On September 6 a private message was sent to Grok Editor, Amber Weir, about her recent article on the Curtin party Revive. Sent by Dylan Botica, Illuminate candidate for Accessibility Officer, the messages actively attempted to persuade Weir to publish unconfirmed information about another party, and a heated conversation ensued.
Weir tried to explain to Botica that she could not publish hearsay information without proof, saying that she couldn’t run a story as fact based on whispers. “I can’t run something as fact based on whispers.” She further explained that she was unable to publish an article on a party based on comments from their opposition, especially without proof or comment from the party in question.
Botica’s replied stated, “if the only ‘evidence’ you accept is the words of those you’re investigating then god help you.” He continued to say, “If you don’t have anything meaningful to say don’t publish a free advertisement for them”, referring to Curtin’s Revive Party.
Weir responded to this, explaining that “Grok isn’t here to please Illuminate candidates or any other student politician.” Left feeling quite taken aback and uncomfortable about the situation, Weir reached out to Illuminate’s Hana Arai (2020 President) and Chris Hall (candidate for EVP).
A few days after this, another article was published about party affiliations and student politics.
Grok reached out to Dylan Botica and Hana Arai for a statement. Botica stated that “[the] subsequent article addressed the issue well on all sides, including my own.”
No formal apology was made to Weir for the premature backlash, however, Botica did express an apology in his statement.
“Following this new article, I attempted to express this sentiment, however, it was unfortunately taken to be disingenuous. I unreservedly apologise if this was the case, however, was not given the opportunity to clarify this misunderstanding.
“I’d like to take the opportunity to say that I believe an unbiased, independent student media is very important, especially during election time. … I also recognise that all the writers are themselves students, who are voluntarily providing this coverage for students’ benefit.”
Weir noted that there was a seven-day period after his initial comments where he could have apologised.
Hana Arai explained to me that Botica merely wanted to express his concerns for misrepresentation of a party but that his “…tone came across more antagonistic that he intended it to.”
“Since then, myself and Illuminate’s Education Vice-President, Chris Hall, have personally both reached out to Amber to address what has happened, and we’ve also spoken to Dylan about it as well.”
Weir has stated that she appreciated how Arai and Chris Hall handled the situation when approached initially, saying that they both profusely apologised for his unacceptable behaviour.
Whilst Weir has said she is open to suggestions from students, there is a fine line between critiquing and badgering. “While I appreciate that this is a stressful time for candidates, I think that a certain standard of behaviour must be demonstrated at all times, especially by students wanting to represent the student body,” she said.
“Grok has certain ethical standards we must uphold, and part of this is ensuring impartiality and confirmation of fact. While we have, and will continue to, accept tips from those within the student body, the direction and content of Grok reporting lies solely at the discretion of the Editorial staff.”
Botica and Arai have stated that they both have immense respect for Grok as a publication and believe that independent student media is very important.
This incident comes at a trying time, as the election is heating up and it is now or never for all candidates.