A nimble attitude
This kind of flexibility is something that all reporters must be able to do which means the everyday life of a journalist is never the same. Edwardson says that the weekend shifts can be slow in terms of news, so having to adapt to these changes is common.
“On the weekends it’s a little more planning involved. You have to look at what’s going on and plan things and cover breaking news as it happens.”
[9:35 a.m.] Edwardson informs online desker Dave Dormer and radio announcer Tim Devlin on what happened and asks them to find out more information as she heads to the scene.
Finding and researching storiesAlthough some stories like today’s are breaking news, others require a great deal of time or huge amounts of research. Edwardson remembers working on her biggest story when she was a reporter for Metro covering the Douglas Garland trial who was charged with three counts of murder.
“It was five weeks and that was going to court every day, listening to testimony, looking at evidence, and reporting on that to the public.”
One of Edwardson’s colleagues, CBC reporter Meghan Grant, knows research can make all the difference in stories that matter.
When working on one of her own stories, Grant was tipped off that a full-time Calgary federal crown prosecutor was also claiming full-time hours at a horse racing tribunal. She poured herself into the research.
“It was a lot of work to even figure out what government department and who to contact and how Horse Racing Alberta works,” says Grant. “It takes a lot of legwork and a lot of digging with sources.”
After confirming that the prosecutor would have to be working more than eight-hour days for 185 days on top of her full-time job, Grant knew that something did not add up.
“It’s just a lot of putting pieces together, but sometimes you can’t go to this piece without this other piece. One person wants you to confirm stuff through someone else first so it's back and forth a lot.”
Grant says it’s critical to be fair, balanced and most importantly, accurate.
“The thing is, when you put out an investigative piece, you better be sure that you are right. At CBC we have journalistic standards and we have a lot of ethical rules for how to do journalism properly.”
Getting it right matters when covering breaking news, as well.
[9:50 a.m.] Back the train derailment, Edwardson prepares her mobile journalism kit, consisting of three iPhones, a tripod and a stick microphone. She grabs her mojo gear and walks towards the incident. She gets footage of fire, police and EMS crews surrounding several derailed cars before a fire marshal points her to a designated media area.
News is often covered by multiple reporters. At the site of the train derailment, videographers from CTV, CityTV and Global lug around much heavier equipment than Edwardson, whose mojo kit enables her to be quick and nimble.
[10 a.m.] Edwardson starts shooting footage, constantly changing positions to get the best angles possible for accurate coverage. She talks to the other reporters on scene to see if anyone has heard any updates from CP. She then returns to her car to start writing her radio and online scripts. After a few minutes, she sends the material back to CBC for her editors to review.
[10:30 a.m.] After getting approval, Edwardson returns to the scene to record her radio rant on her phone, sending the audio file back to Devlin who airs it shortly after.
[11 a.m.] Edwardson listens to her radio story and calls her editors to see if she should stay on scene or head to the cannabis expo. The team decides she should stay put and see if CP will provide a spokesperson. She then heads back to get more footage for her TV package that will be aired that evening on the 11 o’clock news.
[11:30 a.m.] Canadian Pacific sends an email statement to the media indicating they will not be sending a representative to the scene. Edwardson quickly writes her TV script and sends it in for review. She also sends another radio update to Devlin.
Today, there isn’t much need to build rapport with sources at the scene, particularly since the company is refusing to send anyone. Other stories require journalists to put way more energy into building trusting relationships. Edwardson recalls a story in which building such relationships was critical.
“About two years ago there were 13 or 14 women who sued the CPS for sexual harassment and I broke that story and a lot of that has to do with developing relationships with those women,” says Edwardson, who began attending regular police commission meetings.
“I was new to covering the crime beat and I thought no one is going to these so I will go to them so that I have a different angle from everyone else and that is kind of where I met them and so they were showing up to voice their concerns and things like that and I was able to get the scoop by becoming friendly with them and forming that relationship.”
Because Edwardson was persistent, she was able to break the story she is most proud of. Stories like today’s derailments are way more straight-forward.
[12 p.m.] Edwardson continues to get footage as CP emergency response crews arrive on the scene. They clear snow off the tracks to make way for massive cranes that will move the toppled cars.
[12:30 p.m.] Edwardson continues to update CBC and then records her two stand-ups that will bookend her TV report.
[1 p.m.] After getting back to CBC, Edwardson files and uploads her footage for TV and records a final radio update in the studio.
During Edwardson’s weekend reporting shift, the pay off came from knowing that she kept the public informed throughout the day. It’s a different reward compared to enterprising world of investigative journalism.
“We are always chasing that fulfillment because once you have done a story that gives you that feeling you want to get it again so it’s like chasing a high — you want to always be breaking the next story and doing a story that you’re really proud of,” says Edwardson.
“You don’t always get that feeling every single day. There are stories that you cover that are really personal or you do actually see a change come from the story that you reported on and that gives you an extreme amount of fulfillment.”
Covering today’s train derailment offers a sense of satisfaction. It was a much bigger story, news-wise, than the cannabis expo, which Edwardson ended up missing altogether.
- By Monique LaBossiere and Ricardo Andres Garcia