Political Correctness dominates our country in this day and age, so it’s only natural that the educators at my college drilled it into our sponge-like brains when learning how to be future journalists of this country.
Never donate ideas, policies and documents. Never seek to minimize social and institutional offense to occupations, genders, races, cultures, ages and never ever promote your orientation above others- our Prime Minister Stephen Harper had to learn that the hard way last July.
Although we as journalists must abide by the many times poisonous stances of political correctness, luckily, journalists nationwide have a powerful shield that gives us the power to inform citizens, whether it be good news or bad.
It’s called Freedom of the Press.
The Freedom of the Press gives journalists, publishers, editors and any other person of the press the right to publish newspapers, magazines and other printed matter without governmental restriction and subject only to the laws of libel, obscenity, sedition and indecency.
I was recently put in a position where I was able to put that right into practice, when I was asked to send over a controversial article I wrote for edit before our paper was to be released.
Here’s the story.
The Pass Herald was given a tip that the local Crowsnest Pass Hospital has or had mold in a family room and the mold had been there for some time. Initially, I was confused why this was the first I was hearing of this.
For news of that calibre, usually the local newspaper would receive a press release or a phone call so that we could inform the citizens of the problem that can ultimately affect nearly all of us. But, it wasn’t released to our newspaper; we had to discover the news on our own.
When we were finally notified of the problem, I immediately investigated.
I went into the hospital and took photos of a couple empty hallways to accompany the article I would later write. However, it seems that my investigative skills are still fairly rusty, as I was quickly noticed and was given a talking-to.
I was told that it is illegal to take photos of a privately owned institution and that my photos must be approved prior to the flash on my camera going off.
In all honestly, I was unaware of this rule. That day in the hospital, I was simply trying to do my job as an informer. Perhaps you could say that I was being guileful, but in my opinion, so was the hospital for keeping this news from the press.
After my short lecture, I was asked to leave the hospital and I did. Unfortunately, the story does not end there.
The next day I received a series of phone calls from members of Alberta Health Care, each person explaining the severity of my actions the day before. I apologized and told each caller the same thing: “I was unaware that my actions were illegal.”
I understand that ambling down the hospital hallways taking photos of hospital patients is definitely not acceptable. I am well aware that to take a picture of someone in a potentially unfavorable manner that would later be printed in a newspaper would require his or her permission. However, please know that I was going out of my way to find deserted areas, closed off spaces, and abandoned nooks and crannies of that hospital. I did not want photos of people; I wanted photos of the mold in the hospital.
Nonetheless, if it is not permitted to take photos of empty hallways, then I will abide.
However, what I will not do is allow Alberta Health Care to edit and read my article on the grim mold issue at the Crowsnest Pass Hospital before it is printed.
This is what was asked of me. And this is why I am thankful there is such a thing as Freedom of the Press.
I hope everyone enjoyed my article on the mold in the Crowsnest Pass Hospital, found on page 1 of this issue. Please remember that it is not my job to let the public rewrite my articles in ways that are favourable and appealing to them. It is my job to tell the truth and that is what I will strive to do until my retirement.