Online magazine Rabble.ca has laid off editor Derrick O’Keefe. The news was first announced on O’Keefe’s Twitter feed and sparked the resignation of one of his colleagues.

By Laurent Bastien Corbeil

Online magazine Rabble.ca has laid off editor Derrick O’Keefe. The news was first announced on O’Keefe’s Twitter feed on October 7 and sparked the resignation of one of his colleagues.

“Effective October 4, Derrick O’Keefe will no longer be acting as Rabble’s editor,” Rabble said in a statement. “We thank him for his contributions in this role over the past year and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”

But O’Keefe, who had been working as editor since April 2012, claimed he was fired without cause on a week’s notice.

“I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t think any good process was followed with me where an employee’s rights are safeguarded,” O’Keefe told J-Source. “I didn’t have access to any of the basic labour rights that a member of a trade union would have.”


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Since Rabble operates as a non-profit organization, the website is governed by a board of directors. O’Keefe said he tried to appeal the decision to the board, but said that he was ignored by its president, Duncan Cameron, and that other board members did not respond to his queries.

But in an email to J-Source, Cameron and Kim Elliott, the website’s publisher, said the board reviewed the decision and concluded it had been “proper and substantiated.” The decision to fire O’Keefe, they wrote, had been part of a “lengthy process” and compensation was offered at the termination of his contract.

O’Keefe said he is now considering legal action against the website.

“I’ve tried everything I could within the organization because I care very much about Rabble.ca,” he said. “I’ve been writing for the publication for 10 years—often for free. I’ve dedicated a good chunk of my life to the publication in one form or another.”

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In a statement posted on its discussion board, Rabble said it is committed to the “the values that Rabble has always espoused, including labour rights, due process and a healthy and respectful workplace.”

One of O’Keefe’s former colleagues was not pleased by the decision. Shortly after O’Keefe’s departure was made public, contributor Ethan Cox announced he would quit Rabble in protest and denounced the website’s “egregious approach to labour standards.”

Cox posted an open letter on Rabble on October 8, outlining his concerns over O’Keefe’s termination and alleging that the former editor had been censored for criticizing “organizational funders or political parties which share our politics.” Rabble has since pulled down the letter and added a note saying, “we don’t like to remove content, but the content of Ethan Cox’s blog contains defamatory and un-factual information.”

In its email to J-Source, Elliott and Cameron said Cox had “no real basis” for making his assertion.

“Ethan Cox was not privy to meetings and emails exchanged between the publisher or Rabble’s board of directors and Derrick over the course of his contract,” the email said.

Despite his firing, O’Keefe said his experience with the website was mostly positive.

“It’s a group of people, a concept and a publication I care very much about. Almost without exception, the colleagues and the staff I worked with were incredible people, and I wish those people well,” he said.

 

Laurent Bastien Corbeil is a Montreal-based journalist whose work has appeared in Maisonneuve, and he has worked as a news editor at The McGill Daily. He maintains a blog on issues related to free speech in higher education for Canadian Journalists For Free Expression. Follow him on Twitter @bastienlaurent.