Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 10, No. 9. June 25, 1947
I wish to draw your attention and that of your readers to the failure to report the debate held on April 18 last, at which, it will be recalled, a resolution hostile to the present foreign policy of the Soviet Union was moved by me and, after being supported by the majority of speakers from the floor, was convincingly adopted by the meeting. Three issues of your journal have since been published—the first on May 7, some 19 days after the debate, but it has received no mention in either.
I am sure many of your readers, like me, will find it passing strange of a journal which proclaims on its face that it is "An Organ of Student Opinion" at the College to fail to report the proceedings of a body which provides a forum for all students sufficiently interested and articulate to take advantage of it, and which provides the only occasions (except the AGM) at which the opinion of the whole student body is at least roughly gauged and given expression. I have been at the College since 1936 (war service excepted) and can recall no other occasion in that 12 years when such an oversight has occurred.
I deliberately refrain from drawing any inferences from the omission, which at the moment seem justifiable, pending any explanation you may care to publish.
I must, nevertheless, observe that the incident gives the air of remarkable coincidence to what at the time I regarded merely as a minor instance of poor reporting, regrettably common, but otherwise of no significance, in connection with the account of the first debate of the year in your issue of April 2. On that occasion I was reported as making two points, viz., a distrust of American foreign policy based on its attitude to China, Iran and Palestine (the former of which countries I referred to only incidentally and in another connection, and the latter two of which I did not mention at all); and secondly, that America, in bolstering a reactionary government, was inviting opposition from all progressive countries. I may, perhaps, be forgiven for reminding readers that the judge that evening found the points which I actually made, whatever the faults of the speech, at least clearly presented. They were, first, that the blind application of ideology, whether of the "right" or the "left," to questions of foreign policy, is disastrous; and I gently chided the official affirmative speakers for a blind application of Communist ideology to the question, but pointed out that the American intervention in the Near East was likewise bad, being inspired by equally blind anticommunist ideology. Secondly, I drew attention to the failure of the affirmative speakers to refer to what was surely the most important point of all, that the American policy ran counter to a U.N. decision on Greece and represented unilateral action by the U.S.A. on a matter on which the United Nations had asked for concerted action.
I was, therefore, both amused and pleased to observe, Sir, that you yourself had not shared the inability of your reporter to grasp at least the second of these points clearly, for your leading article in that very issue was headed "U.S. Sidesteps U.N." and went on to elaborate the matter to which I drew attention. This but serves to emphasise the value of full and accurate reporting of proceedings at debates from which it seems that the texts of your own lessons to your readers may occasionally be drawn with advantage.
I hope, therefore, that this letter will at least serve to prevent a recurrence of the regretable lapse of which I complain.
F. D. O'Flynn.
I should like to quote two clauses from the policy statement of "Salient" drawn up at the inception of the paper. February, 1938.
1. Policy of the paper is to be criticism and comment rather than reporting.
2. That the paper depart from the usual reporting of local University news and adopt a more cosmopolitan attitude.
We have been attempting this year to return to this policy, giving less space to club reporting, including debates. Some club reports have been printed, but these have all, except the debating report mentioned by Mr. O'Flynn, been spontaneously written by club members.
If the Debating Society feels that its meetings should be reported in "Salient," and if it has any person competent to do it, we would be prepared to publish these reports. We agree that debating reporting in "Salient" in the past has been biased and inaccurate. This is a further reason for discontinuing them.