As from this Sunday you will be able to follow J’accuse on the Independent on Sunday. You may know that until a few weeks ago I had a personal column on the Sunday Times. Last Sunday my article was not published and I would like to be clear why this happened.
1. I had been asked by the Times to start writing a fortnightly column on “alternative thought provoking subjects”. The verbal agreement included that I would try to keep away as much as possible from politics to avoid having too much politics on the Sunday paper and to introduce different subjects to the reader. This obviously implied that I would not submit similar articles to any other paper.
2. On the 8th of February I submitted an article entitled “Waste Not, Want Not” that dealt with the Wasted Vote issue. Steve Mallia, the Sunday Times editor informed me that this could not be published because it is “core politics”. Notwithstanding my feeling uncomfortable with this restriction due to it being an electoral period, I complied with the editor’s request to submit alternative material (article “Win or lose we go shopping after the election“). Steve Mallia agreed to pass on the political article to Ray Bugeja in order that it be considered for publication in the weekly edition. For the record, the Editorial of Sunday 10th February concluded “And if the election produces a coalition government, that loser would be Malta.”
3. Throughout the beginning of the following week I mailed Mr Bugeja a couple of Times requesting confirmation that he received the article and posisbly a date for publication. Not having received an acknowledgement of any kind and fearing that the article would become outdated I sent the article off as a letter to the Independent on Sunday.
4. Steve Mallia was not pleased that the article was sent “to the competition” and as a result his first reaction was to ask me not send any more articles to the Times. I explained that, in the first place, I had given ample time to the Times to inform me of their intention of whether or not they would publish the article, and secondly, any rights of exclusivity the Times might wish to claim over my article writing services were limited to articles whose subject matter was strictly not political. Steve Mallia offered to rediscuss the issue on condition that I ” withdraw the article from the Independent”. By the time I reluctantly contacted the Independent I was informed that it was too late.
5. I sent an article for my next appointment with the Times in any case (for the record it was an article entitled “Far from the Election Crowd” and dealt with skiing) but this was not published. Again, for the record, the article published in its stead is that by Mark Anthoy Falzon (a good one at that) about representation of women in Maltese politics. Not a very non-political one at that.
At this point I considered that my verbal agreement for the offering of services to the Times of Malta had been unilaterally terminated by the Times. Steve Mallia has his reasons and I respect his editorial prerogative.
I would only like to say that I would never accept that a paper – whichever it is – can assume that because I am contractually tied to submitting articles of a non-political nature – can assume that it has a monopoly on whatever I write. Particularly in an election period when time is money and ideas need to get out fast.
I would like to make it clear that I hold no grudge against the Times or its editor. They have their policy, they have a right to stick to it. I do not agree with it nor with their terms. That is why I choose to move on.
At this point I would like to thank the Independent on Sunday Editor, Noel Grima, who notwithstanding the not infrequent criticism from this blog regarding the Indy’s hunting for articles (especially in the recent Blog quoting issue) immediately accepted to provide me with the necessary space to express myself.
As for the rest… publish and be damned.