— Lee van der Voo (@lvdvoo) January 22, 2013
Lee van der Voo tells Romenesko readers: I was just informed by State Farm here in Oregon, where I’m an independent investigative journalist, that they are dumping my office rental policy because of the kind of journalism I do. I asked whether if I were to write food reviews or puff pieces about bridal gowns they would insure me, and I was told yes, “just no controversial journalism.”
My landlord requires I have property insurance on the office I use for work, and I went to State Farm a couple weeks ago because I needed a new policy and I do all my other business with them. I own a house and insure it through State Farm, along with the three cars I’ve owned over the last 12 years. They pre-approved the rental policy and I paid for it. But apparently a State Farm underwriter decided today that I’m out, based on a visit to my web site. They say they can’t separate the property insurance I need from any potential liability issues that could arise.
The real pickle is this leaves me with two extremely crappy options: I can either withdraw the coverage myself and go without property insurance and risk losing my office, or I can continue coverage for 45 days – which State Farm is now obligated to provide me by law – but in exchange I will get an official letter of rejection that I’ll have to carry henceforth from one insurer to the next.
I’m more than a little worried about what this means for my office security, and for indie journalism. It’s hard enough to get liability coverage – a good number of bloggers and freelancers already work without it – but if meaningful, probing, and thought-provoking news coverage can clean a freelancer out of property insurance, then investigative journalism just got a little harder.
UPDATE: Brad Hilliard of State Farm’s Oregon office sent this Thursday morning: “I wanted to let you know that I have seen the post from Lee van der Voo. I am researching this issue and will get back to you today on it.”
His follow-up email:
“Some customers have highly specialized needs when it comes to insurance. We sometimes try to find other avenues for protection if we evaluate their needs and determine another product or carrier can best meet those needs.”
Also, see Van der Voo’s comment posted at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday.