The writer’s challenge and the publisher’s prerogative

by Diane Walsh

On the heels of the Winnipeg Anglican Synod Assembly vote that narrowly defeated a call for acceptance of same sex marriage, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who is Anglican and a staunch gay rights advocate, spoke candidly in an interview about this controversial issue. Her words were part of a longer interview that I had no problem selling to other publications.

In the interview, she described the history of the “old” Anglican church’s position. Her words were intended not only for the ears of Anglican followers but for all Canadians interested in this larger human rights debate. Unfortunately, her eloquent words about the Anglican Church and gay marriage remain unread as no publication picked up the piece, which I see as a journalistic gem. In my view, the journey taken by the Anglican Global Communion over the last few years is part of the Canadian cultural landscape. I was (and am) disappointed I couldn’t find anyone to publish May’s take on the matter.

I want to share the steps I took to get the piece published:  I approached a popular Toronto gay publication that was willing to read May’s perspective on the Anglican controversy. In the end, the editor explained that because it was primarily a gay men’s lifestyle magazine, the interview “didn’t quite suit.” An alternative city-weekly and a relatively new, progressive magazine in Victoria refused to look at the piece based on my pitch, which frankly threw me because anything on May usually elicits some interest. Happily for me, every other non-Anglican-related word recorded during my interview with May found a home. (The Calgary-based gay magazine Outlooks published one piece in the October 2007 issue as did the gay publication Xtra!West in its July 19th, 2007 Vancouver edition.)

What have I learned from the experience? That journalists and editors don’t see eye to eye about news values. What I deem critically important for the public to read, especially controversial issues from newsworthy individuals, an editor might not agree. Therein lies the nugget of my complaint and frustration. Was I, as a journalist, persisting with a story that had no legs? How long should I believe in a story’s worth? In the end, even though I was never able to find a home for the story, I still think it’s a good one. So what should I do? You can read the interview here and judge for yourself. I hope J-Source readers will respond.