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Maclean’s Catches Bogus University Info

By Laura Connell (source:the Varsity and University Of Toronto)

TORONTO (CUP) — Several student papers were thwarted in their attempts to get fake information printed in the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities. Maclean’s publishes an annual ranking of Canadian universities. In the past the issue has included a section listing “what’s hot — what’s not” from each university based on submissions from campus newspapers. Last year York University’s excalibur sent in fake information, including nonexistent breast feeding facilities, which made it into the magazine. This year, the “what’s hot — what’s not” feature appears in the new, more comprehensive Maclean’s university guide published this month, instead of with the regular fall rankings issue.

And once again, campus journalists were up to their old tricks. Editors at Simon Fraser University’s Peak submitted a fake item about a dance troupe that spontaneously performed at the campus pub to expectant crowds. “That was our big joke,” said news editor Patrik Kolby. But the fictitious troupe never made it into the guide book. The University of Regina’s newspaper The Carillon also submitted false information, which included listing the head of security at U of R as one of the university’s top professors. But The Carillon’s managing editor, Craig Saunders, says most, if not all of the bogus information, was weeded out. “As far as I can tell only one phoney thing got in there. The Cellar [a campus pub] is the last thing anybody would ever consider a hot hangout,” he said. According to Maclean’s assistant managing editor Ann Dowsett Johnston, this year the magazine asked more than one organization for the “what’s hot — what’s not” submissions.

“What we did this year [was] we canvassed multiple groups on campus and cross-checked. If one bar was mentioned by three [groups] I would choose that over a bar only one person had mentioned,” she said.

Information from one source was verified by a different source by Maclean’s researchers to ensure accuracy, adds Victor Dwyer, Maclean’s education editor. “We turned to other sources to get the information we needed,” he said.

But Dwyer says the magazine only verified an item’s existence — whether they were “hot” or “not” was left unchecked. “If they want to lie to us we can only fact-check as far as these places do exist,” he said. Although the information was verified, it was not always representative of popular student interest, say some student journalists.

The “what’s hot” list for Simon Fraser University mentions “forest people” who “live year-round in tents in the huge forests that surround the campus.” But external news editor at the Peak, Janine Duseowoir, says these people are rare and simply too poor to afford better housing. “They’re [not] communes or anything. It’s more a case of people who can’t afford to live in their own apartments,” she said. Dionne Stephens, editor of excalibur, says student journalists were sending in false information because they were unhappy with the fact that they were doing work for Maclean’s and not getting the credit. The guidebook does not acknowledge the students’ contributions, nor have past ranking issues. “The argument was [that] Maclean’s was not willing to do the work themselves. They were making money off the backs of students and pretending to care about students,” said Stephens. “If they really wanted to do the legwork they would have. They were just letting students do their work.” Earlier this year, the Canadian University Press, a collective of more than 40 Canadian campus newspapers, voted to send a letter of disapproval to Maclean’s. The collective felt the magazine acted unprofessionally for not informing campus newspapers that Maclean’s intended the use the “what’s hot – – what’s not” section for a separate publication.