Times Colonist caught in tourism trap?

Yesterday, Public Eye reported University of Victoria journalism professor Lynne Van Luven had decided to stop writing columns for the Times Colonist "as a sincere protest against the way TC Management has dealt with" Vivian Smith. Ms. Smith had her contract with the newspaper cut short after she wrote a column criticizing the high cost of Victoria's tourist attractions. And now, Public Eye has learned another freelancer is joining Prof. Van Luven's protest. In an email addressed to Times Colonist staff and management and forwarded to Public Eye, Janis Ringuette - who also writes for the newspaper's Sunday Monitor section - states "Smith's column rightly reported that many tourist attractions are very expensive...A reasonable response to complaints about Smith's column from business interests with different opinions would have been to provide space in the newspaper for those other views to be presented. Terminating Smith was unfair. A deep chill has descended on freelancers and regular staff alike."

Ms. Ringuette also writes that the correction the Times Colonist published to Ms. Smith's column was "misleading." That column suggested Butchart Gardens might not be of interest to the pre-schooler set. But the correction countered that the gardens has "numerous activities" for children, including "fireworks" and "skating in winter." However, Ms. Ringuette points out "during regular summer day visits, there are no activities for children." The following is a complete copy of her email.

***

To: Times Colonist management and staff,

I regret to inform you that I will no longer contribute freelance articles to the Times Colonist. After writing twenty-eight feature articles for the Islander section of the Sunday Monitor, I am ending my association with the newspaper in protest against the recent termination of columnist Vivian Smith.

The column Smith wrote on July 2, 2006 was printed under the heading "Monitor/Comment" and bore her photo, so it was clearly an opinion column. According to Public Eye Online, she was fired when business people complained about that the painful truths in that column.

Though some tourist businesses don't want it said out loud, Smith's column rightly reported that many tourist attractions are very expensive. Not every visitor can afford them. Smith was also correct to point out that Butchart Gardens isn't the best activity choice for small children. (From 24 years of public school teaching, I know the Bug Zoo, for example, is a much better choice.)

The "Correction" printed on page one on July 5 countered that the Gardens has "numerous activities" for children, including "fireworks" and "skating in winter." This is misleading. During regular summer day visits, there are no activities for children.

A reasonable response to complaints about Smith's column from business interests with different opinions would have been to provide space in the newspaper for those other views to be presented. Terminating Smith was unfair. A deep chill has descended on freelancers and regular staff alike.

I hope that action will be reconsidered. I also hope the TC will decide to print the views of all sides of this important issue.

I want to thank the excellent editors and staff at the TC who have worked with me. A special thanks to Liz Pogue for all her good work.

Janis Ringuette

5 Comments

Seems in his little town the Tourist association has way to much power. They sure seem to have a lot of say with the local paper. Freedom of the press! Surely one jests

Kudos to you, Sean, for shedding light on this story and keeping it there.

Victoria is Kamloops by the sea - small town, chamber of commerce mentality.

Kudos to Janis for taking a stand. Wish we had more journalists like her.

I commend Janis and Lynne for standing up for Vivian.

Leave a comment

Copyright © 2004 - Public Eye Mediaworks. Reproductions of any portion of this Website are permitted only with the expressed permission of Public Eye Mediaworks.
Canadian Web Hosting graciously provided by dotcanuck Web Services. Layout and graphics courtesy of Art Department Design.