The Gown is the student newspaper for Queen’s University Belfast and as such those who write in it are (presumably) hoping to become the bright young journalists of the future. As a man who is now no longer in his twenties, I might not be expected to encounter this organ, but my girlfriend studies at Queen’s and therefore ‘The Gown’ has once or twice found its way into our living room.
It is in general a pretty poorly written paper and would not normally merit a second glance, but the latest edition featured a front page splash which was so poorly judged and tasteless that I felt moved to mention it on Three Thousand Versts. The latest ‘Gown’ has decided to adorn its front cover with a piece which fairly transparently celebrates the death of a man who lived in the Holylands.
Under a headline proclaiming “’Scourge on Society’ Found Dead in Holylands” the paper runs an unbalanced article in which it features allegations about Paul Arbuckle terrorising students in the area and vandalising their cars. In addition quotes from students, expressing relief that the 25 year old ex-resident of Jerusalem Street has died, are printed in the paper. Nowhere in the piece is there any regret expressed toward Mr Arbuckle’s family nor is there any attempt at balance to reflect the fact that a young man has had his life cut short.
Now I did not know Paul Arbuckle and I would not like to comment on what type of person he was when he was alive. Certainly the ‘scourge on society’ tag is attributed to a judge rather than applied merely at the discretion of the paper. However I think that it is in dreadful taste to publish an article which more or less rejoices in the death of a young man. Whatever Mr Arbuckle’s crimes against students, there is no suggestion that he was a murderer or was in some way irredeemable.
In addition the article then segues into a discussion of sex crime in the University area. There is no explicit connection made between Mr Arbuckle and such crime, but if an implication in this regard was not intended, the article was poorly enough constructed as to make the connection in the reader’s mind.
I appreciate that whoever penned this article and the editor who decided to publish it probably believed that they were being daring and edgy. Actually if an article exposing Mr Arbuckle’s alleged activities had been published during his life it would have displayed more gumption. To wait until someone is dead and then to trumpet their demise across the front page of a student newspaper is both cowardly and ill-judged.