Analyze this: We’re journalists, not stenographers

Alyssa Mosher - From the Editor (Tom Bateman/AQ)

I was nine when I decided I wanted to become a political analyst.

It was circa ’99, the year John Hamm’s Progressive Conservatives won Nova Scotia’s provincial election. I read the brochures and listened closely to the news. As a (wishful) voter, I wanted to make an informed decision.

“John Hamm’s going to win, you know,” I remember telling my dad, the voter who always seems to find a reason to vote Liberal.

“You think so?” No, Dad, I know so.

My dad humoured me and bought a John Hamm sign. He laughed when he pounded it into our front lawn.

John Hamm went on to win a majority government that election. He was Nova Scotia’s premier for seven years after that.

I wanted to analyze events like this, to understand why a politician wins an election and what that means for the public.

I discovered journalism in Grade 11 and soon realized it wasn’t that far off.

***

It’s easy to slip into secretary mode as a journalist covering an election, spitting out politicians’ promises, not digging any deeper into issues and the real choices voters have to make. Last year, The Aquinian tried to change that.

The two presidential candidates were quite different from each other, and one thing that set them apart was their ideology.

Even though neither of them had come out and said it, it was understood that one candidate was centre-left and the other was even more left.

As news editor at the time, I wanted to define that choice for our readers and so we added a line or two to a frontpage story written by our one and only St. Thomas University students’ union expert (and now web and layout editor) Shane Magee.

We wrote that one specific candidate preferred one federal lobbying group over another. Even though this wasn’t part of the candidate’s platform, it was a known fact and, we thought, relevant to student’s decision-making.

The candidate wasn’t happy with that and wanted a correction issued for something she “never said” (during her campaigning).

But things don’t quite work that way.

***

For the past three or four years, we’ve seen similar faces in the STUSU. This year, there’s an entirely new cast of contenders. Many of us haven’t heard of the two presidential candidates, and it’s hard to vote when you don’t know what you’re choosing.

But then there’s our expert.

Shane Magee has been covering the STUSU council meetings for two years now. His incredible attention to detail makes him particularly good at pointing out discrepancies in council documents and policies.

So this year, we assigned him something a little different for STUSU election coverage, something The Aquinian may not have ever done: analysis. We wanted to put this year’s election in perspective and we wanted Shane to be able to write more freely about each candidate than he could in a news story.

Analysis is in between a news story and a column; it gives the reporter’s perspective, but not their opinion. It allows Shane to use his expertise to delineate the voting choices.

As journalists, we understand students don’t get overly excited about STUSU elections. To be honest, neither do we. How can a voter make a difference in an election with only 30-per-cent turnout?

But if nothing else, the STUSU elections can establish voting habits and political participation, which is ultimately good for democracy. And, if you happened to catch the speeches last week, campaigns can be a lot of fun too.

So if you need any help deciding which presidential candidate to vote for, check out the political analysis on page one – I know my nine-year-old self would be proud.

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