Readers of Sean Holman’s Public Eye site have been following the saga of freelancer Vivian Smith, who was cut from the Victoria Times-Colonist after penning a column that criticized the high price of many Victoria attractions and suggested no-cost alternatives. The column contained a minor error, and Smith’s removal from the paper came after a meeting between the features editor and several heavyweight tourism advertisers.
Now, Holman reports, another freelancer has tendered her resignation. And this one is U Vic journalism professor Lynne Van Luven, who has certain strong feelings about ethics and public service. According to her letter,
Vivian Smith wrote an informative and reasonable column in the July 2/06 issue of the newspaper. Smith’s sole error about Buchart Garden’s fees for children was minor and duly corrected. That she should be suspended so summarily seems greatly disproportionate to whatever complaints the column sparked within the Victoria business and tourism sector…It also suggests a harsh “one strike and you are out” mentality that does not bode well for staffers at the TC itself.
As a teacher of future journalists, I would feel hypocritical if I were to continue my column under a publisher who appears to have so little respect for freelancers’ autonomy and freedom of expression, and who appears to value only the business aspect of his newspaper’s intimate and vital role within its community.
Updated: Make that two freelancers.