Simon Nattrass’s column “does not fit with our community papers,” according to the letter that terminated his contract with Victoria News. For long-time readers of Nattrass’s political commentary, this may come as a surprise. Nattrass is a Victoria writer whose column was transferred from Monday Magazine to Victoria News only six weeks before the termination. Nattrass is known for his coverage of issues such as aboriginal justice, poverty and policing. His columns have often been controversial—a characteristic many readers enjoy. His contract termination is the most recent of a series of changes to Victoria’s alternative editorial landscape rendered by recent transitions at Monday.
Nattrass feels the letter of termination was exceedingly brief and says he had no verbal warning of things amiss—in fact, he says everything seemed to be going well up to that point. Working as a freelance writer with a contract allowed Nattrass to choose his own subjects while assuring that his articles would be published regularly. The contract allowed termination without notice.
Comments attributed to Black Press president Mark Warner, in an email from editor Don Descoteau, say that Victoria News has “determined that re-opening the column space on our editorial page, to individuals from various sectors of the community, was the best way to further broaden our coverage, and get more voices into the newspaper.”
Victoria News and Monday Magazine are both owned by Black Press, and they have shared content since May 2013. Monday Magazine, founded in 1975 by Gene Miller, provided an alternative, critical perspective on local municipal affairs as well as weekly events listings and arts and culture reviews. Monday’s new format is a monthly magazine-style arts entertainment and recreation publication which excludes social justice issues, opinions and clubs listings but includes a new section on home decor and columns written by established media personalities. The monthly events listing draws attention to mainstream events such as Symphony Splash.
Journalist and UVic professor David Leach suggests that the changes to Monday and Nattrass’s column reflect the demise of alternative newsweeklies in general. He points to a flow of advertising revenue away from local newspapers and toward Internet platforms as a cause of the need to cut costs.
Simon Nattrass’s work can still be found in publications such as Focus and Eat Magazine and his self-titled blog.