On October 19, Jill Winzoski lost her job as a reporter with the Selkirk Record, a rural Manitoba weekly newspaper, apparently because of pressure from a local member of parliament. In early November a colleague and friend, Jim Mosher, lost his job at another local weekly, The Enterprise, apparently for publicly defending her.

 

On October 19, Jill Winzoski lost her job as a reporter with the Selkirk Record, a rural Manitoba weekly newspaper, apparently because of pressure from a local member of parliament. In early November a colleague and friend, Jim Mosher, lost his job at another local weekly, The Enterprise, apparently for publicly defending her.

Neither journalist was technically a full-time staffer; both were freelancers who worked regularly for their papers.

Author and journalist Michael Harris reported on iPolitics that Winzoski had upset local Conservative MP James Bevan with her reporting in the newspaper in the past. The MP had complained to the Record and had, Harris reports, pulled advertising from the Record and other local papers because of articles and letters to the editor critical of the Conservative government.

According to a report in the Vancouver Observer, the Selkirk Record’s editor, Donna Maxwell, told Winzoski early this year to lay off negative stories about federal politics and Bezan and focus more on local issues, and she reluctantly agreed.

Then, in October, Winzoski – acting as a private citizen – submitted a petition to Bezan’s office opposing the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA). Bezan complained to the Record, forwarding part of the petition to the newspaper as proof of the reporter’s alleged bias.

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The next day, Winzoski was fired.

Certain media outlets – the CBC for one – have policies prohibiting reporters from publicly signing petitions. Such policies are supposed to help maintain the appearance of objectivity. The Selkirk Record doesn’t have a written policy on the subject – and Winzoski was, by her employer’s order, not writing about federal politics at the time she was fired.

It didn’t stop there. According to a second report from Harris, Jim Mosher, Winzoski’s colleague and close friend, then wrote a piece for his paper, The Enterprise, decrying what had happened to Winzoski. The paper refused to print it.

After Harris reported on that episode, The Enterprise fired Mosher on November 8. Mosher wrote about that on his blog.

Bezan, meanwhile, published a three-paragraph statement on his website concerning the matter. On Wiznoski’s firing, he said simply: “The dismissal of a reporter from the Selkirk Record was an independent decision made by her publisher.” The rest of the statement concerned the fact that his staff had mistakenly replied to Winzoski’s petition initially with a prepared statement on the proposed takeover of Nexen by the China National Offshore Oil Co., a separate issue.

 

Grant Buckler is a retired freelance journalist and a volunteer with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and lives in Kingston, Ont.