Cormac Watson is a third year History and Political science student, and the current Deputy Editor of the University Times having previously served as Sports Editor. His campaign for University Times focuses on the three pillars of accountability, sustainability, and adaptability. Watson believes that these are the most important issues for an incoming Editor to focus on, and outlines his ideas on how best to address them.
On the subject of sustainability, Watson emphasises the need to improve the paper’s coverage of climate change and climate action. He says that the paper has covered climate issues well, but that it is necessary to appoint a Climate Editor so that the topic can be dealt with more closely. “We have to be more proactive and make sure that we have concrete institutions in place to cover [the climate crisis],” he says, adding that climate issues are currently only covered on an “ad hoc” basis.
Watson’s next key point is accountability. He plans to establish a board of advisors, made up of journalists, media experts, and former student leaders in order to maintain journalistic standards. Watson says that the current editorial policies are effective in dealing “quickly and comprehensively” with issues when they do arise, but he acknowledges that mistakes are inevitable in any newspaper, and says that his aim would be for the paper to learn from those mistakes.
Watson wants The University Times to better respond to the changing face of the Trinity population. He says that increasing diversity is essential for the paper, noting that Trinity itself has become more diverse in recent years: “The Trinity population is changing, there’s more international students, more students with disabilities, and students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. I don’t think that the University Times has kept up with that.” Watson outlines his plan to engage with students that may have been neglected by the paper: “I think we need to do more to reach out to those groups and make sure that the University Times is engaging with them.” He would like these groups to know “that The University Times is a place where they can come and write, but also that we work for them and we tell their stories as well, because at the moment I don’t think we’re putting enough effort in there.” He thinks that this will benefit the paper in turn, saying: “If you just have the same voices saying everything, it’s boring, it’s not challenging.”
Mentioning disabled people as a group that needs more attention from the paper, Watson emphasises his own experience as a journalist with a disability: “I have epilepsy. It’s something that I’ve struggled with massively, something that I didn’t feel comfortable talking about.” He divides his goals for accessibility between cultural and practical measures. Watson would like to create a more welcoming environment for disabled students coming into the paper and believes that he can be a role model for such students. “I’d like to think that a first year can come in with a disability, the way I did, and see that the second in command of the paper has a disability, and feel they can get involved.” He wants to create a culture that makes sure that students know “you can have a disability and you can come to The University Times and do really well.”
Moving on to more practical measures, Watson says: “I think there are smaller things we can do to make the paper more accessible.” He says that, ultimately, their goal should be to get an accessible office space, but does not believe that this can be achieved in his time as Editor. “That’s a very difficult thing to do, and I’m not interested in making promises I can’t keep, and I think at the moment that it isn’t feasible.” He has other ideas that he says he will implement in order to create a more accessible newspaper: “I would have our meetings outside the office in rooms that are accessible. We could also make our website accessible to screen-readers, so that people who are visually impaired can read the website.” He admits that these are small goals, but says that they will help to “bring the newspaper forward”, and that “for me, the cultural thing is what’s most important.”
The issue of financial stability is one that is ever-present in the discussion around The University Times, and Watson believes that the paper has improved its handling of finances, but says that they need to continue to work to make the paper more stable. One of his key proposals to increase revenue is the introduction of an alumni network, for which the paper can “organise fundraisers and diversify our revenue stream. The alumni is growing every year, and I think that that would be a great way to earn more money.”
Watson does not believe that there should be any reform in relation to the level of funding that The University Times receives from the Student’s Union: “I think this would only lead to a drop in standards.” He also emphasises the importance of increasing the paper’s presence on social media in order to increase advertising revenue. He says that he would rule out partnerships with certain companies that are, as he says, “extorting students”. He mentions private student accommodation groups as an example. He remains optimistic about the prospect of increasing advertising revenue: “There are plenty of opportunities to work with companies that students wouldn’t object to.”
This is the first time that the race for Editor has been contested by two candidates within The University Times. Speaking about why he believes the race has been uncontested in the past, Watson says: “The University Times Editor is a very technical position, realistically, only a handful of people are going to be able to run.” He compares the position of Editor to that of the Education Officer: “That’s a very technical position as well, and not many people run for it because not many are qualified.”
Watson believes that the Deputy Editor would be most qualified to fill this position, but says that “it’s good that there’s competition, it’s a democracy ultimately”. When asked what makes him the best candidate, he emphasises experience as his main advantage: “For me, it makes sense that I would become Editor because I have the experience. I’ve served as Acting Editor on two occasions, I’m in the office every day with the Editor working on stories, managing people, and looking at more technical areas like getting in advertising and dealing with the union.”
He concludes: “I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think that the three and a half years that I’ve given to The University Times and the thousands of hours as Deputy Editor didn’t make me qualified for the job.”