be impressed.

(And columnist Bradley Burston might share with them his sad but realistic assessment of Israel’s alternatives, “Nine immoral solutions for Gaza — a guide.”)

But since they’ve already crossed a line for journalists, to advertise themselves as good humanists, I assume they’re writing a similar letter in response to

  • the virtually daily firing of qassam rockets into Sderot; the recent firing of grad missiles into Ashekelon, which killed a university student;
  • Hamas’ violation of their under-the-table ceasefire with Israel after 5 [CORRECTION: 4] days;
  • Hamas’ recent admission that they have been sending large amounts of fighters to Iran for training;
  • and the recent shooting spree at a yeshiva in Jerusalem that killed eight.

This deliberate killing of young teenagers at the yeshiva was praised by representatives from all major Palestinians political factions, including some from the “more moderate” Fatah. But the act was condemned unequivocally and without relativism by one Kuwaiti (!) newspaper, which did not align the Israeli military’s firing at rocket squads that operate near civilians with Palestinian attacks on civilians. The Kuwaiti op-ed rejected the “cycle of violence” argument that underlies the letter with The Daily signatories.

… On the other hand, The Daily has responsibly appended the Errata to the online copy of one of the articles in which the signatories had a hand. I don’t think they did so before they printed my letter referring readers to the post about errors in the Rachel-Corrie-and-Anne-Frank-are-soul-sisters article, but regardless, they did the right thing.

[UPDATE: Adam Blander, Israel Affairs representative of Hillel, sends me a link to a response he signed in The Gazette’s letter column … So yes, Hillel was way more on top of McGill-related letters to the press than The Daily Watch.
— I think it’s a good response, although I wouldn’t have identified the meaning of the phrase “struggle for freedom” in the original letter the same definitive way the Hillel officers did. The different signatories of the first letter probably had different views of what constitutes authentic “struggle.” Some of those views were perhaps more humane than others. ]