Gay hiking

CBC Lifestyle reporter takes anti-wake hiking content for under-stacking

What’s the easiest and fastest way to make money as a writer or journalist? Many will tell you it’s about doing freelance writing work at ad agencies or moving into film and TV. But in reality, there’s a simple trick to getting more money, or at the very least more recognition, than most average writers could imagine: very publicly quitting your old journalism job because it’s too “woke” and start a Substack newsletter.

Leaving a job as an angry writer to join newsletteratti’s Truth Warriors has worked incredibly well for well-known journalists like alumni. New York Times editor and columnist Bari Weiss, Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald, former New York magazine writer Andrew Sullivan and Voice co-founder Matthew Yglesias.

Usually this approach only works well for people with name recognition, but a fellow Canadian proved that you don’t even need it to be hoisted as a free speech warrior as long as you type the correct words in the correct order.

On January 3, journalist Tara Henley, who says she has worked at the CBC as a “TV and radio producer” for the past decade, published a letter to her new Substack, titled Lean Out with Tara Henley (bend over is also the name of a book she published in March 2020). The message was titled “Speaking Freely”, with the subtitle “Why I quit the Canadian Broadcasting Company”.

The letter went viral and in parts of Canada trended on Twitter for two days with the slogan “defund the CBC”. Within hours, she became the anti-free-speech revival it-girl of the day, with her follower count tripling in the past few days. The room was retweeted by Greenwald, who praised her description of “the repressive environment where left-liberal ideology and woke pieties dictate ‘reporting’.” Weiss also retweeted it, saying, “Welcome to the desert.” Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Erin O’Toole noted he would like to “sit down” with her and hear her thoughts on how to fix the CBC. But what did she really have to say?

The much-loved article details how “for months” she received complaints from readers and viewers about the CBC, where she has reportedly worked since 2013, the growing number of which eventually led her to quit. Importantly, it appears she hasn’t “resigned” from any kind of permanent job. When I emailed the CBC for comment, Chief of Staff Chuck Thompson made this statement:

“Tara Henley was a temporary employee who worked in Vancouver and then Toronto as an associate producer for some of our local and regional radio shows. She also wrote a book review for the Ontario Syndication Service.

Yet his piece went on to say:

People want to know why, for example, non-binary Filipinos concerned about the lack of LGBT terms in Tagalog are an editorial priority for the CBC, while local issues of general concern go unreported… Or why, exactly, Taxpayers should fund articles that chastise Canadians for using words like “brainstorm” and “lame”.

What Henley is referring to are two different pieces. One is an article that appeared in the summer of 2021 titled “How non-binary Filipinos are reconciling their identities with the absence of LGBT terms in their language”, which by all accounts is a normal, well-reported journalism article on language and colonialism. The second is an article on some of the origins of common expressions, which does not berate anyone but rather provides context for the evolution of the meaning of certain words in public discourse. Henley goes on to write about his experience working at the CBC:

When I started working for the national public broadcaster in 2013, the network produced some of the best newspapers in the country. When I quit last month, he was embodying some of the worst trends in mainstream media. In a short time, the CBC went from being a reliable source of information to that of a producer of clickbait that reads like a parody of the student press.

A quick look at Tara’s earlier work shows that she fought hard to combat this kind of cultural Marxist propaganda with pieces such as “5 Zen Things to Do in Vancouver, Canada’s Cold Epicenter” and “The most breathtaking bike trails Vancouver has to offer.” and “Six Surprising Lessons We Can All Learn From Early Retirement Gurus.” I can only imagine that she narrowly avoided being silenced at every turn.

In fact, if you spend even twenty minutes browsing Henley’s journalism career, you’ll see that his bread and butter isn’t news or current events at all. So when she writes about ‘causing tension’ in a story meeting with her ‘opinions on issues like the housing crisis’, I wonder exactly when she became a strong advocate for these problems. In the past two years, Henley hasn’t even tweeted once about the housing crisis, an issue the CBC has covered extensively in the past few months alone. Almost all of her past stories in several Canadian publications are about books and the publishing industry, which she says later in her letter was the “hot line” during her 20-year career.

Indeed, Henley has been successfully covering Canadian books for years. In one piece, a profile of musician and writer Vivek Shraya, who wrote the book I’m afraid of menHenley writes:

Shraya’s latest release, I’m afraid of men, is an equally thin and accessible work that explores a fascinating subject: his strained relationship with masculinity. Her experiences as a queer trans girl, she writes, put her in a unique position “to address what makes a good man. That’s why we gathered today in this artistic district of Lotusland to leaf through books, drink coffee and talk about men.

His commentary on the housing crisis was surely cut. Either way, it sounds a lot like Henley dabbled in the kind of cultural writing that she says usurps “local issues of general concern.”

Henley’s rebranding as a free speech warrior is particularly interesting in light of a different piece she wrote in late October for The Globe and Mail on how Substack is “changing the writing game”. In it, she interviews Bari Weiss about the profitability of the newsletter platform. Obviously, she learned a lot.