Nadia Moharib is a reporter who has worked throughout Canada for the past 24 years. Among other publications, she has worked for the Calgary Sun and the Winnipeg Sun, reporting crime and other beats.
This morning I was writing an interesting article and sometimes I just sit there and think, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this”.
I’ve been a paid journalist since 1994 — important to point out paid because I did a lot of unpaid work chasing ambulances — and I worked in Winnipeg, especially in the North End, which is all crime all the time. I got comfortable and good at tracking down people who were involved or affected by these crimes and, more importantly, getting them to speak.
I wasn’t an official crime reporter in Winnipeg but I did cover it a lot. When I moved to Calgary in 2000, my boss realized I was great at getting my foot in the door [and] assigned me to the crime beat.
People who cover crime are seen as “parasites” or horrible people. But I quickly learned that reporting crime was important and if I was going to report it, I was going to report as best as I could. We’re in a great position — we provide a platform to give people a voice.
I learned early on that I was competitive. I loved it when I broke a big story and other reporters would have to follow it. Or I loved it when my dad would call me and ask if I’d heard about something in the news and I was the one who broke the story.
I liked getting exclusive stories and interviews, like when the police would come to me and say they’d been trying to get this one person to talk for months. That feeling motivated me.
I’ve covered over 500 homicides now. There’s a real type of richness being surrounded by such resilience and seeing how strong people truly are … It’s a real honour to be the person who shares their stories, but it’s still dark.
My brother’s a firefighter and people who are in emergency services, they have so much support as a part of their process. As a reporter, you see horrible things, but you don’t have the same type of debriefing or system set in place to support you. In my early years, I went to many autopsies and crime scenes.
I think the challenge is how do you deal with those difficult stories, especially those tiny details that are heart-wrenching and just stick with you.
I had a turning point in the cold call part of my job, which obviously is a huge part of it. I wrote a story about two kids that died in a car crash, nobody did anything wrong. They both worked at a Boston Pizza and I talked to their boss, coworkers, everything. The next day I get a call from a woman, crying, and she said, “You didn’t ask me about my son.” I had talked to everyone about this boy but his mom.
I didn’t give her a platform to speak about him. That story has always been a reminder that, as a reporter, it’s my job to always seek out the victim’s family, even if they slam a door in my face.
I wanted balance. So for years, I was the editor of a pet magazine called Wag, and I also did a Sunday brunch section for the Calgary Sun. I tried to do a bunch of different reporting like elections, city hall, education … I even covered when the Royals came.
Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. When it comes to journalism, you’re never truly in control of a whole story. In other words, people will talk to you or they won’t. You can try your best, but sometimes other people get the scoop.
Ultimately, reporting at a daily newspaper is about creating sources. It doesn’t matter if you create sources in back allies hovering over heating vents or through the police. You build those connections by being face-to-face and not just another anonymous voice over the phone.
As told to Georgia Longphee. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
This article is part of a series of profiles on industry professionals through the Calgary Journal. To see more like this, visit the On the Job page.
Correction: A previous version of this story which referred to Nadia Moharib’s career as a crime reporter in the present tense has been corrected for accuracy.
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