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CAUT Bulletin Archives

April 2000

Carleton Wades into Calgary Herald Strike

The president of Carleton University, Richard Van Loon, has dragged his institution into a bitter labour dispute by allowing management of the Calgary Herald onto campus to recruit journalism students to work behind picket lines.

"We're shocked that Carleton, or any university, would be complicit in helping students begin a career by strikebreaking," said Gail Lem, vice-president, media, of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.

"It's especially distressing when one of the issues behind the organizing drive and the strike at the Calgary Herald is journalistic integrity."

The attempt to recruit strikebreakers on-campus unleashed a storm of controversy at the university after the faculty in the school of journalism and communication voted "not to take sides" in the dispute and to ask Herald management to conduct any recruitment efforts off-campus.

"Faculty felt that to treat the Herald as any other employer would send the signal that we were siding with management," explained Vincent Mosco, a professor of communications at Carleton. "In the end, we decided unanimously that because a legal strike is underway and because we should not take sides, the Herald should be asked to arrange off-campus interviews."

Peter Menzies, Editor-in-Chief of the Calgary Herald reacted by sending a strongly-worded letter to the university, demanding they reconsider the decision taken by the faculty "so that it does not damage the long-term relationship between the Calgary Herald, it's affiliates and your institution, thereby reducing the number of available work options for your students."

Van Loon apparently bowed to the pressure and ordered the director of the journalism school to overrule the wishes of the faculty.

In a letter to Van Loon, CAUT President Bill Graham warned that "by permitting the Herald to conduct on-campus interviews, you are clearly jeopardizing the impartiality and neutrality of the university."

In the end, the Herald was granted office space on campus, but not in the building occupied by the school of journalism and communication.

Student and union groups however were not happy with the compromise and organized demonstrations to protest the university's decision to allow the Herald to recruit on campus.

"The whole affair makes you question what the university is teaching these students about ethics and journalism," said Lem.

About 200 newly-unionized journalists, photographers, and distribution centre workers at the Herald walked off the job in November in a dispute over "seniority rights and journalistic integrity" at the paper owned by Conrad Black.