As a journalist, my career revolves around interviewing distinct people throughout the community, while quoting their stories, and sharing their experiences and opinions with the rest of the world.
You can imagine my surprise when two weeks ago, I saw my own name in print, proceeding my quote, in an article written about my experience.
The experience felt backwards and bizarre. Here is a quick recap.
After uncovering the mould in the Crowsnest Pass Health Centre and devoting my bi-weekly column on my experiences to follow, my newspaper and myself were suddenly a target of interest by Canadian newspapers, columnists, and fellow journalists from all over the country.
The media felt that it was heroic and brave to uncover an issue the Alberta Health Services had been reluctant to reveal, and turned us into a province wide news story.
My name, and the names of my publisher and editor were featured in an article written by Don Braid, columnist for the Calgary Herald. I also saw my name on websites such as the Edmonton Journal, Canada.com, Wildrose.ca, and numerous blogs and personal websites.
The Rutherford show and CBC news also called the Pass Herald up.
Close to 20 emails were sent to the Pass Herald or to myself directly congratulating and praising us on our journalism and reporting bravery the previous week.
If you’re surprised right now, I can assure and reassure you that my astonishment was twice as great as yours.
This amount of attention suddenly bestowed on the Pass Herald from media stations from all over the province and country was truly unexpected and unplanned.
I went into the hospital and took photos of a couple empty hallways to accompany the article I would later write. However, it seems that my investigative skills are still fairly rusty, as I was quickly noticed and was given a talking-to.
I was told that it is illegal to take photos of a privately owned institution and that my photos must be approved prior to the flash on my camera going off.
In all honestly, I was unaware of this rule. That day in the hospital, I was simply trying to do my job as an informer. Perhaps you could say that I was being guileful, but in my opinion, so was the hospital for keeping this news from the press.
After my short lecture, I was asked to leave the hospital and I did. Unfortunately, the story does not end there.
The next day I received a series of phone calls from members of Alberta Health Care, each person explaining the severity of my actions the day before. I apologized and told each caller the same thing: “I was unaware that my actions were illegal.”
I understand that ambling down the hospital hallways taking photos of hospital patients is definitely not acceptable. I am well aware that to take a picture of someone in a potentially unfavorable manner that would later be printed in a newspaper would require his or her permission. However, please know that I was going out of my way to find deserted areas, closed off spaces, and abandoned nooks and crannies of that hospital. I did not want photos of people; I wanted photos of the mold in the hospital.
Nonetheless, if it is not permitted to take photos of empty hallways, then I will abide.
However, what I will not do is allow Alberta Health Care to edit and read my article on the grim mold issue at the Crowsnest Pass Hospital before it is printed.
This is what was asked of me. And this is why I am thankful there is such a thing as Freedom of the Press.
I hope everyone enjoyed my article on the mold in the Crowsnest Pass Hospital, found on page 1 of this issue. Please remember that it is not my job to let the public rewrite my articles in ways that are favourable and appealing to them. It is my job to tell the truth and that is what I will strive to do until my retirement.