Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Satirical Column Leads to Suspensions

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Satirical Column Leads to Suspensions

Article excerpt

A SATIRICAL COLUMN about a new modular arrangement of the newsroom at a British Columbia newspaper led to the suspension of the columnist and her editor, who also was demoted to reporter.

Nanaimo Times columnist Lynn Welburn was suspended for five working days and city editor Brian Wilford for three days, in addition to losing his position at the Vancouver Island paper.

The Graphic Communications International Union, whose contract includes the Times' editorial department, has filed a grievance with the paper, and 55 British Columbia authors and journalists have signed a petition protesting the penalties, according to freelancer Howard Breen, who gathered the signatures.

In her column, Welburn took the role of a tour guide of the Thomson newspaper's newly-decorated newsroom, which includes cubicles for reporters.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the piece began, welcome on your tour of the new, the modern, the modular, the conforming Nanaimo Times newsroom.

"As you will notice, we have done away with all the old desks and chairs. We felt that this furniture, since each piece was a little different and had become personalized by the reporters who work here, did not have a sufficiently efficient and professional look to it."

Management, according to Welburn, felt it was inappropriate for reporters to talk to each other or gaze out a window.

This is a place of business, the narrator said the company told employees. "You will communicate with one another only at your company appointed lunch hours and coffee breaks. That should be enough human contact for anyone."

It was noted that the remodeling was done at very little cost to corporate Thomson (something Lord Thomson himself approves of heartily)" because the furnishings were removed from another Thomson Canadian paper, the Comex District Free Press, which had folded.

The revamped newsroom was compared to government and phone solicitation offices "and other such highly productive places."

The column headlines stated: "Please do not feed the reporters. They're still adjusting to the confines (and I mean confines) of their new corporate cubicles."

An accompanying photo shows managing editor Steve Jenkinson inspecting the new quarters as staffers hunch over their keyboards. The caption reads: "Happy, Happy, Happy."

Reporters were described as being plugged in to their efficient and productive grey-toned corporate cubicle personal work environments. …

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