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2013 Atlantic Journalism Awards Finalists


Slug/Label Living With Death
Date Aired or Published October 9-12, 2013
Media outlet where first aired or published: The Telegram
Name of Program: Living With Death
If co-produced, list partner: Rhonda Hayward (photographer), Ken Simmons (new media editor)
Location: St. John's, NL
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio):

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

Last summer, I read a blog belonging to Louise Page, a Scottish woman who was fighting a rare form of cancer in her leg. She spoke of her impending death with humour and peace, and it got me thinking about mortality and my own fear of it, and I wondered how people who are surrounded by death every day — either by chance or by choice — deal with it. Finding people who work with death wasn't hard: I reached out to Geoff Carnell and Amanda Laite-Rogers, two funeral directors; Laurie Anne O'Brien, a longtime palliative care nurse; Father Jonathan Rowe, an Anglican curate; and Rick Singleton, regional director of pastoral care and ethics for Eastern Health here in Newfoundland. They were all quite willing to speak to me from the get-go, and getting them to speak about their jobs was easy. Getting them to open up about their own experiences and beliefs was a little more challenging. I made a post on Twitter, looking for people who have had near-death experiences, and got a lead on Dan Norman, a man from Gambo, about four hours from St. John's, who had been pronounced dead and came back to life with an incredible story to tell. I first interviewed Dan at the hospital in St. John's, when he was in town for a medical appointment, but when he invited photographer Rhonda Hayward and me to his home to take photos and see where he had actually died, we jumped at the chance. I tried hard, over the course of three months, to find a person dealing with their own terminal illness who would be willing to do a gentle interview with me for this project. I did connect with a number of them, and two agreed to interviews but changed their mind at the last minute, preferring not to talk about it after all. This reinforced my hope that the series would be well-accepted by readers. I felt the stories needed more than just a written component, so I filmed each of the interviews. It was challenging but so much fun to create short videos to go with each story, and I filmed, edited and did all post-production on the videos myself (film work is a new skill for me, but one I think is needed in the newspaper business these days. To that end, in 2012 I completed two film courses outside work hours). The stories were complemented by beautiful portraits by Rhonda, and our new media editor, Ken Simmons — working on a limited website platform — created an interactive page for the series, where readers could watch the videos, read the stories, comment on them, and check out related content as well as a suggested further reading list.

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

No special resources, other than overtime hours. Photographer Rhonda Hayward and I travelled to Gambo, four hours away, for a weekend, to interview Dan Norman, and we incurred the travel costs ourselves.

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