AJAs 2017 Finalists


Slug/Label Beluga whale rescue
Date Aired or Published June 20, 2017
Media outlet where first aired or published: Northern Light
Name of Program:
If co-produced, list partner:
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio):

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

From the day the word broke that a beluga whale was in the Nepisiguit River, the team of two reporters and an editor at the Northern Light focused much time, energy and resources into making sure they were on the scene and consulting experts on what the whale's presence in the river meant and what was to be done if it didn't leave on its own. This resulted in a series of stories being published online and in our weekly newspaper, providing updates on the health of the whale, the public's reaction to the peculiar phenomena, and whether or not something would be done to get the beluga out of the freshwater environment and back into the ocean. The strange tale of a beluga - native to the Saint Laurence estuary - becoming stuck several kilometres up a river in northern New Brunswick soon turned into a compelling story about humans hatching up an elaborate plan to save it from its ostensible peril. The whale itself had attracted much attention from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as well as marine animal conservation groups from Nova Scotia and Quebec. On the day of the rescue the Northern Light team - a reporter, an intern and an editor - was prepared and on site. Upon arriving at the Nepisiguit River at about 7 a.m. the rescue team was beginning to assemble and plan how they would attempt to capture the beluga. When Aidan Cox and Andrew Ryan arrived at the river, they were told by rescuers there would be no access for media at the river’s edge and they would have to do their reporting from the top of the embankment. They found a spot where they could see what was taking place and took photos and video of the capture from there. As the situation began to develop, Andrew made attempts to get the best photos he could from afar, while talking to folks who stopped by to see the capture of the whale - which many residents had been popping by to visit since the beluga found its way to the river pool. Editor Jennifer Bishop remained in the office to file updates from Aidan, by phone and email, on the capture and rescue efforts as the situation unfolded, providing step-by-step, up-to-date information to readers throughout the day. When the whale was finally captured and carried on a sling to a trailer, Andrew was tasked with getting the picture. He managed to sneak in with the experts whom were taking photos to get a perfect shot, while walking backwards up a gravel hill. Reporters followed the whale to the airport where it was loaded onto a plane to be transported to Cacouna, Quebec. Fortunately the story didn't end their thanks to Mark Rickard, a Brunswick News staff member who added to it by travelling from Grand Falls to Cacouna, Quebec to report on the whale's release. This extra resource in the Northern Light's toolkit helped round out the story and put readers in the final leg of the whale's journey. The coverage the entire rescue was an extraordinary feat for a newsroom the size of the Northern Light's. The story however came together as a result of strong co-operation among staff and the pooling of resources from other parts of the Brunswick News chain. Even after the rescue was completed, the team kept providing updates with sources they built strong rapports with.

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

Return to list of finalists