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Alina Dormann: spiking her way to success

The Blues volleyball star talks friendships, family, and life in Toronto

Alina Dormann: spiking her way to success

‘Hectic’ can only start to explain the life of Varsity Blues women’s volleyball right side Alina Dormann. That isn’t to say that she’s not enjoying every minute of it. Upon first meeting her, it’s not hard to feel intimidated by her towering six-foot-two stature.

Dormann spent last summer away from Toronto, training in Richmond, British Columbia with Canada’s women’s indoor national team. She found herself a piece of home in her close friend Anna Feore, her teammate on the Blues and the national team. The pair first met while they were playing on the provincial team together in high school. “This past summer I lived in Vancouver with [Anna] and we’ve become closer as friends.”

Whenever the pair aren’t training or studying, they find ways to have fun. As a result, Dormann and Feore founded @george_feoremann_grill, a joint Instagram account with the sole focus of displaying their meals and foodie adventures. The two seem to have a great time together, creating silly captions to accompany the photos. One of the funniest posts is a photo of the two after a game, holding a box of donuts and detaling it as a “high cal, low protein” and “easily digestible” post-game meal.

upon request, george feoremann is back at it with the health tips. post-game meal should be high cal, low protein and easily digestible. thanks for being loyal followers

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The tight bonds between each player appear to be a key factor in the team’s past success. With a national championship on the line, there’s no room for frustration or fighting on the court. Dormann places emphasis on the team’s bonding activities, including their nutrition sessions. The trust built off the court translates into teamwork that can be seen on the court, a key factor needed for the Blues to earn their second national championship in the past three seasons.

Dormann finds time for her hobbies and friends between classes, as well as practices that can sometimes reach three hours and that occur nearly every day. Maintaining a strong balance between academics and social life can sometimes feel like a challenge while playing on a varsity team.

In Toronto, Dormann enjoys pursuing her love for a nice latte by exploring coffee shops in Yorkville and Kensington Market. Hailing from Ottawa, Dormann explains she didn’t face many issues with her transition away from living with her family. “I really love living in Toronto. It’s super fun and there is lots to do. I’m also close to home and can go back to visit on long weekends.”

As a Life Sciences student, Dormann has to find time to complete assignments and attend lectures. “My majors right now are health and disease and biology.” Her future, like that of many of her peers, hasn’t been fully planned out yet. “I have no idea what I want to do but [school is] super interesting right now,” she adds.

Although school can be stressful at times, she explains the importance of taking time to be with her teammates. “We spend so much time together, it’s awesome to have close relationships on and off the court,” she says. “They are people you enjoy spending time with off the court.”

someone told us energy balls make you hit harder

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As a well-rounded athlete, Dormann competed in many sports in her younger years. Track and field, basketball, and touch football are some of the sports she played. Being avidly involved in basketball throughout her time at Brookfield High School was also one of her passions.

Dormann’s stellar high school athletics career was acknowledged when she was named Most Valuable Player in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and Athlete of the Year in 2012–2013 and 2014–2015.

With many star athletes coming from athletic lineage and being trained from a young age, it surprised me when Dormann explained her situation. “My parents both came to Canada from Europe, my dad came from Germany and my mom came from Ukraine.” She explains that although they were both athletic, they never played volleyball. Dormann started playing volleyball in grade eight.

Being involved with competitive volleyball throughout high school, Dormann recounts her travels with the various teams she has played for.

“When I was playing club volleyball we would play a lot in Toronto,” says Dormann. “As I got older we started to go further. And now with the national team, starting to go a little further.”

Dormann has traveled to many countries over the course of her volleyball career, including the Dominican Republic for the 2016 Pan Am Cup. She represented Canada this past summer at the FISU Summer Universiade in Taipei. “It was an amazing experience,” says Dormann. “A lot of hours and hard work, but it’s worth it. Representing Canada is always an honor.”

But the Canadian National Team is not the only goal she has her sights set on. “Personally I want to contribute the best way I can to our goal of being a championship team and winning the OUA championship,” says Dormann.

“We’ve talked a lot about what it takes to be that championship team and every day whether it be the gym or on the court, and we are taking a lot of positive steps towards that direction.”

POUND classes hosted at Hart House

New fitness class incorporates drumming

POUND classes hosted at Hart House

Upon arriving to POUND, I saw a few faces who had come to try something new, in addition to a few who had already heard about the new workout craze. The sun shone through the beautiful Hart House gym windows as we waited for the class to start. We were greeted by trainer Melissa Mazzucco, who instructed us to grab a mat and a pair of neon-green drumsticks.

If you’ve got no idea what POUND is, you’re not alone. The new fitness phenomenon combines the intense rhythm movement of drumming with common exercises, which makes the workout extremely engaging and helps one build their own sense of rhythm. POUND is an excellent substitute for cardio. It involves repetitive movement that takes place on the spot. This form of exercise is great for those who don’t want to get involved with running, which is a huge bonus for those who are wary about knee injuries.

This year, Hart House began hosting POUND as a part of its drop-in fitness programs. The class takes place every Friday from 9:10–10:00 am in the lower gym.

I’ll be honest — at first I expected actual drums, but I then realized that would have been way too heavy for the trainer to carry to class. The music started, a remix of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” and we began hitting our drumsticks together in unison with the beat. We then launched into a variety of movements up and down, side to side, and began hitting our mats by squatting and drumming at the same time. Many of the exercises involved lunging backward and forward, and side to side, squatting up and down, then eventually doing some core work. These exercises mainly tackle the leg, gluteus, and abdomen muscles. I was certainly very sore the next day, and I felt that this class effectively promoted us into doing many, many squats.

POUND was founded by former drummers Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom. As Mazzucco told us, they were looking for a new form of exercise when they took it upon themselves to take their drumming skills to the next level. They began incorporating all forms of fitness movements with the use of drumming sticks, hitting off various surfaces while inducing movement and following the rhythm of the music. It turned into an international organization that continues to update its routines with new music and new moves.

A great quality of the class is that it’s in the morning – the perfect time for people to begin their day.

Mazzucco has a background in dance training, is certified in many forms of fitness training, and is certain to expand your knowledge to beyond that of the class alone.

Traditional gymgoers may hesitate at first taking one of these classes. I used to play a lot of intense sports and worked out occasionally, but once I took a Zumba class, I was amazed to see how tired I was afterward.

One can certainly equate the intensity of these rhythm classes to that of traditional exercises. POUND runs at an intense rhythm. Like Zumba, you are constantly moving to the beat of the music that won’t slow down until the end of the class. What’s great about both POUND and Zumba is that you feel like you’re dancing the entire time while getting in a great workout.

Overall, these classes are great for accommodating to the needs of people of all abilities and ages. The instructors insist on this to make sure that you don’t feel an absolute need to keep up with everything. The instructor will help adjust exercises in a manner that accommodates to any level one feels comfortable with.

The Jays can extend their World Series window

An insight into the Toronto Blue Jays’ offseason

The Jays can extend their World Series window

Entering last season, expectations for the Toronto Blue Jays were high, despite the losses of slugger Edwin Encarnacion and relief pitcher Brett Cecil. However, the Blue Jays were unable to deliver on experts’ predictions of a playoff finish, ending the 2017 season with a .469 record, nine games back of the final wildcard spot in the American League.

Missing the playoffs after consecutive trips to the American League Championships Series has left fans pondering a dangerous question: has the Blue Jays’ World Series window slammed shut? If so, then a rebuild would be on the cards, and a difficult one at that. Toronto boasts one of the oldest rosters in the MLB, and they are burdened by the untradeable contracts of veterans Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin, both earning $20 million for each of the next two seasons. The future is bright with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette on the way, but they still find themselves playing High-A ball in Dunedin.

With the notion of a rebuild out of the question, how can the Jays squeeze out another shot at the playoffs? Let’s consider the team’s options this offseason.

 

The addition of an infielder

The Jays boasted a middle infield comprised of Ryan Goins, Tulowitzki, and the oft-injured Devon Travis last season. A healthy Travis started at second, with Tulowitzki at shortstop, and Goins deputizing both positions.

Injuries to Travis, Tulowitzki, and Josh Donaldson exposed the lack of depth in the infield and resulted in Toronto playing some combination of Darwin Barney, Chris Coghlan, Rob Refsnyder, and Goins — none of whom are with the club today — alongside Justin Smoak. This leaves Richard Urena and Gift Ngoepe as the Jays’ only depth at middle infield, making a utility infielder a top priority.

Eduardo Núñez is one such utility infielder. Valued at almost $12 million, he can play virtually anywhere in the field should a starting player go down with an injury. Batting .313/.341/.460 with 12 home runs, 58 runs batted in, and 24 stolen bases last season with the San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox, Núñez would bring some speed to an aged squad.

Speaking of speed, Dee Gordon may find himself leaving Miami soon, as new Marlins CEO Derek Jeter attempts to lower the club’s salary. A left-handed batter with a high on-base percentage makes Gordon the ideal leadoff man. He even snagged 60 bases last season, making him an attractive trade option for the Jays. Gordon would take over at second full-time, benching Travis, and making Goins the backup shortstop, creating depth by pushing the incumbent starters down the chart.

Depth at starting pitcher

The Jays’ rotation currently features Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, and JA Happ, leaving a vacant starter slot. Toronto have rightly expressed interest in Jake Arrieta, one of the top pitchers on the market and a World Series winner with the Chicago Cubs. With a Cy Young Award and two no-hitters to his name, Arrieta’s proven track record makes him a tantalising option for the Jays. The downside? Arrieta would command almost $27 million per year on a long-term contract.

The most interesting option is dual-threat Shohei Ohtani, who is free to be signed on a minor league contract. Unproven against MLB opposition, he is considered a promising starter with a good bat. The one caveat to signing Ohtani is that all teams in MLB have a shot at signing him, so the Jays need a contingency plan should they fail. Toronto should take a run at him, but they will show reluctance to play him in the field if they succeed, as they’ve shown reluctance to push young players, such as Sanchez, too hard for fear of injuries.

Expect Toronto to pick up a few low-cost starters to improve pitching depth. Don’t rule out a return for Brett Anderson. 

Not splurging on sluggers

The loss of Jose Bautista has left the Jays short of a slugger in right field. With big-money power threats JD Martinez and Jay Bruce hitting free agency, it can be tempting for a club to spend big on a long-term deal for either, but they shouldn’t. If Toronto is serious about reaching the World Series in 2018, they need more than just Martinez or Bruce — they’d need to improve the infield depth and the pitching rotation to stand a chance against teams like Houston. Such moves would prove costly in the long term, as the Jays would be stuck with the hefty contracts of Martin, Tulowitzki, and any free agent acquisitions.

Instead, the team should place their faith in Teoscar Hernández, who showed some pop during a September call-up, to spare themselves the stress of carrying several overpaid veterans in the future.

Verdict: the Jays will express caution, making deals to improve depth and hope that last season’s misfortunes were but a blip. This team is good enough to turn things around on their own, and should get back to winning ways with minimal alterations.

Bugs: the food of the future?

Crickets may be the new chicken

Bugs: the food of the future?

Would you like some crickets with your guac? It may not be long before you see six-legged creatures sharing menu real estate with beef and pork. With the global human population set to reach nine billion by 2050, experts say that conventional protein sources will soon be insufficient to feed everyone. Insects have been proposed by several groups as a protein alternative due to their high nutritional content and economic and environmental benefits.

Over 2,000 insect species are edible; the most commonly consumed species include beetles, caterpillars, wasps, bees, and ants, followed by grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets. Insects are already frequently consumed and are considered a delicacy in 113 countries. In fact, chapulines, a type of grasshopper, are a national dish in Mexico.

Nutritional composition is highly varied among insect species. Within a species, it depends on the stage of metamorphosis, the origin of the insect, and how the insect is prepared. Most edible insects meet the essential protein and energy requirements for human consumption, and they also contain beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.

The Nutrient Value Score (NVS) is a tool used to evaluate the nutritional content of food based on energy, protein, fat, and eight micronutrients. A 2016 study used NVS and found that palm weevil larvae and mealworms were significantly healthier than both beef and chicken. The study also revealed that the median iron content of crickets and honeybees were 180 and 850 per cent greater than beef, respectively.

Eating insects may also benefit gut microbiome. Gut microbiota must consume prebiotics, a type of non-digestible fibre, to grow efficiently. The exoskeletons of insects are rich in prebiotic fibre, and they can even be crushed to a powder and added to salad dressings and shakes as a protein and fibre booster.

The attraction of insects as an alternative protein source goes beyond just their nutritional benefits. Compared to conventional livestock, farming insects emits fewer greenhouse gases, requires less land, and causes less water pollution. Insects that are usually considered pests can be farmed for human consumption, which may reduce the use of pesticides for agriculture and alleviate the financial burden of pest control for farmers.

There are even economic benefits: 70 per cent of livestock production costs involve producing feed for animals. Feed conversion efficiency is the measure of an animal’s ability to convert their feed mass into body mass. Insects tend to have higher feed conversion efficiencies than conventional meats. Another 2016 study found that the house cricket has twice the feed conversion efficiency of chickens, four times that of pigs, and 12 times that of cattle.

However, the consumption of insects does not come without drawbacks. Some insects produce toxic compounds and contain heavy metals that can transfer to humans upon consumption. Many insects also have more sodium and saturated fat than conventional meats, which can increase the chance of coronary heart disease. The processing and storage methods for mass insect production are still being investigated.

Despite these drawbacks, consuming insects may be the best alternative protein source in a rapidly growing world. Their high nutrient and protein content make insects an attractive option for regions with high food insecurity and malnourishment. As traditional meat sources face increasing environmental, social, and economic pressures, the choice to eat insects may soon become a necessity.

U of T professor named Ontario’s first Chief Scientist

Molly Shoichet will aid the Ontario government in science policy

U of T professor named Ontario’s first Chief Scientist

Earlier this month, U of T’s Molly Shoichet was appointed to the Government of Ontario’s newly created position of Chief Scientist. Currently a University Professor in Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and a director at the Institute for Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering, Shoichet will begin her new role in January.

Shoichet will be responsible for advising Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on science-based policies. “As we tackle some of today’s biggest challenges, science plays an increasingly vital role in helping governments make informed decisions,” said Wynne in a press release.

The recruitment of a Chief Scientist is part of Ontario’s five-year Business Growth Initiative, which aims to accelerate Ontario’s knowledge-based economy through innovation; $650 million has been committed to the initiative.

Part of Shoichet’s role as Chief Scientist will be to help create science-based jobs and economic strategies for the province. Linked to this is Ontario’s plan to increase the number of students graduating from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines by 25 per cent over the next five years.

The decision to create a Chief Scientist position for Ontario was first announced by Wynne in June 2016. Part of the recruitment process involved an online consultation with both the scientific community and the public to determine the skills and qualifications a Chief Scientist should possess.

Among many other attributes, the feedback from the online consultation suggested that the Chief Scientist should have a strong academic record, familiarity with government policy, and an understanding of the Ontario research system.

“The [Chief Scientist] should… have an unwavering desire to see Ontario become a preeminent location for scientific research and innovation,” said one online respondent in a sentiment echoed by many who participated in the consultation.

Described by Minister of Research, Innovation, and Science Reza Moridi as “one of the top biomedical scientists in the country,” Shoichet certainly fits this description. Shoichet has both academic and industry-based experience with past positions held at Brown University, the matREGEN Corporation, CytoTherapeutics Incorporated, and others.

Shoichet’s research on tissue regeneration and drug delivery has earned her the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering and the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest honour. She is also the only person to be a Fellow of all three of Canada’s National Academies: the Canadian Academy of Sciences of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. At U of T, she holds the highest faculty distinction of University Professor, a title shared by less than two per cent of the university’s faculty.

“Scientists right here in Ontario are doing amazing research that is fundamental to our progress and prosperity,” said Wynne. “I look forward to her thought leadership and advice on how we can strengthen the research and innovation happening across our province.”

Preparing for the apocalypse

A look at natural disaster research at U of T and the risks that Toronto faces

Preparing for the apocalypse

On October 16, 1954, Toronto suffered one of its worst natural disasters in recent memory. Hurricane Hazel dumped 65 billion gallons of water on Toronto virtually overnight and resulted in catastrophic floods that killed 81 people, left 1,868 homeless, and caused damage equivalent to $1 billion today.

Hurricanes are not typically associated with Toronto, and since Hazel, they have largely fallen off the public’s radar. Yet, according to U of T PhD candidate Athena Masson, whose work focuses on hurricanes, we are not immune. “Eventually we will have another Hurricane Hazel.”

What can Toronto do to prepare for these inevitable events? U of T is home to several researchers conducting work on natural disasters, from tornado occurrence modeling to the development of earthquake-resistant structures. This research is not only applicable on a global scale, but it can be potentially applied to Toronto as well.

Hurricanes

As a child growing up in Florida, Masson’s fascination with natural disasters began when Hurricane Andrew devastated her state in 1992. Her interest eventually brought her to U of T, where she is developing a new scale for measuring hurricanes in the North Atlantic Basin.

The currently used scale, known as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, measures the strength of a storm based on its maximum sustained wind speed. Masson, however, believes that just measuring wind is not enough — there are additional components of a hurricane that need to be calculated to truly grasp its severity, such as size, pressure, and storm surge.

With the development of a new scale that includes these factors, Masson hopes that this research will help improve the public’s understanding of the dangers associated with hurricanes and motivate people to evacuate.

She believes that Toronto is ill-equipped to handle a hurricane. “The problem with Toronto is that I don’t think that their drainage system is really up to speed… That puts Toronto [in] a very vulnerable position — especially the downtown campus.”

Masson referenced the half-hour thunderstorm in July 2013 that flooded the Don Valley Parkway: “It crippled this city and it was just a simple storm.”

Earthquakes

While hurricanes are hard to forecast, a natural disaster that remains even more unpredictable is the earthquake. Since there is no reliable way of knowing when and where an earthquake will occur, one of the best ways to prepare is to build structures that can withstand the shocks. Professor Constantin Christopoulos in the Department of Civil Engineering is doing just that. His work revolves around how to “develop new structural systems that are more resilient to extreme earthquake loading.”

“This is done by using new technologies that allow structures to absorb the seismic energy without damaging the main structural elements and while also reducing overall damages to content and equipment that is housed in these structures,” he said.

Although active research on earthquakes is taking place at U of T, Torontonians do not have the same awareness of this type of disaster as, for instance, Canadians on the west coast do.

“The seismic hazard on the eastern side of the country… is generally lower than it is in BC,” said Christopoulos. “However, the vulnerability of the buildings is generally higher as the construction industry and people in general are less concerned with earthquakes on this side of the country.”

He also added that not enough is known about earthquakes in eastern Canada, which adds to the danger. “There is still potential risk of seismic damages and losses in big cities like Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.”

Tornadoes

While hurricanes and earthquakes may seem unlikely to the public, the Greater Toronto Area is familiar with tornadoes. This past summer was marked by tornado warnings in southwestern Ontario, with a few actually touching down and wreaking havoc in the countryside. But what if a tornado were to touch down near downtown Toronto?

“The problem with tornadoes in Canada is that a lot of buildings do not have underground basements, or they’re high-rises and they don’t have a safe place for residents to really go and evacuate,” said Masson. “For the most part, especially in a populated city like Toronto, a lot of people do not own houses [with basements].”

U of T Issues and Media Strategist Elizabeth Church wrote to The Varsity that the university “has policies and procedures in place to respond to a variety of instances and does so in co-ordination with local emergency services. The Policy on Crisis Preparedness and Response is on the Governing Council web site.”

The most recent available version of this document dates back to 2005 and makes no specific mention of natural disasters. Furthermore, the links included in the policy all lead to broken web pages. If the university has a natural disaster strategy, it is not available to the public.

While it is important to have a plan to deal with a force as strong as nature, it also bears noting that sometimes our plans will never work. “I don’t think that any city or the human race in general will ever be fully prepared,” said Masson. “Mother nature will always win in the end.”

Love makes scents

UTSC professor’s study finds ring-tail lemurs use ‘stink-flirting’ to attract mates

Love makes scents

If you think the smell of Axe is bad, be glad you’re not a lemur. In a study led by Amber D. Walker-Bolton, a UTSC professor in the Department of Anthropology, researchers found that male ring-tailed lemurs use their ‘stink’ to impress potential mates.

This unique behaviour allows lemurs to display their rank among other males and attract suitable mates, albeit at a cost.

Lemurs belong to the Strepsirrhine sub order and live in male groups that have a core female lineage. Each of these groups have dominant central males and periphery males, where rank is correlated with age.

‘Stink-flirting’ refers to male display of tail anointing and wafting, which is considered “a submissive display prior to a close approach.” The study found these displays are associated with male dominance and that they are reciprocated by females. Females preferred the exaggerated displays and are said to set the male apart from the rest of the population.

Additionally, the study found females showed a preference for dominant resident males as opposed to lower-ranking immigrant males. Immigrants are rarely found mating with females of the group.

Surprisingly, male lemurs are more frequently faced with aggression from both females and other males when they perform stink-flirting displays compared to other mating rituals. Only when females in estrus were receiving the olfactory display would they then mate.

Some of the females are also mate-guarded by a male. These guarded females were found to receive a higher rate of displays than non-guarded females. Although mate-guarding doesn’t completely eliminate displays from other males, it hinders approach to guarded females.

While the majority of females chose the most dominant mate, the opposite was not the case. According to the study, male ring-tailed lemurs did not “preferentially target high-ranked females for olfactory displays.”

In the future, Walker-Bolton’s team hopes to study the correlation between ‘stink-flirting’ and reproductive success.

There’s no such thing as unbiased reporting

Relying on elusive standards of journalistic ‘objectivity’ is misleading, and it is in our best interest to adopt more attainable ideals

There’s no such thing as unbiased reporting

A study conducted by prominent American journalists Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz in 1920 revealed some inconvenient truths about The New York Times’ coverage of the then-recently concluded Russian Revolution: one of the most prominent news organizations in the western world had effectively bungled their coverage of a major historical event. Lippmann and Merz found that the Times’ stories on the revolution were rarely based in fact, but rather shaped by the “hopes of the men who composed the news organization.” Influenced by the outcomes they were banking on, the reporters’ writing lacked the factual accuracy or balanced perspective necessary to deliver an informed report.

Essentially, Lippmann and Merz decried the Times’ coverage as biased. And so, the authors of the study, and presumably much of the public who read it, lost trust in the so-called ‘biased’ tendencies of major media outlets. By way of solution, Lippmann argued that journalism should embrace more of a “scientific spirit” — believing that ultimate fairness, or ‘objectivity,’ could be achieved in journalism so long as the journalists made the study of evidence of verification to be the cornerstone of their work. Thus ensued the era of supposedly ‘neutral’ journalism, when well-trusted news anchors like Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley would deliver stories seemingly without bias and seemingly without lack of context.

The notion of bias in news writing has since become one of colloquial discussion, and it is now one of the most common criticisms of the media. Most often, the label is imparted to news that readers believe is lacking relevant context, or to media outlets whose political views the reader disagrees with. At its most extreme, it is plastered across outraged comment sections and blog posts on the deep web, rooted in a conspiratorial belief that news organizations have pre-determined political agendas and feed purposely slanted reports to the masses.

Such polarization within the news world has resulted in publications whose self-imposed purpose is to provide contrast to what they see as an irreparably biased media landscape. Publications like Breitbart dedicate copious coverage to “Big Journalism,” aimed at debunking the “spin and narratives from the Democrat-media complex,” while outlets like The Intercept position themselves to be highly critical of the methods of mainstream channels like CNN. Even at the university level, publications like The Toronto Beacon claim to have been founded “as a reaction to the current state of journalism,” making specific reference to The Varsity’s coverage of a campus rally in 2016, among other incidents. None of these publications can be equivocated, but they do illustrate the extent to which people are frustrated with mainstream media coverage.

At the same time, it is counterproductive to leave blanket accusations of bias at that — for eliminating all bias from reporting is an impossible task. Reports are created by authors and shaped by editors whose perspectives and personal experiences are inherently injected into the final product. Even when reporting from the scene of the story, journalists make a series of judgment calls based on what they consider to be newsworthy. These decisions may alter information in the story depending on who is tasked with telling it.

In this vein, it should be acknowledged that the notion of ‘objectivity’ underlying the journalistic profession was developed and continues to operate within a context that privileges certain perspectives. It is no coincidence that Lippmann, Merz, Cronkite, and Huntley were all white men, a demographic that continues to hold a steadfast grip on the North American media profession, despite the substantial progress being pursued in this area.

Paradoxically, being ‘unbiased,’ ‘objective,’ or ‘neutral’ are themselves ideals laden with normative content, inherently dependent on the standards journalists use to determine the importance of information and to communicate what they believe is the truth. A bigger problem is that the normative nature of bias is effectively masked by widely accepted, seemingly neutral codes of ethics and best practices that have permeated the journalism industry. Figures like Cronkite were not delivering an unbiased account of the news, but rather an account shaped by the collective decisions of the CBS news team. In the codes of ethics of countless publications — The Globe and MailThe New York Times, and, yes, The Varsity — objectivity and impartiality are portrayed to be the ideal standard of a news report, despite that standard being ultimately unachievable.

The assumption that journalists need to annihilate all bias from their reporting imparts on them an insurmountable undertaking. This is certainly not intended to diminish the critical role journalism plays in our society; information-gathering and truth-telling are undoubtedly in the public interest. But pursuing best practices should entail a reconsideration of the language we use to describe the ideal state of the media, and in turn, shift our understanding of journalism away from amorphous or unattainable standards.

One solution that has been offered, including by our former Editor-in-Chief last year, is to substitute ‘unbiased’ coverage with ‘balanced’ coverage. The idea of balance, in the journalistic context, is based on the deceptively simple notion that all figures and institutions relevant to a story be given a fair chance to play a part in telling it. This also entails all pieces of information being put in factual perspective, meaning that truths and mistruths should never be given equal footing. Sometimes this is straightforward; in most cases, it isn’t.

There are also certainly things we can do to address the biases that underlie all journalistic work. The importance of the journalistic process demands such efforts, guided not by an impossible lack of normative ideals, but ultimately by better ones. More importantly, we can make the process by which we determine those ideals public, and we can encourage readers to subject them to thorough scrutiny.

The Varsity’s Code of Journalistic Ethics reads, “Fairness is a balanced and impartial presentation of all the relevant facts in a news report, and of all substantial opinions in a matter of controversy. Fairness demands that journalists place inaccurate or misleading public statements in factual perspective.” As opposed to ‘objectivity,’ the goal thereby becomes to strive for balance, which is arguably more concrete.

The procedures that underlie the operations of The Varsity and many other publications reflect that ideal. These include ensuring all figures implicated in a story are given the chance to comment, offering disclosures about potential conflicts of interest, and making source materials available upon request. At a fundamental level, it also includes pulling back the curtain on how the news is made. The Varsity has endeavoured to do this by hosting a Reddit AMA earlier this year, by opening our office to the public, and by writing editorials like this one.

When publications fall short of achieving their objectives, public editors step in. The role of Sophie Borwein’s column in The Varsity, for instance, is not only to critique the publication and respond to reader complaints, but also to offer a perspective that we cannot, in acknowledgment that the journalists who write the news are intrinsically tied to its making.

We can also look to other outlets for guidance. Publications like The Intercept will publish the documentation that an article is based on alongside the original stories. Meanwhile, the Times uses The Reader Center to justify its journalistic choices to its audiences, a tool that has come in particularly useful following the controversy surrounding its profile on a Nazi sympathizer from Ohio. These methods, and others like them, arguably reflect the idea that a newspaper should be in direct, democratic dialogue with its readership.

Finally, recalling concerns about whitewashed, male-dominated newsrooms, promoting a diverse range of perspectives is integral to the pursuit of fair and balanced reporting. Striving for diversity also means being sensitive to the responsibility that journalists have to those persecuted, marginalized, and disaffected members of our society — to offer them a voice and to probe and critique the institutions that hold power against them. This responsibility is not characterized by neutrality, either; it is principled and normative, as it should be.

In the 1920s, Lippmann and Merz rightfully exposed the blatant political slant underlying the methods of a major journalistic institution. In today’s highly fraught media climate, with accusations of bias and fake news flying left and right, our community finds itself at a similar pivotal moment, and the way forward remains unclear. Our shift in perspective toward media bias, however, should also prompt a shift in how readers respond to it, for that response will be integral in shaping what the profession eventually becomes.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email [email protected]