by Simon Gardner, CBC TV
Sept. 9, 2003
I usually slug around a camera myself, but on this assignment it was decided I would get a special treat, my own cameraman, Neil Carroll.
The only trouble, there was no seat for him booked on the Dalton McGuinty campaign bus. This oversight led to a lot of embarrassment for Neil.
On the first day he showed up early to lug his gear onto the bus. The perplexed Liberal campaign workers seemed uneasy, but didn't say anything. I suspect they were worried about offending us. Anyway, it soon became clear that Neil did not really have a seat.
Why did Neil and I not have a seat? Simply, the CBC decided to pay only for a part-time seat because there would be times when we would rely on coverage through a pooling arrangement with Global TV. Many of the other media organizations were paying the full $7,500 for a guaranteed seat on the bus every day of the campaign. The problem occurred when too many full paying customers wanted a seat. Neil and I suddenly ended up in the same situation as stand-by passengers during a busy day the airport.
The next day I shared the same fate. The bus was running at overcapacity and I ended up without a real seat or a data link, which meant I could not access the news wires to find out what is going on with the other campaigns.
The Liberal party workers were sympathetic. As a special favour they offered to bunch up so I could have a seat. They even offered to broker the loan of a cell phone link from, say, the National Post or Globe and Mail.
At the CBC we value our independence, and I get very uncomfortable when the organization I am doing stories on is offering special favors. That kind of arrangement is just not in the spirit of CBC journalistic policy.
Solution: off the bus I went.
For the next two days Neil and I chased the McGuinty press bus through the streets of Toronto, running more red lights than I care to admit.
On the plus side, we did manage to get three stories on the air that we both felt reflected the campaign in a fair, unbiased way.
Oh, a lot has been made about the excellent food on the bus. A Globe and Mail article made it sound as if everyone was dining like royalty. Well, from my brief stay on the bus, I only saw Tim Horton's donuts, coffee and juice. There was a very nice meal of marinated chicken, but that was at a hotel stop. And frankly, I was so stressed out about not having a seat on the bus that I had trouble enjoying the feast.