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Editorial: Bylines shouldn’t need to change, because opinions should be able to

Last week, a now-deleted Twitter account called @YoungShandro made waves online. The account posted some screenshots of articles from the Gauntlet, written in 1999 and 2000 by Tyler Shandro, Alberta’s Minister of Health, when he was a student at the University of Calgary. 

What’s interesting about the articles is that they appear to reveal far more left-wing views than the ones Shandro is espousing now. The other interesting thing is that, on the Gauntlet’s archived website, the byline has been changed. The pseudonym the articles are now under is Corky Thatcher. Corky Thatcher is a character with Down Syndrome on the television show Life Goes On. We cannot speak to the intent of changing the byline in this fashion.

The pseudonym was not only used for Shandro’s articles. There are other articles from around the same time that also carry the Corky Thatcher byline.

The logs from the archived website don’t show who made which changes. They do, however, show the date when changes were made. Many of the articles in question were last changed in May of 2012. That information, when considered alone, makes it seem as though someone changed all of the Shandro bylines on that date. However, a sampling of many other articles on the archived website also show changes made in May of 2012, likely pointing to something like a migration from our previous servers which we no longer manage or have access to.

The Wayback Machine logged one of Shandro’s articles, on the previous Gauntlet website, before it became an archived site, under the incorrect byline on July 16, 2014. The Wayback Machine also shows articles still under Shandro’s name in 2006, when our domain was still gauntlet.ucalgary.ca and was most likely housed on the university’s servers.

The Gauntlet has been around for 60 years. Our website has gone through numerous changes, upgrades, web hosting services and the like. Our current web hosting service for our archived website has been under our control since December of 2011. Records haven’t always been kept, passwords haven’t always been passed on from year to year. Editors-in-Chief change yearly for the most part, as do editorial staff. As such, there hasn’t been a lot of continuity of policies and procedures over the last 60 years.

There are physical archives of all past Gauntlet editions in our offices on the U of C campus and, when we verify all of the articles in question, and when it is safe for our team to be together on campus again, we will change the archived, online website to reflect the print editions.

Let us tell you something about student newspapers — while they do great work, they’ve operated, especially in the past, like the wild west. They’re a learning ground, an “anything goes” kind of place. Campus press, in the past, has published some questionable — and sometimes objectionable — articles.

Student newspapers break amazing stories and provide an incredible service to their campus communities, often on a shoestring budget or no budget at all. The quality of work that campus press has been able to achieve with the resources they have is nothing short of amazing. But, they do have some failings and the loose-with-the-rules nature of them is certainly one of those.

Currently, student papers are commanding much more respect in the media landscape than they have in the past — and rightfully so. It’s important that we ensure our processes and procedures are befitting the respect we want to garner. We can’t be critiquing large corporations for not paying their staff appropriately and then expect ours to work for less than a living wage. We shouldn’t be writing about labour practices if ours aren’t up to par. We like to think our processes at the moment are much better than they were a decade or two ago, and as always, they are under continual evaluation. Situations like this are important reminders of how far we’ve come and how important it is to have policies and procedures that reflect the calibre of work we do.

We have some leads and have reached out to former Gauntlet editors and staff. If we piece together exactly what happened and if someone made the change for an unsavoury reason, we’ll certainly publish that in our news section. We’ve asked Shandro’s office for comment but, at the time of publishing this, did not receive a response. 

We can certainly speculate as to who changed what and why. People reach out to student papers all the time and ask to have bylines changed or articles removed because they’re afraid the articles they wrote are impacting their ability to find work or get accepted to grad school. And that is the conversation we need to be having — one about the mutability of ideas and the unfortunate culture we’ve created with social media. 

The real issue is that people feel they need to remove all traces of their old ideas from the world. We unfortunately exist at a time when people find it acceptable to scroll through old Tweets, looking for evidence of a “problematic” viewpoint. Finding a ‘like’ or a ‘re-tweet’ or even an old article that doesn’t fit with the current narrative is a big “gotcha” moment and the Twitterati are ready to pounce. It happens on both sides of the political spectrum and it’s wrong.

Are we to perpetually damn everyone who has ever had a “wrong” opinion? Are we really focused on what someone wrote 20 years ago? There are ways to direct outrage, to create change and to impact the world for the better and folks, Twitter ain’t it.

Maybe Shandro changed his opinion. People do that. If you’re someone who holds left-wing views, you’ll have plenty of reasons to be upset with the Minister. If that’s the case, you should focus your energy toward fighting for your ideal vision of healthcare in Alberta.

Kristy Koehler, Gauntlet Editor-in-Chief—

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