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2013 Atlantic Journalism Awards Finalists


Date Aired or Published April 20, 2013
Media outlet where first aired or published: The Chronicle Herald
Name of Program: Herald Magazine
If co-produced, list partner: Deborah Wiles, Jayson Taylor, Christian Laforce
Location: Halifax
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio):

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

Herald Magazine wanted to tackle the "Fort Mac" phenomenon - the huge numbers of men, and some women, from Nova Scotia's tapped-out industrial towns forced to head Alberta’s tarsands to put bread on the table for their families back home. We decided on a novel approach: to consider not just the men heading West on their three-weeks-on-one-week-off routines but also the families left behind. To illustrate the bigger story we picked one family--John Gnatiuk, Shannon Sibley and their two children of Sydney River. Herald Magazine felt the story important enough to embed writer John DeMont and photographer Christian Laforce in Gnatiuk-Sibley household for an entire week during one of his regularly scheduled weeks home from Fort McMurray. During that period they watched the unnatural rhythm of the family’s life and the tensions build to Gnatiuk’s wrenching departure. And they witnessed what Gnatiuk himself never sees—the struggles of his partner and children after he is gone. The cover needed to reflect that story in a single image. Though Christian submitted hundreds of photos, the image of the father and his son at the airport, just minutes before departure, stood out for its ability to capture the emotion of that moment and to tell the story in a single photograph.

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

Assigning a photographer and writer for a week to a single story is a major commitment for our magazine. We feel it was worth it. For what emerges is the achingly human portrait of a man forced to make a heart-breaking choice—and the family left to pick up the pieces. And a cover that reflects the story's impact.

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