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The decision last week by long-time CBC journalist John Jeffery to throw his hat in the ring for the Conservatives didn’t raise many eyebrows in Island newsrooms, or in P.E.I. political circles.
It had long been speculated that Jeffery was thinking of making a run at provincial politics once his career in journalism was over. In fact, one of our reporters tried to question him on that but could never get to the bottom of it.
Jeffery has covered politics on Prince Edward Island for several decades and, like many Islanders, it seems he became smitten with the political bug. If that was the case, then just a few weeks ago the political landscape must have looked promising.
It was known Jeffery planned to retire early in the new year, which would leave a comfy 10-month gap before the expected October 2015 provincial election. That would allow him time to retire, take a breather and then launch into a new career. And from my perspective, good on him. Why not try something different?
But, as poet Robert Burns points out in his famous poem, sometimes things don’t go as planned.
“The best laid schemes o’ mice and men
Gang aft a-gley;
And leave us naught but grief and pain
For promised joy.”
First, out of the blue, Premier Robert Ghiz announced he planned to retire. Not long after, while Liberal cabinet ministers were shuffling their feet and wondering who would make the first move, Wade MacLauchlan announced he wanted the premier’s ring.
All of a sudden, the expected October 2015 election looked more and more like an April 2015 election. All of which changed many political plans, not the least of which were Jeffery’s.
Only Jeffery is not your normal P.E.I. politician. He has been a very high-profile individual for many years on P.E.I., appearing nightly on Islanders’ TV screens delivering political news about the province.
Like all Island journalists, he was in a position of trust. With trust comes responsibility, the need to be fair and unbiased, which I believe Jeffery always was.
I will not judge him on the quality of his work; I take no issue with it. And, I take no issue with the fact an Island journalist wants to try politics. Hey, I may make a run at it some day myself. It is every Islander’s right; it shouldn’t be reserved just for teachers and lawyers.
What I take issue with is that someone who had clearly made a personal decision to become involved in politics was allowed to continue to report on issues involving the upcoming election — the very election Jeffery wants to be a candidate in — until his last day at work. That doesn’t look good on him or his employer. But that’s the CBC’s problem, not mine.
What bothers me about the issue is that Jeffery was one of us — the great-unwashed Island media. And for those of us sick and tired of always being accused of having favourites and political bias, his timing — going from the studio to the campaign trail — did our reputation no favour.
Gary MacDougall is managing editor of The Guardian. He can be reached by telephone at (902) 629-6039; by email at email@example.com; or on Twitter.com/GaryGuardian.