Gators are a sensitive topic at the Walt Disney World Resort these days, after a Nebraska toddler was killed by an alligator in the Seven Seas Lagoon near the Grand Floridian Resort. Disney has responded by roping off lakes and waterways, posting warning signs, and removing references to alligators and crocodiles in some attractions.
But gators are a natural part of the Central Florida ecosystem, and with so many miles of waterways crisscrossing the resort, it's inevitable that guests still will see gators from time to time. Heck, I wrote here on Theme Park Insider about one memorable encounter with a family of gators when I worked on Tom Sawyer Island.
The topic of alligators in the Rivers of America inspired someone who works on the west side of the Magic Kingdom to post a sign in a cast member breakroom:
This is the sign in question. Disney says it was unauthorized and goes against company policy. pic.twitter.com/vji05pcL6C— Sandra Pedicini (@SandraPedicini) July 15, 2016
Shannon Sullivan, a cast member in the WDW College Program, tweeted a picture of the sign. "I was very offended by it and I was pretty vocal about it," Sullivan told the Orlando Sentinel. For that, she was fired. But when a Sentinel reporter asked about the firing, Disney officials responded that sign was not authorized and that it did not reflect company policy toward guest communications about wildlife. Then Magic Kingdom Vice President Dan Cockerell offered Sullivan her job back.
Two things here: First, everyone's right that it's ridiculous to lie to about the presence of alligators in the Rivers of America, or any other waterway in Central Florida. Disney World has reacted aggressively (and appropriately) to warn people about the possible presence of gators on property, so it makes no sense to avoid the issue inside the Magic Kingdom. That shouldn't make people afraid, though. But it should keep them out of waterways where they don't belong.
Second, while we're happy for Sullivan getting her job (and, one assumes, her internship class credit) back, let's take this opportunity to remind cast and team members to never publish photos from backstage! As this cast member discovered, that's a firing offense. But there is an easy way to publicize something newsworthy that happens in the parks... and that won't get you fired.
Leak it us. Seriously, we've lost count over the years of all the stuff we've posted from theme park employees who wanted to share news anonymously. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or create an account and drop the news on our Discussion Forum. (Just don't use your real name or an account name that is otherwise associated with your real name anywhere else online.) I've worked for many newspapers and taught college journalism classes, so I understand the importance of protecting anonymous sources. We never have revealed our anonymous sources to others and never will.
Keep in mind that we will do our best top vet information leaked to us by email before publishing it. If we don't think a leak is credible, accurate, or relevant to our readers, we won't publish it. And we won't publish "not safe for magic" backstage stuff just for the sake of it. Ultimately, we are trying to help theme park fans have better vacations by giving them more accurate information about the parks and vacation planning, while holding parks' feet to the fire in providing honest value. This photo was newsworthy, so we would have been happy to tweet it without credit, to get the news out and to protect this cast member.
So if you've got real news that you think can help visitors, please share it with us. Just don't put yourself at risk to lose your job over it.Tweet
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