New Pearson airport permit system frustrates journalists

Oct 14, 2022 | Canadian News, News

Dave Bradley, the morning anchor for 640 Toronto radio, was shocked to hear about a new policy at Toronto Pearson Airport forcing journalists to get a permit a day before covering a story on-site.

He reached out to the communications section with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority to ask what was going on.

Bradley said he was told that as long as journalists email or call in advance, there’s a very good chance their permit will be accepted.

“I’m not going to say it’s a 100 per cent chance, but they’re willing to work with you,” he said. “I do trust her because I’ve worked with her in the past and the feeling that I got is that they’re not looking at restricting access, just looking at keeping track of who’s there.

“And again, not in any way controlling the narrative,” he said.

Bradley said he thinks for the most part the media should be able to cover stories without restrictions. He said in the past Pearson has been pretty good with reporters.

“When that issue does arise, that they’re saying no to a story or no to a reporter, I think that in itself becomes its own story that they’re now denying,” Bradley said. “But by just suggesting that it could potentially happen when it’s likely not going to happen, I think is a little bit of a stretch.”

Toronto Pearson International Airport announced the new rules on Oct. 3, which include approving or denying a permit request in addition to the 24-hour notice, which could create deadline challenges for reporters.

Siobhan Morris, a Queen’s Park reporter with CTV News Toronto, said it’s frustrating that journalists need to fill out a form in a place where “news may be developing quickly with little notice,” and worried about how Pearson could approve or deny stories.

“I understand the desire of the GTAA to try and diffuse damaging or unflattering stories about Pearson or air travel in general,” Morris said. “But despite the ingenuity of reporters and their newsrooms, I worry about what stories the public may not get if the GTAA decides they’re not in the public interest.”

Rachel Bertone, Senior Communications Advisor and Media Relations for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said in a statement to Humber News that safety is at the core of their decision.

“Media are still welcomed at the airport and the policy is just about knowing who is in the building at what time for safety issues and to ensure that our passenger services representatives are informed,” Bertone said. “It’s not about restricting access and we’re happy to work with the media on urgent requests to come to the airport.”

Morris remains skeptical of the new system and said journalists are already being observed by security within the airport, and believes the move to a permit system was the wrong call in regards to such a fast-paced profession such as journalism.

“Again, I understand the GTAA’s desire to exercise some level of control but I think moving to a permit system is a mistake, and I don’t understand how this move will keep journalists any safer in an environment that is already watched by both people and cameras,” Morris said.