We welcome you back to the print edition of The Saint after a three week break. The break with our fortnightly tradition is a result of there being no Reading Week for us to take a natural breather. Speaking of which, there will be another three weeks before our next issue, print fans.
Two stories between that last issue and this one appear to have caused quite a stir. While it is one of our aims to be talked about, these cases also make clear the need to clarify exactly what our role is here in St Andrews. The fact that it rained (or “a natural disaster” occurred) is not one of them.
The two stories I refer to are: ‘A Sabb state of affairs?’ (from issue #165) and ‘Student convicted for possessing cannabis’ (published online).
The former was our survey of students’ recognition of four of the six Sabbatical officers (President, DoRep, DoSDA and DoES) and what they do. Our News team received responses from 351 students, making the survey credibly representative and good enough for our front page.
The survey meant that people were now talking about the Sabbs. Clearly the results of our poll did not present their bids to be more visible in the best light, and we were accused of being “unfair”, given the hard work put in by those very same Sabbs.
No one at The Saint denies that the Sabbs work hard. What we questioned was their efforts to make their hard work known. And we believe it has provoked a reaction. You can now hear A Sabb state of affairs on STAR (St Andrews Radio), while Jules Findlay has filled us in on what exactly will be changing according to the Union redevelopment plans.
And then something completely different: the cannabis story. A St Andrews student was convicted and fined for harbouring cannabis in his bedroom in St Salvator’s Hall.
We reported the conviction, and were told that we were a “laughably bad” publication for doing so: it was a non-story and we should not be attacking our fellow students.
Please allow me the courtesy to disagree. While growing cannabis remains illegal under UK law, it is the right of the press to report on the outcome of a court case dealing with such an offence. It might be less interesting than the conviction of a student for biting the head off a pigeon, but it remains news nonetheless.
As for ‘attacking’ the student in question, any rational reader of the article will see that it is a simple statement of the facts, not a sensationalised or judgemental attack. Whether the convicted party be a politician, celebrity, student or ‘average Joe’, the press takes that public information and reports on it. It always has, and always will.
What, then, is The Saint and what does it do? We are a newspaper, not a PR machine. We aim to maintain a good working relationship with the University and Students’ Association and promote the good things that they and individual students do, but we will not put reputations ahead of reporting news and informing the student body. That includes holding to account those whose decisions affect the student body and those who break the law.