IGNITE’s changing relationship with student journalists


IGNITE has been working to change its relationship with student journalists this fall by introducing a new way for reporters to request a comment or ask for an interview and have scheduled monthly press briefings.

The changes come as after the previous communications coordinator Peter Seney departed the student union with his replacement due to arrive after Thanksgiving.

During the Oct. 4 press briefing, the acting communications director told student journalists that they wanted to change how the relationship worked headed into the future.

Up until this point, the communications strategy of the student union was to largely ignore requests from The Avro Post. Even the student journalism’s newspaper, the Et Cetera, had issues in the past getting in contactt, according to two sources.

As pressure was mounting from the provincially mandated Student Choice Initiative, the dynamic changed. The Avro Post for the first time was invited into the North Campus offices to learn more about IGNITE’s plan for optional student fees.

There were two meetings in April. The Post’s Melissa Lopez and Arnold Samson were given access to Executive Director ErcolĂ© Perrone that gave insight into how the student union was tackling the SCI.

After that, there were not many responses until August when a third Post reporter was allowed inside the offices for another interview with Perrone, where he gave more details on the student union’s finances and how North’s new Vice President Shay Hamilton was hired.

An analysis even found that IGNITE appeared to be changing their transparency policies to be more open. That was true until the night of Sept. 11, when a Post journalist was not allowed into a Board of Directors meeting, sparking a series of events that led to where we are now.

During that Board meeting, IGNITE posted a new policy on its Governance webpage, saying that only Board directors have “a right” to be at the meetings under provincial law.

While it was a legally sound statement, there was backlash over the ethics of cutting off students, which is what the statement appeared to indicate as it said students needed special permission from the executive director.

During the Oct. 4 press briefing, officials said the online policy had to be updated to reflect what the actual rules were. Perrone clarified that students could still go to the meetings but that student journalists would likely not be allowed in.

Perrone explained that Board directors could ask students to leave. The Post attempted to find the Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday evening but was unsuccessful as it was not held on the sixth floor of the Learning Resource Commons, where it was before.

IGNITE has removed the meeting time and locations from its Governance page. Thus, it is unclear how interested students are able to go without contacting the student union, which is the policy online that Perrone said is not accurate.

The Avro Post has reached out for comment regarding the times and locations of the Board meetings. Due to a web archive service, the last confirmed date that all the locations were posted online was Aug. 14.

At the time, the Wednesday meeting location was still “to be determined”, though most of the other meetings had locations set already for the upcoming academic year.

IGNITE has become faster at responding to requests since the Oct. 4 press briefing. The Avro Post will be conducting an interview next week, a result of a request made through the media form online.

However, it is unclear at this point what the future of the relationship will look like. Will reporters be allowed to ask any questions during press briefings or will the topics be controlled? What can be expected?

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