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2013 Atlantic Journalism Awards Finalists


Date Aired or Published June 15, April 16, Dec. 27, Dec. 28
Media outlet where first aired or published: The Chronicle Herald
Name of Program:
If co-produced, list partner:
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio):

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

Please note: The story "Review calls for look at IWK, Capital Health" (on Page A7, June 15) is not part of this submission to the AJAs. The first story of Rehtaeh Parsons' death was written on deadline. Soon after The Chronicle Herald broke that news, Rehtaeh's name was splashed across international media, along with the basic facts of the story: the girl's family alleged she was raped in November 2011 and that the police and prosecutors flubbed the investigation. A photo of the alleged assault led to months of harassment and the teen committed suicide in April 2013. While the story had broken at whirlwind pace, reporters Selena Ross and Frances Willick took time over the next several months to investigate allegations against local institutions - the school system, the justice system, the children's hospital. They visited Rehtaeh's community, developed contacts and built trust with young people involved with the case on "both sides" - Rehtaeh's and the boys she accused. The new information they brought to light included details of how police and prosecutors had handled the case and of an earlier stabbing that had been linked to it. They got teenagers to open up about their experiences with sex and drinking, in order to examine sex ed in Nova Scotia and the misconceptions among kids about rape. Other stories could not submitted under this category's three-story limit. The international attention threw this story into difficult territory for our newsroom. Police tightened internal access to Rehtaeh's file, which tied the hands of usual police sources. Crown prosecutors wouldn't speak about the case. Aside from spending many hours knocking on doors, Selena and Frances tracked key online conversations connected to the case. They were awake in the wee hours, making screenshots of important details before they were taken down. They cultivated and interviewed sources within Anonymous. Selena spent months searching for police sources who had seen Rehtaeh's file before it was internally locked. Within a month of our first coverage of this story, requests for counselling had doubled at Halifax's sexual assault resource centre as people sought help for past assaults. In another concrete change coming out of the story, the province announced emergency funding to cover the spike in demand, and ultimately pledged more than $1 million for sexual assault services, bringing them to rural areas where there had been none. The Chronicle Herald doesn't claim credit for prompting several independent reviews of the institutions involved. But our reporters' work raised, and continues to raise, expectations for those reviews.

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

These stories were largely reported in between other daily assignments, with no more than a few full days dedicated to each piece. There were no special resources used, financial or otherwise. With the Herald's planned redesign and new Saturday paper set to roll out just two weeks after this story broke - a task that involved the whole staff - resources were stretched more thinly than usual.

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