The Fountain Pen, Guelph's On-Line News
ADV: Chris Bradley Landscape

Free to view - but by who?

Web posted on October 14, 2005

The Guelph Home Show and Expo takes place this weekend, but The Fountain Pen will not be attending. Oh, we tried to, but things didn't go too well.

We like to cover the story, here, and show people what they will see if they go out to an event. So, while it is nice to publish pictures of throngs of people in aisleways, we prefer to get photos of what those throngs of people are looking at. So, we tend to want to take a picture of something interesting, in order to tempt people out to see other neat things.

So, knowing that the show started on Friday afternoon, I headed over to get a quick photo so I could get a story and photo up on the front page of The Fountain Pen site before the rush of viewers hit just after 6:00pm. I am a local editor - if a Guelph Transit bus can't get me to the story, it doesn't get covered - so I caught the bus over to the Legion. The doors were open wide, exhibitors were doing last-minute things, and there were people wandering around. So, I started to wander around, too. I managed to walk around the entire room, looking for inspiration to hit me, unaccosted, speaking to exhibitors who mentioned that they were glad to see the press out early.

There were no problems until I pulled out my camera and notebook. I managed to get one photo of a really neat looking display of staircases. As I took a second shot from a different angle, I sensed someone coming up behind me. As I turned around, an eagle-eyed 'security person' informed me that if I wanted to take pictures I had to go to the office first, and physically guided me out of the display area and into the office area. This is where the fun began.

I was asked who I am. When I presented my business card and gave a brief description of this here publication, I was greeted with scepticism. I was told that The Home Show loves to have publicity, but that there are rules to be followed. Not a problem, I reply. I was told that I had to come back when the show was open, approximately 30 minutes later, and that when I did, I had to report to the office. At that time, I would have an escort assigned to me who would (a) walk me through the displays, and (b) ensure that any photos I would want to take are acceptable - i.e. the photos would not show any of the exhibitors in a poor or negative light, that no proprietary information would be documented or recorded, and that the taking of the photo would not interrupt a sales pitch.

Now wait just one minute, here. This is a free admission, open to the public, home show. So, the general public can wander around freely, but the press has to be escorted?

I must have had a look of disbelief on my face. The gentleman who was educating me mentioned, "We had a problem with an on-line publication during a show in Cambridge..." He proceeded to tell me about how that publication caused various problems, and how they refused to send copies of the photos they took, and weren't returning e-mail messages, and so on. He also stated how unfortunate it was that such a negative experience influences how the on-line press will be treated.

At that point I had decided that I was not going to sit around for a half hour before being shepherded around, and that I was not going to waste another round-trip bus fare later on. I refrained from saying anything negative - wouldn't want to do something that would make it harder for the next reporter on-scene - and headed out. I noticed on my way out that photocopied pages listing the times of the show were taped up on the doors, and that the doors were closed and carefully watched by 'security' forces. Funny, they weren't there when I went in.

For the record, the gentleman I dealt with was calm, professional, polite, and oh-so-reasonable. I don't have a problem with the way I was treated. I have a problem with what seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to an unfortunate occurrence. Upon consultation with other media people, it seems that the trend at these shows over the past several years has been to try to control the media coverage as tightly as possible. That is most unfortunate.

We at The Fountain Pen have decided to take a stand against this. Unless there is a very good reason for directing how we cover a story, we'll do it our own way, thank you very much.