Why I will no longer be contributing to Hart House Blog

If you follow me on Twitter, you may know that I’ve been a Hart House blogger since the new year. I like blogging, I am passionate about student life, and I have a lot of personal ties to Hart House, so it made a lot of sense to blog for them. I was getting paid to do something that I did anyway, so it seemed like a great idea!

Within the next few months, I blogged as I normally would, but tried to put a student-oriented spin to my content. It was nice to have a larger platform on which to say what I always said, so I put a lot of effort into my posts in hopes that people would be drawn to read my posts out of the many other student bloggers on the blog.

Being a rather controversial person, I fully expected to experience censorship, and several times, my posts came back to me. I happily complied, realizing that it was a blog that was inextricably tied to a university…until one day, as I was reading one of my posts online, I noticed that my writing had been…DEFILED.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. There had been major edits to my work without my knowledge or permission, prior to publishing it under my name. I noticed that they had made a few grammatical corrections, but they had also introduced grammatical errors, and changed the meanings of the things that I had written.

I contacted the editor immediately, asking what had happened, and she responded tersely that as a paid contributor (To be clear, I’m a freelancer, I don’t work for hire.), my writing was subject to edits without notice.

I spent the day trying to figure out the difference between editing and a violation of my rights. Even if my work can be edited, do I get to sign off on the final version of it? I actually couldn’t find most of the information, and I realized that one of the problems was that Hart House Blog hadn’t provided a policy for our work. Ironically, I had put in my to-do list an item to find out who retained the copyright to my posts, but had put it on the back burner, considering it a low-priority task.

I took a good look at the moral rights section of Canada’s copyright act, and I couldn’t quite resolve the issue. After all, it was clear that the editor had intended to “clean up” my writing. It was just unfortunate that the editing staff seemed to lack a strong grasp of grammar, and just omitted terms they were unfamiliar with, rather than doing their job and finding out what it meant. I felt that publishing my post riddled with typos, sentence fragments and incomplete thoughts that were not originally there, did indeed fall under distorting, mutilating or modifying my work to the prejudice of my honour or reputation (Copyright Act section 28), but of course I wasn’t going to pursue a lawsuit.

I decided to take the path of least resistance, and I asked the editor to revert some of the changes that they had made to my latest post, and explained each error that they had made. And since I didn’t want to just lie down and take it, I wrote a snappy piece on copyright, and how it’s relevant to post secondary students. The editor (understandably) refused to publish it, and suggested that I stop writing for them if I was uncomfortable with the editing.

Honestly, I’m not uncomfortable with my work being edited to genuinely clean up my writing. It’s just when the changes are so heavy-handed that it takes away from the true intention of my post, and when they add errors that I get upset.

Anyway, that’s the very long story of why I’ve stopped blogging for Hart House. Thanks for reading.

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Comments
One Response to “Why I will no longer be contributing to Hart House Blog”
  1. Elana says:

    In a nutshell, that’s why I quit Onoscatopoeia and founded Countermeasure. I really couldn’t deal with the way Hart House made seemingly arbitrary decisions and refused to be transparent about their policies, and some individuals got very ornery when I called them on it. I generally felt that they consider students to be fungible resources; if they offend one student’s sensibilities, it can be replaced with another of the thousands of us. Oh well. If only Hart House fees were opt-out.

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