(a discussion thread from Bruce Gilbert, President, IAP2 Canada)
Recently a colleague approached me with an intriguing P2 ‘from-the-field’ question that I had trouble answering. As I fumbled around trying to give her a sensible response it occurred to me that someone out there in ‘P2-land’ likely had more experience than me with such situations. So rather than use my semi-monthly Message from the President opportunity to talk about “who knows what”, for this month at least, I would like to use it an opportunity to generate some dialogue on a real P2 challenge, and also demonstrate the knowledge mobilization power of our IAP2 network.
Several weeks ago at a government-convened open public dialogue session, citizens were asked to deliberate at round-tables of 7-8 people per (Note: there were 5 tables in the room; each had a facilitator and a note-taker; there was a lead facilitator at the front of the room who notified participants that no names would be associated with any notes taken and that no direct quotes would be used in any reports or session-summaries). As the tables were beginning to discuss the first of 4 open-ended questions, a reporter unknown to the organizers sat at a table with his audio-tape machine running and pointed the mic in the direction of the participant who was talking at that moment. The predictable result was that participants became uncomfortable and the table ultimately went silent. The table facilitator gently attempted to get the journalist to turn off the recording device but he basically ignored her. In an effort to help table members feel less inhibited about talking, the table facilitator also reminded the reporter of the earlier promise to not record or use direct quotes and names. After a few minutes the journalist moved on to a different table which resulted in more uncomfortableness. Eventually, likely because he had enough tape for his purposes, the reporter ceased using the recording device although he continued to sit at tables.
The Question and Sub-Questions:
What are the rights and obligations of reporters/journalists in open P2 settings where organizers are trying to engender frank and open dialogue on important topics?
- Are there any accepted standards or guidelines out there that can be shared?
- Notwithstanding that organizers can respectfully request that journalists not be disruptive, and can remind them of pre-established session process-rules, who actually gets to (or should) decide when an activity or action in a public event is disruptive?
- How can the rights of a journalist to cover a public event be respected while at the same time ensuring that these rights do not negate the very purpose of the event itself?
- How does one practically resolve (or prevent) a stalemate or conflict in a ‘live’ public setting without creating hostile media?
In the spirit of knowledge mobilization and in keeping with the very reason I joined IAP2 in the first place (i.e., to learn, network and share), can my fellow IAP2 members help? Perhaps there are some ex-journalists in our P2 fold with a perspective on this? Perhaps some of you have found yourselves in this very situation? Let the games begin!