The imbroglio over Patrick Muttart’s alleged attempts to swiftboat Michael Ignatieff via Sun Media has brought even more scrutiny to bear on the news agency’s relationship with the Prime Minister’s Office. One thread suddenly relevant is the recent departure from the Ottawa Sun of Michael Harris.
An award-winning journalist and novelist, Harris says he was told his column was dropped to make room for other voices.
He suspects, however, that a column he wrote on the eve of the election, titled “Harper no longer on high moral ground,” might have lubricated his exit.
“After writing in that space for nine years, I drew the conclusion. I was simply told by the editor in chief I was being dropped to accommodate new writers. Sun TV started up a few days later.”
Over to you, Rick Gibbons, Ottawa Sun publisher:
No, absolutely not! I’m not even sure I know to which column you are referring. And I’m surprised and disappointed Michael would say that. That was never conveyed to him and he certainly never conveyed such an impression to me.
We ran Michael’s columns for many years and never had issue with his content. We had an excellent relationship. The decision to end his column (fired is an entirely inappropriate use of the term here, I believe) was difficult but necessary due to other factors, which were explained to Michael at the time. These include the arrival of a number of new columnists of late, including Ezra Levant, John Robson, Brian Lilley, David Akin, Anthony Furey, etc. As I know you can appreciate, it became increasingly difficult to find space for all of these new columns in a two-age daily Op-Ed section.
We didn’t want to bounce Michael’s column around and frankly, based on an earlier conversation I had with him, neither did he. He stated very clearly he wanted to be anchored in a specific spot on a specific day or not run at all. A second issue was the allocation of limited local Op-Ed resources to ensuring we have local voices dealing with local issues in our paper. Michael’s traditional frame of reference has always been national – which is fine, but in the local context, we now have more national content in our Op-Ed pages than ever before and it was crowding out local opinions. I hope we will soon introduce more local content in our Op-Ed pages as a result.
I know we conveyed to Michael our hope that our relationship could resume at another time when circumstances allowed. I still hope that’s the case.
He also adds….
[T]he decision was not taken quickly or lightly. We discussed this internally for a couple of months as we tried to come to grips with the arrival of new writers and the competition for space.