I was denied an interview with a UTM Students’ Union executive for the first time in my four years working at The Medium. Everyone should question why a representative elected by the students to work for the students would attempt to refuse an interview with another student organization, especially media that could spread the word on the issues UTMSU focusses on.
Here’s how it went down. I emailed the executive the week before I wanted to hold the interview. Three days later, I finally heard back with confirmation. The interview was set for Wednesday. On Tuesday, the executive requested interview questions. With one night left before the interview was to take place, I didn’t get around to sending questions.
This is standard practice. Many public figures will ask reporters to provide samples of interview questions to better prepare to speak on the topic at hand. Prominent figures like President Barack Obama and Mayor Hazel McCallion require interview questions ahead of time. Journalists are not required to share notes or to stick to set questions. And interviewees are not required to answer, but I think it calls for concern when they refuse.
In the past, UTMSU executives have requested questions ahead of time. Sometimes I’ve obliged, and sometimes I haven’t. But I was never refused an interview—until Wednesday.
Fifteen minutes before the interview, I waved to the executive in the UTMSU office before heading upstairs. He acknowledged me. Twenty minutes later, the executive hadn’t come up to the office yet. I headed downstairs to see if everything was still on track for our interview.
The executive saw me, came out, and informed he would not proceed with the interview since he had not received any questions ahead of time. I was wondering why I had been informed about this after the interview was already supposed to have begun, so a 10-minute discussion ensued in front of the info booth.
He made the argument that “it’s a thing” that journalists send questions. I went as far as to say that I would let him read over my notes—something no journalist would ever reveal—to reassure him that the questions would not cover anything that he is not required to be informed about under his elected position. Still, he refused.
After much debate, he finally agreed to conduct the interview since he could see it was going to be a “thing”.
It most definitely should be a “thing”. We pay taxes to the provincial government. The premier and his ministers decide how to use that money for services like education and healthcare. If elected public officials refused interviews with media or consultation with tax-paying citizens, wouldn’t you question that decision? Why wouldn’t the politicians—politicians whose salaries you and your family pay through taxes—want to communicate to the public what they’re doing with your money?
On a smaller scale, why wouldn’t UTMSU, the student group that collected nearly a million dollars from student tuition this year and whose executives earn considerably high wages, want to be featured in an article in the student newspaper, where students receive information through an impartial and unbiased forum?
It should most definitely be a “thing”. I, for one, will never take no for an answer without heavy questioning.