The perils of blacktop and minders

Gary MacDougall
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An old Dire Straits lyric comes to mind when I think of two recent incidents in which Guardian journalists ran afoul of society’s minders.

In the song Telegraph Road, the British band sang, “Then came the lawyers, and then came the rules.”

Both of our journalistic indiscretions involved us being in places we apparently weren’t suppose to be.

No, we didn’t have someone hiding behind a plant at a meeting of the provincial cabinet, or eavesdropping on a security meeting for the upcoming royal visit.

Rather, we were accused of acting improperly in parking lots. Before anyone’s imagination gets carried away, I will quickly point out both Guardian journalists were fully clothed so nothing of a lewd nature was involved.

It was the mere fact we were on the parking lots, and uninvited, that got us a bit of a scolding.

In the first incident, one of our photographers took a picture of a commissionaire at work at the parking toll booth at the QEH. Normally we would have called ahead to Health P.E.I. to say we were coming, but in this case it was around suppertime so we just sent the photographer out.

The photographer was instructed to clearly identify who he was and who he was representing, as well as to explain that the newspaper needed a picture to illustrate a story about hospital parking fees.

While it is true the commissionaire may have been a bit uncertain whether she should go along with the request for a picture, in the end she did. She also provided her name. Perhaps, like us, she thought 'hey, it’s not a big deal; it’s a story about parking fees.'

What happened in the following days isn’t entirely clear but one of two things likely occurred. Either someone at Health P.E.I. complained to the Commissionaire Corps that the woman should not have allowed her picture to be taken or the corps itself didn’t like it.

The result was the woman received a minor reprimand.

Minor or major, someone badly overreacted. In terms of a reality check, we are talking about a photograph being taken in a publicly owned parking lot.

A few days later one of our reporters was in the student parking lot at Bluefield high school in Hampshire. She was there to get student reaction to the controversy about B.C. teenager Brooklyn Mavis. The teen was scheduled to participate in a class exchange trip to P.E.I. but her trip was cancelled after she had a seizure during a school outing last month in her home province.

P.E.I. school officials were concerned if she was up for a visit to the Island.

The Guardian reporter was first approached by a Bluefield staffer who wanted to know if the school had been informed she was coming. It had not.

A few minutes later three school staffers came out and politely advised our reporter to leave.

Before the reporter arrived back at The Guardian office, a complaint had been received from the school board.

Institutions like Health P.E.I. and schools have a love/hate relationship with the media. They love to see us when it comes to providing positive publicity, but the amore quickly wears thin when it doesn’t suit them.

Oh well, rules are rules I suppose. But a William Shakespeare play comes to mind when I think both about this column, and some of the individuals we dealt with in the two incidents. His play was called “Much Ado About Nothing.”

- Gary MacDougall is managing editor of The Guardian. He can be reached by telephone at (902) 629-6039; by email at; or on

Organizations: Health P.E.I., QEH, Commissionaire Corps P.E.I. school

Geographic location: Telegraph Road, Bluefield, Hampshire

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