What if I told you that a certain airport recently changed its media policy, embracing an iron-fisted approach when it comes to the practice of journalism?
For example, journalists planning on visiting this airport must provide 24 hours advance notice; the journalist and/or news organization would require “approval” in order to practice journalism; the journalists conducting interviews inside or even outside the airport would be “monitored” by an airport employee; and that in some cases “permits” would be required for filming.
Now, if you had to guess where such a draconian policy was being enforced, would you guess that the airport is situated in Iran, China, Cuba or North Korea?
Turns out its none of the above. Because these rules are now in effect at Toronto Pearson International Airport!
It’s bizarre. For decades, journalists would simply show up to this airport and go about their business practicing journalism. Then, several months ago, the media relations team at Pearson demanded to know when journalists planned on showing up (for reasons that remain murky). And now, comes a media relations policy that seems borrowed from a banana republic.
But why is this so-called “more formal policy” being put into place?
Our friend, Joe Warmington at the Toronto Sun, reached out to Ryan White, the manager of communications and media relations for the “Greater” Toronto Airport Authority.
White had this to say: “Hi Joe, of course, you and other media will always be welcome at the airport. This has nothing to do with access. This policy is just about knowing who is in the building at what time for safety issues and to ensure that our passenger services representatives are informed.”
Safety reasons? Yeah, I guess a microphone, or a notepad could be used as a weapon, albeit not a very good one. (By the way, I’m quoting Warmington’s column because when I reached out to White my emails were ignored. How’s that for “communication”?)
Regardless, the policy is downright nonsensical. For example, sometimes that which is known as “breaking news” (i.e., a plane crash) can occur at an airport. So, journalists are supposed to cover that event a day later when it is no longer… an event? (Little wonder the GTAA is now dialing back that moronic 24 hours' notice provision.)
And who at Pearson, pray tell, gets to approve and disapprove of the journalists and news organizations visiting the airport? And what’s with that GTA Big Brother toting along, monitoring the questions from journalists and the answers from passengers?
This is egregious.
Indeed, the Toronto Sun’s Warmington reached out to Transport Canada. Even they strongly disapprove of the GTAA’s reporting rules.
“Freedom of the press is at the core of our democracy and is a commitment for our government,” a spokesperson from the Office of the Minister of Transport told the Sun. “Pearson Airport’s new media policy is unacceptable, and our office will be reaching out directly to the Airport to express this concern.”
However, it should be noted that the GTAA is the operator of Pearson airport and is not part of the federal government.
And could the real reason for the new media policy be that Pearson has been suffering from multiple PR black eyes of late? Flight Aware, recently proclaimed Pearson as the WORST airport in the world. So, is this all about Pearson lashing back at the media for prickly news coverage?
In any event, we paid a visit to Pearson recently to interview our “monitor.” She was a nice lady and didn’t run away from our questions. But even so, I told her it was annoying to say the least that a kinder, gentler “Big Sister” was “monitoring” our reporting. Canada is still a democracy, is it not? And if “monitoring” of the free press is now a thing at airports, where else will this insidious practice spread to?