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I’ve never been thrown out of a classroom before, so when it happened for the first time last week I was in utter shock, especially because it was at the hands of the former minister of education.
It all began with a media advisory sent to The Ryersonian on Sept. 10 notifying us that the premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, would be helping the Ted Rogers school of business management kick off its annual MBA lecture series with a sit-down Q-and-A session. All students and staff were invited.
Knowing how interested our readers had been when Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau visited the week before, The Ryersonian prepared to cover Wynne’s trip to Rye similarly with a live blog, video content and a photo for the paper. But those plans quickly went down the drain shortly after I received a tap on the shoulder from a TRS spokesperson and was told the event was closed to media. Our team from the ‘Sonian and reporters from our rival paper the Eyeopener were forced to leave.
The fact I have press credentials and am on my way to a journalism degree shouldn’t have been the deciding factor in whether or not I could stay in the room.
Campus media should have been allowed to stay and listen to the speech. While we are reporters, we are also students. Had The Ryersonian not shown up with photo and video cameras, our identities would never have been revealed and we would have received the same treatment as every other student there.
The fact I have press credentials and am on my way to a journalism degree shouldn’t have been the deciding factor in whether or not I could stay in the room — especially when there was nothing stopping the other students from partaking in a little citizen journalism by snapping a photo on their phone or jotting down some quotes.
The media should not have been barred from the event to begin with: invitations had been issued and the talk was being streamed online. If the premier was about to give away provincial secrets, you’d think she would do it without a live stream and a class full of students, right?
According to the spokesperson, the media denial was a recent request from Wynne’s office — a request that was never communicated to us.
The premier’s press office told me, “The premier’s office was unaware that any media had been invited.”
The TRS spokesperson said, “When the event was originally planned, we were told that it was open to the media and we prepared accordingly. Unfortunately, there seems have been a disconnect, and, just before the event, we were informed that media were not able to attend.”
But these answers don’t cut it. Repeating the event’s media policy doesn’t tell me why it was put in place. In fact, it shows me that no one considered what an opportunity this would be for the entire student body.
With Wynne as the former education minister, I thought her office would be the most sympathetic to students. In January, when she released her Liberal leader platform she said, “I want to foster that discussion directly between the premier and the students.” I didn’t realize by students, it meant ones without a little media training and a publication backing them.
The lesson that day should have been learning how to accurately capture the words of a government official. Instead, it was a lesson in prohibitive media policies.
The chance to see and hear the premier speak doesn’t often come, but when it does, it should be something that everyone on campus can take part in — camera or no camera.