AJAs 2018 Finalists


Slug/Label In too deep
Date Aired or Published May 3-14
Media outlet where first aired or published: Telegraph-Journal
Name of Program: Telegraph-Journal
If co-produced, list partner:
Location: Saint John
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio):

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

The 2018 New Brunswick flood was a devastating breaking news event. The rapid spring freshet created unprecedented flood levels along the St. John River corridor, stretching from northern New Brunswick, moving south and sweeping through downstream communities. Record flooding crippled business. From Mactaquac to Maugerville to Fredericton to Saint John, no community along the river’s path was immune. It dominated news coverage for all New Brunswick media for weeks. However, the Telegraph-Journal took the the skies, the water and land to provide exclusive coverage. Only the Telegraph-Journal brought continued aerial coverage. Only T-J reporters tested the sewage-infested waters to give residents a sense of the health hazard. As the flood waters began cutting off entire communities, T-J reporters were already documenting the devastation. More than that, this news team formulated a plan to tell those uplifting stories of strangers helping strangers, how the worst of times can bring out the best in people. ‘The rescuers,’ was a spot news feature this newspaper eagerly shared with readers. Only in the Telegraph-Journal could print and online readers witness Ann Larsen, a 68-year-old stroke survivor confined to a wheelchair, carried through the surging flood waters to safety by Kennebecasis Valley firefighters. Then there was the harrowing rescue at Reversing Falls, when a trembling Jamie McIntyre was nearly swept away by rising water after he became marooned on a capsized dock. This was spot news journalism at its best. Aerial footage showcased the sheer volume and depth of the devastation. The river a winding brown snake dotted by white walls of sandbags, colourful kayaks and canoes. We were there for the mass evacuations, talking to cottage owners outraged by not being covered by the province’s disaster relief fund, the province eventually relenting to ante up to the cottagers. We provided public service journalism, where to turn for help, how to get it and how to best guard against various hazards. We told the stories of everyday heroes through #NBstrong, which included the story of ‘Uber Rob’ and his 60-plus trips per day water taxiing residents to and from Darlings Island. From the grandmother doing her part to keep volunteers fed, to the business owner providing hundreds of free pizzas to feed those impacted, the N.B. flood was full of stories of selfless acts and the triumph of human spirit. Despite the challenges presented - as flooding closed off access - our news team persevered. In some cases the reporters were cut off from the newsroom, filing content electronically and via phone to an awaiting transcriber. They tracked down people using social media, and through good, old-fashioned pavement pounding. And, in some cases, travelled by boat and air to fulfill their duties. Only by reading the T-J did people know how contaminated the flood waters were by sewage and runoff. The province and local municipalities weren’t testing. So we did. It revealed E.coli levels far exceeded allowable standards. For total coliforms levels, the samples were higher than anything found since wastewater treatment began in the 1950s. I submit to the judges that the Telegraph-Journal news team provided the most accurate, comprehensive and unique reporting of this breaking news event. Respectfully, Jack Poirier Managing Editor

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

The only additional resources afforded this news team came in the form of a paid helicopter trip through J.D. Irving, Ltd., as well as hitching a ride with boaters and rescue teams on duty. Reporters were expected to file breaking news content as it happened for this quickly developing story.

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