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Originally published July 27, 2006

CanWest Buries Story
News Journalist Fired- Our Community Suffers

Here's the short version; On July 5, 2006, Vivian Smith, a writer for the "Times Colonist" in Victoria was fired, and then rehired three weeks later after parent company "CanWest Global" realized the public would perceive, and rightly so, that Smith was fired for reporting truthfully about the tourism industry in Victoria. It was alleged that a PR rep from Butchart Gardens complained that the story, critical of them and the local tourism industry, hurt their reputation, and more importantly, that they wanted something done about it.

According to "," the indie website that broke the story, The Times Colonist reacted by firing Smith -- although no one from the TC or CanWest have admitted it is why she was fired. In the world of "crisis management," it is a good idea to admit you made a mistake, apologize, and then do something to rectify it, which is "almost" what Dennis Skulsky (president CanWest Publications) did. He would like us to believe, through a recent statement, that his journalists are "free to cover any organization or subject with full support of the editor and publisher." What a crock. If Skulsky is telling the truth then CanWest better start hiring better journalists because someone in their communication chain is not doing his or her job.

It supports my contention that some news companies have little, if any, respect for "journalistic integrity," and they disseminate stories based on what advertisers want, instead of what the public needs to hear in order to make informed decisions.

Smith was fired by her bosses in Victoria, but rehired by CanWest, the parent company, which also owns The Vancouver Sun newspaper. The Sun, I remind you, is on my radar because I recently caught them leaving critical information unreported regarding 2010 Olympic issues, plus they over-hype skyrocketing Olympic-frenzied land values like it was a good thing for our community, when in fact it primarily benefits their advertisers and inflates the already dangerous real estate bubble to enormous proportion.

Telling half truths is the same as lying. There are no excuses when you present yourself to the community as a professional news source, especially when your masthead proclaims you are in business to "improve the lives of your readers," and doubly so when you stand to make a small fortune off of Olympic frenzy at the expense of the same community you purport to serve. If you don't know what you are talking about, don't report at all until you've done enough research to tell a balanced story. Surely CanWest must recognize the precarious situation they are in, but based on their recent actions, apparently not. Somebody should have been fired, but not Vivian Smith.

Journalists complain to me in private that if they challenge their employers they risk losing their jobs, which in this region are hard to find. Tough. You're not the first to be put in this compromising situation. You are either with the community, or against the community. Don't be surprised if you find yourself featured in a story on Consider yourself warned. You sell out the community, you will eventually pay for it.

Not surprisingly, the Vivian Smith firing/rehiring story was never reported by either the Times Colonist or the Vancouver Sun. Go figure. I also don't recall seeing it at other local mainstream news media companies. Go figure again. Is it any wonder the public does not trust media and ranks them right down there with used car hucksters?

Journalism, for some news media companies on the west coast, amounts to either currying the favor of a prospective advertiser, which in our case would be Olympic organizations, or just plain poor reporting and a "bumbling" work ethic. Maybe it's a little of both.

I'll leave it up to you to decide.

My offer to local journalists who feel censored and muzzled is still open. Click here for Anonymedia Pro.

Here a few links to bring you up to
speed regarding the Vivian Smith saga. - Main Story
Lynne van Luven Resigns in Protest

Rob Cottingham

Canadian Journalist

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