Mandy, Lal and Frederica at the Journalism Awards in 2010.
Editor Frederica Jansz has been fired from The Sunday Leader, she says for not agreeing with the new owner to “curb her style of writing and compromise her credibility” (BBC). I worked at the Leader for a while and what I hear is that the new owner, connected stock player Asanga Seneviratne, did ask her to run any personal criticism of the first family (the Rajapaksas) by him. Which could be innocuous but could be dodge, most likely the latter.
The Leader in the past has attacked people personally, unnecessarily and at times inaccurately. I’ve long complained about that turn of affairs, written about it, and basically lost my job at the Leader for one particular blog post (among other things, of course, no beef). I do think the Leader lost its way, insomuch as it had one, and they went overboard sometimes. Sadly, a lot of people won’t believe what the Leader publishes even if it’s true and the picture of the paper is much more conflicted than the angelic image it has in the western press.
However, for all its flaws, it was still one of the few places where anything goes. I’ve been at those editorial meetings and the Leader was incredibly free-wheeling, perhaps too much so.
I’ve worked with Frederica for years, both at the Leader and Montage and like her very much. She took time to ensure that writers got paid (rare) and helped me develop my career quite selflessly and happily. I’ve been yelled at also, but she was always supportive and cool. Being Editor of the Leader was never an easy job but I think she did pretty well. Even her mistakes were newsworthy and she became a media personality in her own right.
The Leader long had financial troubles, struggling to make payroll at times, and they needed to get bought out. The sad fact of this, however, is that by being bought by someone with vital business connections with the government, the paper will be compromised. It won’t hit-hit-hit, which is good in that they hit a bit too randomly, but it’s bad in that it’ll probably become neutered like The Nation, a good paper with a good Editor that nonetheless lacks teeth.
So that’s what you’re left with in English papers. I once contributed to an Editorial in the Leader called You Buy The Lie. It’s in the paper’s voice, not mine, and I think it kinda applies today.