In anticipation of the upcoming federal election, the Toronto Star announced that it will be providing free digital access to eligible Canadian postsecondary students, staff, and faculty until October 31. Titled the Vote2019 Offer, the initiative is meant to “empower students with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision on election day” according to John Boynton, Publisher of the Star, which is Canada’s largest daily newspaper.
Students, staff, and faculty can use their university or college email account to register for the Vote2019 Offer. Once they have registered, they will have access to the coverage provided by the Star, which is expected to ramp up as Canada approaches the federal election that is scheduled for October 21.
Writing to The Varsity, Boynton explained that through this initiative, the Star hopes to “encourage students to become politically engaged through reading candidates’ platforms, being analytical of the news and opening up a dialogue with their peers around the election.”
Turnout among 18–24 year olds during the 2015 federal election was the lowest of all voting cohorts, standing at 57.1 per cent. This fits with historic voting patterns, though the 2015 election saw an 18 point rise in voter turnout among young voters. Boynton wrote that it would be “incredible” if the Star’s offer had an impact on turnout.
In its announcement, the Star highlighted “community and civic engagement” as one of its core principles which motivated the initiative.
“Accuracy, fairness, and quality journalism are essential for the Star,” Boynton wrote, “especially now when trust and transparency matter more than ever.”
The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer recently reported that 35 per cent of Canadians say they trust traditional media outlets, and 33 per cent are disengaged from the news. Boynton remarked that while the Star is aware of such attitudes which perceive traditional media as biased or untrustworthy, it has a proven track record of providing “in-depth political reporting that is fair, accurate, and balanced” during previous elections.
“We will continue to provide such reporting in the coming election,” Boynton wrote. “At the same time, we also allow our opinion columnists wide latitude in their writing.”
Although the way that success will be measured remains unclear, the Star will assess the success of this offer when deciding on similar offers for future elections.