NOW Magazine says the disappearance of two articles from its website that featured criticisms of one of its advertising clients was not approved by management, and that it is investigating who deleted them.
Last month, the Toronto-based alternative weekly published a series of sponsored content ads that commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Harris Institute, an audio production college where NOW previously reported that students allegedly complained of verbal harassment by a teacher and some questioned a controversial “free speech” policy.
The package includes three “sponsored features” on the NOW site, which are laid out in a format similar to the publication’s news articles, as well as five profiles of Harris staff members, six profiles of school alumni and a two-minute long co-branded promotional video.
Meanwhile, captures by The Internet Archive show that two stories about the Institute, published in November 2015 and authored by freelance writer and former NOW staffer Benjamin Boles, are no longer accessible on the publication’s website.
Boles’ two pieces, headlined “Harris Institute president defends anti-political correctness policy” and “Harris students say teachers’ bad behaviour impetus for new policy”, covered a 2015 controversy that followed the school’s introduction of a “Political Correctness Policy.” The policy required students to sign a “Rules Of Civility agreement” in which they agreed not to participate in the “shouting down of opposing views.”
“We are trying to get to the bottom of this,” said NOW editorial director Enzo DiMatteo, in an e-mail to CANADALAND. “It was not approved by anyone with the authority to approve it is what we know at this point.”
DiMatteo added that NOW doesn’t know who removed the posts.
“This has become a personnel matter at this point.”
In a follow up e-mail, he further clarified that Boles’ articles were not only unpublished from the website, they were deleted entirely from NOW’s content management system.
In Boles’ first piece, published on November 13, Harris Institute president James Harris defended the policy, which some viewed as an edict that students should tolerate bigoted or otherwise hateful views.
“The whole political correctness area has become a major challenge for post-secondary schools across North America, and I’ve witnessed it here with increasing sensitivities to language and ideas,” he said. “We reflect and service the music industry, and many would say that the music industry is one of the most politically incorrect environments, and we’re obligated to properly prepare students to enter that environment.”
Boles’ second piece was published on November 23, and contained allegations from a former student that the new policy was created after students complained about the school’s lack of an anti-harassment policy.
The student alleged that the Political Correctness Policy followed multiple complaints about a teacher who lectured “students on the sinfulness of homosexuality and abortion,” while another was allowed to remain on the job for a short time after being charged with seven counts of committing an indecent act. (The Harris Institute said the teacher who made the remarks about homosexuality was cautioned to cease doing so under threat of losing his job.)
Boles did not reply to a request for comment.
The web addresses where the articles were formerly hosted currently display a “Page Not Found” notice. An additional web page capture by the Internet Archive show the November 13 article has been down since at least March 2018, while there were no additional web page captures made of the November 23 article after 2015.
NOW’s website today features a promotion of the controversial policy: one of the three sponsored features reads, “In 2015, Harris Institute was the first post-secondary school to introduce a comprehensive Political Correctness Policy that ensured free speech and the open exchange of ideas.”
Disclosure: CANADALAND’s News Editor, Jonathan Goldsbie, is a former staff writer at NOW. He did not participate in the production of this article.
Top image: A screenshot of a video NOW Magazine produced for the Harris Institute.