UT Editor race: Maguire emphasises “community and accountability”

The incumbent deputy editor believes she has the “knowledge, skills and work ethic to highlight the issues that matter to students”

A disclaimer on these series on pieces can be found here.

Mairead Maguire is a Junior Sophister history and political science student from Donegal, and current Deputy Editor of the University Times (UT). Before taking up this role, she served as Societies Editor and News Editor. She has also been widely involved in the college community outside of the publication, including DU History and the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union Welfare Committee, as well as undertaking an internship with the Trinity Disability Service.

Speaking to Trinity News, Maguire emphasises her suitability for the role of University Times editor, given the fact that she has the “knowledge, skills and work ethic to highlight the issues that matter to students and to improve the paper where changes are needed”. Maguire has a vast amount of experience within UT and confesses that she originally did not want to be a journalist on starting her degree in Trinity: “When I became societies editor, it was very much just because I was interested in societies…The editor at the time was very encouraging and gave me the opportunity to take on things I thought I could not do”.

She accredits her subsequent interest in news coverage to the Provost election, which she calls “a very formative experience journalistically”. When the opportunity arose to become the deputy editor, Maguire states that “it was immediately ‘yes’, because I care so much about the paper and I know the value it has to students whether you’re involved with it or read it”.

Maguire also sheds light on the experience she has gained during her other ventures of college life. Her internship with the Disability Service was pivotal in forming her interest in the concept of accessibility, which forms the basis of many points of her manifesto: “Accessibility is something that’s overlooked in so many societies and papers. I really see it as my responsibility to bring that to my editorship”. Maguire plans to improve accessibility within UT by providing extra accommodations for students wishing to interview for certain positions, and she also plans to hold more meetings and events outside of House Six. Maguire sees accessibility as a basic necessity and plans to bring that mindset to the paper: “It’s not just about checking boxes, it has to be at the core of everything we do…It’s a basic thing to be conscious of as someone who’s in a leadership role”.

Maguire is uncontested for the role of UT editor in this year’s election, however she does not have reason to believe that this factor should alter or influence her campaign in any way: “At the end of the day I care about the same things and I have the same experience”. She also emphasises the value of the electoral race as “giving a chance to talk about why the paper is important”. There is a pattern in the University Times that, since it became a separate position, the editorship has been won by the previous deputy editor every single time, however Maguire maintains that the race is open to anyone: “It’s important to acknowledge that it’s not handed to them [the deputy editor]. It’s an election. Anyone can run and I would encourage it”.

On discussing the central elements of her campaign, Maguire highlights what she does not wish to change about the paper, and namely its “incredible reporting”: “For a student newspaper we have really high journalistic standards and we produce high quality content everyday”.

Among the changes that she wishes to bring to UT, Maguire wants to mend the social aspect of the paper that has been derailed as a result of the pandemic: “I want to appoint an ‘ents editor’, to have someone who is given the time and responsibility to really think about how we can run events that are accessible, varied and fun for our writers”. She wishes to develop the publication’s community through events that would allow writers to “bond and build friendships”. She wants to increase student involvement. While the paper has a large staff already, Maguire acknowledges that students in more time-consuming courses, such as STEM courses, may not be inclined to take on the workload that being a writer for UT involves: “It’s not that I want to create a ream of new positions, I just want to have, for example, more staff writers…I am aware that, especially for people in STEM courses, it’s really difficult to spend as much time as I did with the paper”.

She also aims to place emphasis on the fact that UT is not just geared towards “aspiring journalists”: “There are other opportunities, such as if you want to be a photographer, or a graphic designer, or to work on layout. […] As editor it would be my responsibility to make sure we keep providing these opportunities to students”.

The two central elements detailed in Maguire’s manifesto are “accountability” and “community”. On the subject of accountability, she says: “At the end of the day we are a newspaper and our most important role is holding people in power to account, whether that be the provost, or the minister for higher education, or societies. I believe that is the most important thing we do and that was always going to be a part of any campaign I would run”.

The concept of community is based on the value that Maguire herself places on UT: “I have gotten a lot out of UT from being so heavily involved but I know that’s not everyone’s experience”. In addition to introducing more staff writer positions and an ents editor, Maguire has more plans for diversifying the University Times community. Building on the topic of student involvement and engagement, Maguire affirms that the paper is not facing an engagement issue “numbers wise”: “There are usually about 50-80 staff members, and I think people will agree that is a lot”.  Her concern lies however with the diversity of this group: “Most of our staff are white arts students, and that’s okay, but it’s not representative”. Maguire plans to design mentorship programmes, which would likely be co-ordinated and run by herself and another senior staff member, with the aim of preventing minority students from “getting lost in the hierarchy”.

She respects and acknowledges that there is a hierarchical structure within UT, and believes it’s important for the running of the paper, but thinks that there is a need to ensure that students do not immediately become lost when starting at the bottom: “Mentorship programmes are so important to show that we value those roles and talents…Sometimes getting involved at the bottom and already a minority, it can be really difficult to rise up”. Maguire is also promising to organise workshops, particularly for first year Halls residents, as she admits there are “very few first years involved with the paper”.

Another part of Maguire’s plan to increase student engagement with UT is the introduction of a social media team: “While I think our social media content is good, it could definitely be improved. I just want people to be able to go onto our social media and find out what it is we do and how they can get involved. I don’t think it necessarily does that now”. She believes a dedicated social media team would also be a useful launchpad for those who might wish to be social media professionals in the future.

Maguire’s manifesto also lays out her ambition to have more female and non-binary writers as part of the sports section. When explaining her thought process behind this, she does not shy away from expressing her pride, for the most part, for the gender balance within UT: “We have so many women involved in the paper, it’s class, especially at the top”. However, she says that all of the writers in the sports section are men, and she is hoping that more outreach on social media platforms, coupled with her planned workshops, will rectify this: “Sports coverage is half women’s sport, half men’s sport, so our writers should reflect that”.

Another goal of Maguire’s is an increased presence of Gaeilgeoirí within the paper: “UT has a good Irish section but it could be expanded…I’d like to emphasise that you don’t need perfect Irish to write for UT…I know there is a renaissance of people relearning Irish after a traumatic Leaving Cert and this could be a really good opportunity to do that”. She hopes to liaise with the Cumann Gaelach and to spread the message that UT is open to all levels of Irish.

Maguire has been under fire in recent weeks, following allegations from students she interviewed that anonymous elements of their testimony were leaked. The issue pertains to an article Maguire wrote for UT, which dealt with the culture of harassment and bullying in the University Philosophical Society (The Phil) and the College Historical Society (The Hist). The allegations have been dismissed by both Maguire and senior staff at UT, who have labelled them “false and defamatory”. When questioned on this, Maguire stated: “I don’t think false allegations deserve any more attention”, and she stands by the previously given statement. Despite the allegations attached to it, she still cites this particular article as one of her best pieces of work to date: “I’m proud of that piece. It’s tragic, but journalistically one of the best, and most important, pieces UT has published with my name on it”.

Another controversial topic surrounding the University Times at the moment is the fact that the paper still utilises the Irish Times’ printing services, despite the fact that the publication has been boycotted by students’ unions and newspapers around the country. Maguire maintains that she is committed to sourcing an alternative printer: “I intend to stop printing with the Irish Times…that’s the bottom line. I understand that it’s an issue that’s important to students right now”. She stresses the complexity of the process, given that UT wishes to keep it’s broadsheet format, and she says that it “will take longer than a day”, but it is “not impossible”. She adds: “I don’t have the skills to redesign the paper. I also don’t have the time. My goal is to find a printer that would allow us to keep our broadsheet format”. UT has been officially committed to finding an alternative printer since October, but has yet to do so.

Last year’s UT editorial race saw a significant amount of debate surrounding print editions of the paper. As well as being constitutionally obliged to print a certain amount of paper copies of UT each year, Maguire believes that there is value attached to putting a print edition together, and that it enhances communication skills, as well as showing staff how to work under pressure. She adds that she may consider reducing the amount of individual printed copies of the publication when a new printer is sourced: “If possible I would like to keep that as low as possible, as some do end up lying around campus…I care about the environment and I don’t think UT’s six printed editions a year are the culprit”.

When questioned on her approach to budgetary issues, Maguire states: “Our costs don’t fluctuate massively…As for how we spend money, I don’t think that will change much in the next year just because there are basic things that have to be paid for, like the print issues”. She suggested that the new printer, once sourced, may be a factor that affects the budget, but it is important “not to overlook those basic things that keep the paper running”. Maguire also comments on UT’s relationship with the Student Union: “Yes we are funded by them but we are completely editorially independent from them”. She confesses that she often fails to understand the “misconceptions” surrounding the relationship between the two groups, given how involved she is with the newspaper and how frequently she sees first-hand how separate they are from one another: “We have really high journalistic standards…and it’s not our job to be unfairly biased towards them [the SU]”.

Ultimately Maguire sees the role of the University Times as a service and a voice for students: “It’s basically a student service, in the sense that we hold those in power to account for those that cannot do some themselves”. She hopes, should she be successful in the election, to ensure that UT is a safe space for students, and also an outlet in which they can gain experience before venturing into the world of work. She summarises the main qualities that the next editor should have as leadership and communication skills. “They are a leader in their position but also as a person”. She reiterates the importance of creating a safe space, and the fact that the process of editing and giving constructive criticism on a piece should be a positive experience for its writer. She maintains that she possesses the suitable and necessary communication skills for the role: “I believe in being open and having the difficult conversations. I’m not afraid to do that…We do a lot of difficult pieces and it would be foolish to assume that no-one is affected by anything that they write, so I just want to be there for my writers”.

Campaigning for sabbatical officer elections will continue until March 3. Voting will run from March 1 to 3. Students have until noon on March 1 to register to vote.

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