A week on...
Firstly, Spark will be printing this week (and is now available online). This statement will outline the events which caused the Spark account to be frozen and what has happened since. I expect that some members of the Executive will disagree with some of this statement, and their comments are welcome.
Last week's issue of Spark contained an article which the President of RUSU believed breached the Advertising and Sponsorship policy. Despite repeated notice that the paper could contain a breach, the Editor did not remove the offending section as he felt there was no breach. The breach in question was for a jazz venue in town and can be found on Page 27. The Editor believed there was no breach as the Union does not offer jazz.
Dave Lewis, President of RUSU, took the very unfortunate step of suspending funding for Spark, the student newspaper. He then handed the Editor of Spark a letter stating the Spark account would only be thawed when an "editorial contract" was signed. This contract contained a clause to the effect that editorial independence could be suspended whenever the RUSU executive believed the paper was breaching policy.
This Union needs a paper which can criticise the Executive Committee, but it must operate fairly and responsibly to the Union’s 16,000 members. This is a question of freedom of speech and of threatening volunteers, albeit in an indelibrate way, as Mr Lewis has tried his best to resolve this matter. It is a matter of principle that the student newspaper should be editorially independent when it comes to issues not covered by the law.
At a meeting between the Executive and Spark on Monday the decision was taken to unfreeze the Spark account, pending discussions on Spark's editorial independence. There are many areas where the Executive and Spark agree, but there are also areas where our opinions sharply differ and it is hoped at the end of term we can come to a mutually beneficial resolution to this matter that will mean no future editors or executives have to tackle this issue again.
On a side note, one member of the Executive this week stated that:
"editorial independence is a privilege given to the Student media by the membership through its constitution and regulations, not a right of it. If it were a right then all Students Union’s would have it – not just Reading."This is in clear disregard of the fact that most student newspapers do have editorial independence and also in disregard to the law. As Editor of Spark I find this statement quite worrying and a threat to our student newspaper. Hopefully, however, I hope that the individual concerned will see the fault of this statement, admittedly said in the heat of the moment and this will not affect future discussions about Spark's position within RUSU.
PS. Dave Lewis (RUSU President) has also issued a statement about the recent developments