Hello, I'm Jacob Young, a member of the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto and a teaching assistant for G8 Online. Welcome to the first of the daily diary entries I'll file while in Calgary for the G8 Summit.
Arriving today at the Calgary media center produced both a sense of unease and intense excitement. Would I be given permission to research, and write in the same place where all the world's television, print and radio media produce their stories? Preliminary reports had focused on the smallness of this year's summit - smaller delegations and strict security precautions for accreditation and many media groups did not get in.
After successfully gaining entrance and a shiny badge to make it official, I explored the massive Telus convention center. Even two days before the summit the pace was fairly brisk and security stepped up. In this climate of fear, even a congregation of journalists in a convention center (the world's leaders will meet 80km away in Kananaskis) garnered a massive police presence. Every time we enter the building we go through metal detectors and the scrutiny of numerous guards.
The mainstream media quickly set up their satellites, television backdrops and workspace as they've done hundreds of times. It is quickly apparent that the journalists on the inside cooperate with all sides of today's political debates. They scramble to make contacts with 'government officials' who might leak important stories while simultaneously scouring the city for the best footage of protest and dissent. Their profession is intriguing and I try to learn from the ease with which they uncover information.
In the afternoon I left the media center to take in an event at the other Summit - the G6B where hundreds have gathered to criticize the G8. The atmosphere at this event is so completely different. There are no major stakes for such an event. People air their views in an emotional, sincere fashion, playing with ideology and mixing multiple agendas. I spoke with some of the diverse citizens who had come to hear Svend Robinson and Kent Roach debate the oppression of political dissent in Canada. They congregated to air their frustrations, without being paid and without the multiple perks of the media center. Apparently their common enemy was the media networks that portray them badly. I discreetly put away my shiny badge and listened to their grievances.