Saturday, January 27, 2007

UBC elections: an experiment in Voter-Funded Media

Out of sync with most other students' unions in Canada, the Alma Mater Society of UBC is having its elections this month for its five-person Executive Committee, and is also holding elections to the UBC Board of Governors and Vancouver Senate. Voting ends on Thursday, January 31. All positions are contested, though it is widely assumed that the Presidency will be won by Jeff Friedrich, current AMS VP Academic and University Affairs.

Slates are banned in AMS elections [PDF], even informal ones.

Most interestingly, this years' AMS elections are serving as a test bed for Voter-Funded Media, a concept invented by Mark Latham (not the former Australian Labor Party leader). Thirteen student media publications, existing and new, have registered with the AMS Elections Committee. When students vote, they will have the opportunity to vote for the publication(s) that they felt best educated them about the candidates. Prizes, ranging from $500 to $1,500, will be given to the student publications judged by the voters to have done the best job.

The basic idea behind Voter-Funded Media (VFM) is that media financially dependent, in part, on the freely-given approval of voters will tend be more loyal to and responsive to the voters, in contrast to both the corporate media (e.g. The Globe and Mail) and the non-profit media (e.g. the CBC, The Ubyssey).

The Ubyssey, which is not participating in VFM, has covered VFM, frequently with a critical eye. Colleen Tang penned a news article, "Legitimacy concerns loom over Voter Funded Media," which suggested that some entrants in the VFM contest were purely motivated by a desire to win prize money.

However, there are a number of solid VFM publications in the race. In particular, check out the blog Elections Insider: Separating the Truth from the Chaff, produced by two AMS "insiders," Gina Eom and Tim Louman-Gardiner. This blog has produced 70 entries in just 17 days. Furthermore, these entries are not just one-sentence posts, but rather comprehensive articles exploring every aspect of the election: the candidates, Voter-Funded Media itself, the issues at play in the election, even a discussion of the impact of a slate-less election. In fact, I would say that the comprehensiveness of Elections Insider far outranks many established student newspapers that I have read in terms of their elections coverage.

Other VFM contestants worth noting include Elections Daily, The Knoll (whose foray into student politics one year ago was abruptly aborted), Radical Beer Tribune (for entertainment value), and The Thunderbird.



Blogger Fire Hydrant said...

It's probably worth noting that there's a $100 entry fee for VFM contestants, to cover administration of the contest. The $8000 in prize money was donated by Dr. Latham.

Also, the VFM contest is pretty lawless, opening the door to some slate-like behaviour.

2:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, but I'm curious why you would choose to start things off with a statement like "Out of sync with most other students' unions in Canada.." - a statement that really has nothing to do with the rest of your post, and for which you fail to even subtaniate. Seems like a bit of a cheap shot...

7:06 AM  
Blogger Spencer said...

Titus just means the AMS do their elections earlier. Turnover is the end of February rather than May like most schools.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Titus said...

My opening phrase "Out of sync with other students' unions in Canada" was not intended as a 'cheap shot;' I simply noted that while most students' unions in Canada are just starting to think about their elections, the AMS is already having theirs.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gotcha: thanks Titus, and sorry for misunderstanding. Didn't mean to jump down your throat - keep up the good work on this blog!

7:30 AM  

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