Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 6. April 9, 1968
Editorials — Salient and impartiality
Salient and impartiality
April 9, 1968
Opinions expressed in Salient are not necessarily those of VUWSA.
Monopoly control of the campus media is potentially dangerous. The question of some form of check to Salient's power thus arises frequently.
Cyclosryled newsheets, both unofficial and published by clubs, are possible and frequent at Victoria, but Salient has a financial and institutional backing sufficient to make it more influential than any other feasible publication.
As an editorial in 1954 said, "The student paper is the last remnant of the much-vaunted principle of the freedom of the Press. . . . It must be a vehicle to every shade of opinion . . . the freedom on which it is based makes the student paper YOUR paper. If you decry it, you decry yourselves. Underneath it all, it is yours to make or break".
Because it is useless to say things most people already know or believe, a student paper tends to select the controversial rather than the mundane, the extreme rather than the moderate. From this often stems the bias which is so often a target of criticism.
But there is another type of bias in a good student newspaper—the conscious use of the "power of the Press". This must be used responsibly, because it can at times be a decisive power, but it must be used by the Press—by the editor and staff of the newspaper. Its use in any instance is, of course, open to criticism. The newspaper's duty to use it on occasion is undeniable.
The feeling about Salient, as about the NZBC, is that it should not use its power, simply because its power is appreciable.
Castration is an effective remedy for virility. But as the NZBC shows so well it is a rather sterile remedy. Salient channels its virility into seduction of the student mind with its non-news pages, attempting the impartility of abstinence from opinion only in news, that is in the facts it publishes about student and university affairs.
People expect absolute impartiality as little as they expect an absolute vacuum, but as for some purposes it is reasonably expected that an attempt be made to make a vacuum, so for some purposes it is reasonable to expect an attempt at impartiality.
News reporting is such a purpose, but the features, reviews, and other artistic and semi-artistic creations are inherently opinionated.
The success of the attempted impartiality in news, and the direction and extent of bias in the rest of the paper are determined by the writers and the editor. Machinery to inhibit their freedom would be as unsuccessful as it would be unacceptable. The ideal student newspaper expresses the personalities of the participants—including the members of the University as well as the editor and staff. It does this in much the same way as the ideal film expresses the personalities of its director, actors and other participants. The material in both cases is given, be it the basic script of the film, or the news, reviews, features, and so on which are a student newspaper.
Selection, sub-editing, and layout of contributions is not only bound to be, but should be affected by the people responsible for these essentially creative activities.