UT Race: Charlie Hastings wants to “to go out there and earn [his] pay” as Editor

After a turbulent three years at the UT, Hastings pledges to “go to the ends of the earth” to create a “sense of community” and a “mentally stable work environment”

Charlie Hastings is making his bid for this year’s University Times (UT) Editor on a platform which heavily prioritises the welfare of the UT staff, and the cultivation of a collaborative working environment. Highlighting the past shortcomings of the paper, Hastings stated in an interview with Trinity News that his primary reason for running is his “tumultuous history with the Times”. Such tangible experience of both the highs and the lows of UT, he feels, has provided him with invaluable knowledge regarding the future direction of the paper.

A third-year student studying English and Italian, Hastings has worked  in the paper since his junior freshman year. Starting out as Music Editor, he has fulfilled the role of Assistant Editor and is currently Chair of the Editorial Board. He also co-founded an independent arts, poetry and culture publication called Get A Grip with other current and former UT staff members. It is this experience, and his passion from journalism since “[he] was a kid” that he deems makes him the “most qualified” for the job. As he asserted: “I’ve been part of the UT since I was a fresher…I’ve stuck with it the entire time” which “gives me first-hand knowledge of what happens when the students’ welfare is not taken into account. And that’s something I want to address head on.”

I walked in and was immediately confronted with scandal”

Learning from the mistakes of successive Editors, Hastings spoke of his disappointment with previous leadership and the unhealthy atmosphere that became symptomatic of a dysfunctional administration and work culture. “I walked in and was immediately confronted with scandal”, he stated, referencing UT’s student bugging scandal which has continued to undermine the integrity of the paper. Discord, misconduct and ethical breaches have habitually blighted UT’s reputation, leading to internal grievances being projected into the public domain. In late 2022, Hastings was one of the four UT Masthead staff that were fired via email following a leaked letter signed by thirty-two UT staff members calling for the Editor’s resignation. With the letter underlining “undue stress and anxiety” caused to staff, Hastings noted the impact these tensions have had on him, stating “as much as I love journalism, it was difficult having to put myself through all those situations, and having to watch the people that I was friends with… be put through that process as well.”

Despite this, he emphasised that what has transpired in the past at UT “is a learning opportunity” for which he is ultimately grateful for. He aims to target his candidacy policies towards “preventing these issues from happening in the first place.” When asked how he would go about this, his primary mechanism is the introduction of “welfare meetings.” “I want to sit students down” he explained. “I don’t want to lecture them. I just want to tell them ‘this is my email if you need help.’” 

He elaborated on this person-centred approach with regards to the promotion of “basic ethics” at the paper, affirming that while “we love a hard-hitting article… I don’t want you to violate your personal life to get a scoop… this is about teaching people to be journalists in the real world.” These “welfare meetings” were also Hastings’s first port of call when asked how he intends to improve the transparency and accountability of his staff. Seeking to “preemptively disperse any sort of situation” which could compromise the integrity of the paper, these ethical issues for him are “pretty clear-cut”, and can be avoided through education, as well as coming to him directly if staff members have a question.

The return to the fundamentals is, for Hastings, just one aspect of maintaining a collaborative, enjoyable and inclusive environment at the Times. Recognising the “incredible” potential of student journalism – which can only be fulfilled if students are in a “healthy headspace” – he also declared that he would try to equip his staff with essential rudimentary journalistic literacy and tools. “I want people to understand freedom of information requests”. He wants journalists “to have a list of people that we have contacts with… who to talk to in the SU… really basic stuff on how to survive and how to write a good article”. Crucially, Hastings’s advocacy of this training and “onboarding process” stems from his belief that they “could do a lot to help foster a sense of community with everybody and make them feel safe… so that they can write the way that they want to write.”

These measures will also be supported by his implementation of “office hours”, where increased accessibility to the Editor is Hastings’s primary goal: “Come in Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday, whatever… I’ll be there. Just email me if you want an appointment.” he stated. When asked how he would deal with internal grievances at UT, eliciting his guidance was again, his primary response. Whether it is an issue with a source or another staff member, he asserted: “I can be the authority on that subject and figure it out… I don’t think anything is beneath the Editor.”

I want to be there for the people who work under me because in the past, those people were not there for me”

For him, mediation is about recognising common ground, founded in trust: “I want to be there for the people who work under me because in the past, those people were not there for me.” However, he also indicated his openness to consulting external assistance if in-house disputes escalated. “If I have to seek outside counsel, I will”, adding that “there are multiple people whose entire job it is within the [College] administration to make sure that discord like that within the SU and student body, doesn’t happen.”

Hastings also intends to expand the UT’s staff through the creation of a new position, and fill the vacancies. In particular, the introduction of a Visibility Editor in Radius magazine will seek to strengthen student engagement, with this role being filled by someone who “knows first-hand what it’s like to not feel heard”. Radius focuses on arts, societies, publicising events on campus and the cultural scene in Dublin. When asked how this role differed from other section and Radius editors, he emphasised this position would specialise in “exclusively” seeking out articles that address issues and events relating to ethnic minorities, international students, the LGBTQ+ community and other minorities on campus to “make other students feel heard as well”. He also plans to have more opinion and comment analysis pieces to magnify student voices and to launch a “Letters to the Editor” as a “great little digestible way to bring people closer to the paper.”

Providing a platform for those with disabilities in the paper is a key campaign point for Hastings and will be furthered by his intention to cooperate with Trinity’s disAbility Co-op and Trinity’s Access Programme (TAP). Moreover, when asked how he would make the paper more accessible for those with physical disabilities hoping to work for UT, he criticised the long-standing inaccessibility of House 6 for anyone in “who has a wheelchair”. With the absence of a lift, and UT’s office located on the third floor, Hastings affirmed that this is a persistent issue that he “definitely wants to hone in on… even if it involves me going to them.”

Another under-represented group the Visibility Officer would target is the Gaeilgeoir community, who Hastings argued, should be “able to read our paper without having to resort to English.” However, with the UT’s Irish Language Editor position remaining vacant for almost a year, the task to fill the role has proven extremely difficult: “I personally tried looking outside to see if we could get a professional source to help us translate our editorials”, he disclosed. Yet, being advised there were not enough funds to facilitate this, Hastings has made it a key goal if elected to “always find room in the budget to look outside and have someone do it [translation] professionally.”

The difficulties of recruiting staff also extend to UT’s writers. Hastings admitted that the paper has “struggle[d] to find writers” and confirmed that “increasing that number is paramount.”

“There are definitely other ways I would like to make sure other people know about us”, he stated, continuing that he’d “like to have events to get people to meet writers and understand their experience and relate to them”. He cited the example of Trinity News’s recent Life Section pitch fair, aimed at familiarising students with the paper’s section editors, recruiting first-time writers and open pitching. “It’s a great way to get new writers and I would love to do that myself” he said, adding “not to say that I want to be just like Trinity News, but I do admire your sense of community and I think that’s something the paper needs.”

When asked about the possibility of significant staff or writer shortages during the next UT Editor’s term, Hastings stated that his first “line of defence would be taking on that role myself because that’s the Editor’s job in my opinion.”

“As much as I don’t want to monopolise any part of the paper… it’s my job to address that vacancy and I think there’s room for the Editor to do even more work”. The UT Editor, like the other TCDSU positions, is a sabbatical position and is provided with free accommodation in House 6 and a salary. It is a full-time position, a fact that Hastings feels is not emphasised enough. Consequently, he argued for an enlarged Editor position, with increased responsibilities. For him, “bearing the brunt of making the paper” would in turn foster a “lighter atmosphere for everyone in terms of workload and mental health.” He stressed that his intention behind this is not to “abuse executive power” but simply a desire “to go out there and earn my pay.”

Hastings praised current Editor Clara Roche who has done an “amazing job” with regards to the cohesiveness of the staff and the paper. Roche also ran on a platform which sought to make the Editor impeachable. Previous mismanagement of the paper has ignited a debate regarding the ratification of an impeachment provision in the UT’s constitution. When asked about his stance on this, Hastings was hesitant: “In a perfect world, I fully support.” However, he argued that his energies were most likely better placed at “keeping up the quality of the paper and making sure students are feeling ok”. The rigorous and long-term proceedings this process would entail has made him cautious, stating that he “doesn’t personally believe that it’s advisable” to make this a high priority.  Similarly, in response to a question regarding his views on the UT’s editorial and ethics policy, he stressed that his campaign priorities are not targeted at administrative revision, but with a practical desire to transform the UT’s working culture from within. Expressing that he “can’t comment on that too much” he attested that “that’s not really what the UT is about anymore.”

“We’ve improved a lot this year”  and that while both policies have been violated in the past, he firmly believes that “the right person as editor would make the newspaper work in a way where we’re not constantly having to refer to the editorial and ethics policy.”

Campaigning in the TCDSU sabbatical elections continues throughout this week with voting opening on February 27 and closing on February 29.

Have your say: Fill out the Trinity News election poll here.

Rose Slocock

Rose Slocock is a Deputy Features Editor at Trinity News and is currently in her Junior Sophister Year studying History.