A time to mourn. What will become of independent journalism?

Entrenched as I have been in municipal campaign matters, I have had little time to do much more than absorb the shock of Sean Holman shutting down Public Eye Online and keep on going. But today, with a brief moment to sit and have a coffee, I really took some time to mourn. Frankly, if Sean can’t make it work independently, independents and bloggers like myself are all wondering the same thing: What will become of us ? If Sean couldn’t make it sustainable, will we all succumb to the same fate?

One thing I know,for all the tearful, shocked emotions some felt at the news, there were likely just as many smiling faces among those whose Sean’s work targeted. Frankly, that worries me, because Sean is one in a million. His site unarguably stands as a record to some of the best investigative work ever done, and done on his terms alone. I read in the Tyee that he alone, was responsible for 25% of all government FOI requests. That’s a lot of truth that might never see the light of day now.

It’s never easy being independent, forging your own path, making your own trails where none exist, but it is a rewarding one. I mourn the loss of Public Eye Online, I mourn what it reflects in readers understanding of what exactly working independently means. It costs money to write independently, even on my own site –  to do freedom of information requests, research, company searches, travel … even bus tickets all add up, and that doesn’t even include making a profit so you are self-sustaining. Advertisements are often a double-edged sword, since even that is often construed as being influenced. What alternatives do we have, I ask you?

In the age where Press and Politics  meet in an ever blurring line, Sean Holman was a breath of fresh air. And I will miss that dearly. A tip of the hat to you Sean, for everything you gave the people of B.C.  I look forward to whatever ventures, and adventures, life brings you.

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7 Responses to A time to mourn. What will become of independent journalism?

  1. Sue Stroud says:

    Have a look at http://saanichvoiceonline.ca/ this is a great new online and hardcopy paper that has really done a lot of investigative reporting on local issues. See the piece on the Taj Mahal of tennis courts or the recent ones on openness and recording the votes in Central Saanich, lots of good stuff. has really made the local Black Press sit up and take notice.

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  2. Norm Farrell says:

    Sadly, Sean’s archive must be at risk too because it costs hard cash to maintain that online. And, loss of that material would be devastating to independent writers. I frequently rely on Sean Holman’s work, especially older material, for what I produce at Northern Insights.

    Free speech is not free, yet millions of readers want it to be so if its found on the Internet. The amount of time needed to maintain a website of any value is immense. Those of us who continue trying to offer fact and informed commentary do so voluntarily so this is not a complaint but highly skilled young people and others who must earn their livings are unlikely to join our ranks. They must advance professional careers when they can.

    I understand Sean Holman’s need to move on. He produced excellent work, produced with solid ethics. It is our shame as readers that Public Eye does not survive.

    I wish we can find a way – frankly, that means money – to establish an independent investigative newsroom in BC, modelled in some ways on ProPublica. It would not be a magazine, instead it would focus on a few important investigations.

    Sean Holman would make a fine senior editor. It could be done for about 10% of what the Fraser Institute spends on right-wing propaganda. Anyone out there prepared to put the financing together?

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  3. Lynn says:

    Laila,
    I’m all for you placing ads on your blog if it means you can geberate some operating cash.
    No doubt the crooks are throwing a party over Sean shutting down the site.
    When one good guy moves on there will be others to take his or her place. So don’t party like its 1999 crooked people.

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  4. Lalia;

    This is an open letter. But not to you the Independent, rather to the BC Left.

    Namely the Left that slammed Sean Holman for taking $10/month and allowing me to speak before, during and after on his blog. A member of The Left that said on the Tyee comments I was “a troll” on his blog – even though I have demanded Sean Holman get an Order of BC & defended his valour in holding MCFD w/ a certain Minister Polak to account. You may know her, she has libertarian ideology, moxie and was the heroine of 2009 turning Carole James’ pants into flames.

    You Lefties weep your crocodile tears now but you should understand this: If you could not stomach me, then you know in your heart why BCLibs win elections. It is because you lack the drive, the zeal to compete and therefore strive to be better, you cannot sell any kind of liberty to people and therefore as Sean Holman once said, the BCLibs are “arrogant” and the BCNDP are “incompetent”.

    Obviously last weekend, I listened again to the moral country farmer and small businesswoman Lana Popham interview Sean Holman back in 2009. In that interview, Sean Holman said if he would run as MLA he would do so as an Independent. I agree. It’s time the BCLibs under Premier Christy Clark, MLA got cut down to being dependent on the support of Vicki Huntington, Bob Simpson and Sean Holman until the time The Alise shows up to play Premier Alise Mills and clean The House up, let me fix CLBC with extreme prejudice only a disabled person can execute, and FIRE Ka$h Heed Trump-style.

    You see, I have an independent streak too. Oh and I have some good news for you: Your chants of ‘Go Home Yankee’ will happen.

    My home state of Washington is setting fire to accessible higher education, basic health care & services for the disabled. So as I drink my fourth soda pop of the day thanks to self-medication for depression, listen to “Get Started” by Queensryche, then play “Medal of Honor” one more time so I don’t say what I want to say and then polish off this draft… let me tell you the Spirit of Sean Holman lives on. I’m going Down There to get the facts out in my own way very soon… inspired by Sean Holman & Heather Brooke with some Marummy zeal and the full Alise Mills Treatment on tap.

    So as my afterburners scorch hopefully a few Dippers on the way out… Holman may have to downsize but he did start a few more Public Eyes. Like this blog of Laila’s. Like mine I’m currently building. Stay tuned because what Sean Holman started will not be the end, no it is the end of the beginning of hope beating fear, of The Revolution Will Be Digitised where people power will win out in the end.

    OFF HOT

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  5. Canadian Canary says:

    It’s odd how the public will pay for advertising (corporate news media), but not for content with journalistic depth and integrity such as provided by Sean Holman and the other fine BC bloggers like Laila, Norm, Alex, Ian, Harvey, Rafe and Mary…).

    Best wishes Sean.

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  6. Sean Holman says:

    Thanks for the kind words Laila, as well as everyone else who has comment. It was a very difficult decision, obviously. I loved every minute of reporting on provincial politics. But, at the end of the day, I can’t spend 12 to 14 hours a day shedding light on the back rooms if it doesn’t come with a livable paycheque. That’s the reality of the work. It’s not a part-time business or something that can be adequately done by volunteers. It’s something that requires devotion and backing. I had one part of that equation, just not the other in sufficient quantity. It is possible Public Eye will be back if I can figure out how to sustain. And remember, I’m not going away. I’m just taking a step back. I’ll continue running my radio show on CFAX and working on other journalistic projects – including a documentary. So stay tuned.

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  7. Laila says:

    Looking forward to all of it Sean! Still mourning though…; (

    I really understand where you are coming from. I would love to do nothing else but my site but as you point out so well, you can’t spend all that time working without having a livable paycheque, which is why I have to cut back on what I do at times as well. Many great bloggers are retired(Harv and Norman) and can spend more time on it, which I think we all appreciate and enjoy. I can’t spend that much time on it, without taking that time from elsewhere. I really like Normans idea of an independent newsroom. If the business model can be found that makes it work in a manner the writers can make a living from that, I am all for it.

    But then again, Canadian Canary sums it up. I do think most people expect and admire the work that is done for free, not perhaps realising that it costs us all. A wonderful reader I met at the first day 1 rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery touched my heart with his offering, clearly realising what we commit to do this. If everyone were as on board as that, it would be a beautiful thing.

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