Unknown Victoria

Victoria: The Unknown City is a guidebook to an eccentric town on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. This is the author's blog. Look here for Victoria lore, updates and additions to the book, and hate mail.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A City Worth Defending

Dear Reader: sorry I haven’t posted anything new here for several weeks, but paying assignments (e.g. about artificial reefs) take priority. I’ll be back soon with news about the Songhees caves and my recent visit to the secretive Masonic Temple and Odd Fellows’ Hall, among other things.

I cannot resist the urge to quickly mention a few items in the local news, however. First off, the Capital Regional District has just released a report confirming that Victoria needs sewage treatment. You can read the entire $605,000 document here, but the quick and dirty conclusion reached by the blue-ribbon panel is that a growing city cannot keep dumping its poo into the sea.

The CRD announced that it will spend the next six months pondering where to build a treatment facility, and how to pay for it. But Victorians are already expressing outrage: the phone lines on the talk-show station CFAX were afire this morning with cranky taxpayers literally claiming that our shit doesn't stink. It has no effect on sea life, they argued, and besides, spraying treated sewage on crops is disgusting. Which seems contradictory: if it’s too toxic to put on crops, we shouldn’t be dumping it in the ocean. But faulty logic has never prevented Victorians from defending the status quo.

The other big local storyline concerns the media itself. As many have heard, 17 employees were cut from Victoria’s A-Channel yesterday, after it was announced that the TV station and everything else owned by CHUM is being purchased by CTV/BellGlobemedia. What's more shocking is news that the Times Colonist axed Sunday columnist Vivian Smith because she recently wrote a piece critical of the city’s boring, overpriced tourist attractions. As Sean Holman reported at his Public Eye Online, the cut was ordered by publisher Bob Mackenzie, after he met with a delegation of aggrieved tourism operators who advertise in the paper.

The common theme to these stories? All too often, Victoria is a gutless, fearful place – and that's as true of its media as its penny-pinching citizenry. It's yet another aspect of the city that remains unpublicized, if not truly Unknown.

UPDATE (July 24, 2006): Some amazing reversals recently. Last Friday the provincial government announced that it will financially back sewage treatment – and suddenly the city is excitedly talking about building a state-of-the-art facility that could produce fertilizer or biodiesel. And today, Sean Holman reports, T-C publisher Bob Mackenzie has apologized for suspending Vivian Smith's column, assured the staff that the paper-thin wall between advertising and editorial remains intact, and invited Smith to return to the T-C's pages in the autumn. So maybe we really can turn poo into gold – and perhaps Victoria really is more courageous than it first appears.


At 9:22 AM, Anonymous G-Man said...

I applaud your comments about Victoria's media. This is a brave stance for a Journalist.

I too am deeply dismayed about the firing of the TC Columnist for essentially telling it like it is. Once a media organization begins to cave to its advertisers it becomes difficult to stand up to them at a later date.

About waste disposal, let us just see it as a 300 million dollar PR campaign.

At 7:18 PM, Anonymous H. West said...

Crazy--just like ransom payments--allow one and the floodgates are open.

Especially with clients like Butchart Gardens which spent untold thousands on multi-week, full-page, full-colour advertising sections earlier this year in the T/C.

Here's the NY Times policy:


"85. No one in our news departments (except when authorized by top news executives) may exchange information with the advertising department or with advertisers about the timing or content of advertising, the timing or content of news coverage or the assignment of staff or freelance news people.


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