From the TV studio to election campaign

Gary MacDougall
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John Jeffrery

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; or on

Organizations: CBC, Conservatives, The Guardian

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • Frank
    February 08, 2015 - 08:49

    It's hard to fault CBC for "allowing" Jeffery to keep reporting on politics when he gave no indication that he would run in the next election.

  • so sad
    February 08, 2015 - 07:00

    How about a real story how do you spend 25000 on a leadership campaign when there wasn't one.Wow we see who the donors were the guardian always has trouble following the money.And gary we know who you'd run for this is a liberal newspaper.

    • Idiots
      February 08, 2015 - 17:11

      Funny how idiots are always calling this a liberal newspaper and NEVER have a damn word to back up their garbage. Bunch of mindless sheep spewing con talking points.

  • no story here
    February 07, 2015 - 13:02

    There's only a story if the media makes it one! There are other reporters that I would question about their bias to the liberal party!! Every time the Tory's have a meeting they always report less people attending then they actually have! People also, need to remember that this is the same news paper that puts, car accident on their web/ front page before the families are notified, its all about to selling papers and reports getting a bi-line!

  • Aongasha
    February 07, 2015 - 11:21

    First Gary let's be clear, it may not be true in your case, but it is no secret that many in the 'unwashed' PEI media are rightly seen as biased. There have been so many failures of censorship and omission amongst them one could write a book. The PNP story and the involvement of some in the media, is only one such example of the press's failure to give us the complete story. There are many more and I have no doubt you are familiar with most of them. But your Island colleagues are no different than your counterparts in the national media and the Ottawa Press Gallery. Look at any political news aggregator on any day of the week and you'll notice a preponderance of stories and columns all seemingly slanted one way. Does this happen by accident, like the price of gas at supposedly independant service stations across the country all changing on the same day? Don't think so. Pack mentality and the gotcha! is what journalism has been reduced to. Polls on the media continuously show that the public's trust in its ethics and honesty are on a steep downward trend and have been for some time. That's perhaps an issue you might want to address.

  • fudle dudle
    February 07, 2015 - 08:10

    With what else goes on in PEI politics, J.J.' s 'SIN' is minor, who really gives a fig if he goes from one thing to an other, -- people in the media always think they are special cases, Gary, and who might you run for, Gary ? The answer to that might be key to WHY you take exception to JJ.