AJAs 2017 Finalists


Slug/Label Deep Trouble: Joe Howlett's story
Date Aired or Published Oct. 11, 2017
Media outlet where first aired or published: CBC News
Name of Program: Information Morning
If co-produced, list partner:
Location: Fredericton
List awards, grants: n/a
Running time (TV/Radio): 11:01

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

In the middle of a deadly summer for North Atlantic right whales, a fisherman from Campobello Island died trying to save a species at risk of disappearing. Joe Howlett was hit by the tail of right whale #4123 while trying to disentangle it from thick fishing rope, a tricky craft only a handful of people on this planet have mastered. Our story detailed what happened to Howlett on the day of his death, and unravelled the bureaucracy behind whale rescues. Three things made this story stand out. The first was Philip Hamilton. The story of Howlett’s death was picked up across the world, but we were the only media outlet to interview Hamilton. The scientist witnessed Howlett’s death and was the only person not employed by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans who was there. We travelled to Vermont to capture his story. The second was context. This story was part of a CBC New Brunswick series called Deep Trouble that looked at why North Atlantic right whales are disappearing. It explained how we got here, who is accountable and what needs to happen to save the species. We didn’t want to just tell people what was happening. We wanted to help them understand it. We thought it was important to tell the gripping story of Howlett's final hours, but also to dive into the world dangerous whale rescues. We wanted to explain the government's role and the red tape involved with trying to save a species at risk of extinction. But what really makes this story stand out is the storytelling. Mixed with rich sound, Lauren Bird’s writing makes you feel like you’re on the Shelagh research vessel on the final day of Howlett’s life, racing to save a species in decline. She takes you to tiny Campobello Island, on board the worn and torn boats the volunteer whale rescuers use, and inside their world. As she recounts Howlett’s final moments, you can feel the loss and sacrifice. Good storytelling takes you into someone’s world and it makes you feel something. This story does both.

Resources of the newsroom (money and time) available to complete the story:

Telling this story required trips to Campobello Island and Vermont for interviews. As with many big projects, several people from the newsroom took time away from their regular duties to make this happen.

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