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Thanks to our Supporters, our first investigative story is now available. Greg sat down with our investigative reporter Spencer Hall to talk about the transition to his new role and what it took to write this story.
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Q: What was it like transitioning from daily reporting to investigative journalism?
A: When I was a reporter we were expected to do four stories a day. To go from multiple stories a day to one story a month is a very big kind of flip because some days you don’t have tangible work that you’ve done. You’ve just been like, “I have read 40 documents and I could not tell you what any of them said.” It was a bit of a learning curve, but I think that it went well. I really enjoy my new role. I love what I do.
Q: What else are you kind of doing on a day-to-day now that you’re not writing as much?
A: I say it’s a lot of documents, but it ultimately comes down to people. I’m talking to people about their experience, what they’ve done, their expertise, people that are personally affected, or people who have worked on audits before.
That was a big part of Code Grey was the audit request. And then also talking to people within Northern Health. The point of the story isn’t to throw Northern Health under the bus. I think that a lot of the issues that were outlined in my story have been going on since long before the pandemic. Pretty much since there’s been healthcare in the north, these issues have been happening. It hasn’t gotten geographically smaller or bigger since they started.
Q: How long did you work on just this one article?
A: I think I spent a solid month working on Code Grey. When I was daily reporting, you came in at nine and then left when your four stories were done, but now I find the first thing when I wake up is that I check my email. It’s not the nine-to-five anymore which I’m totally fine with because there’s extra work that goes into these stories. It’s really me telling people what the facts are so I want to make sure that those facts are correct.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the additional help you’ve gotten to write this story?
A: We had a few other investigative journalists making sure I crossed my t’s, dotted my i’s, and stuff like that. Reading through, giving me suggestions on how to best frame it because I think I really didn’t lend enough credence to how long it takes to format. There’s finding things and then learning things, but then framing it in a way that’s easy to read and that is accessible to everybody takes a lot more time than I thought. So the editing process was a lot more than I thought it was going to be, but I think that that’s good in the end because then I don’t have typos or anything like that because that really takes away from a story.
Q: So this first part is all about the audit that’s been requested and kind of the current situation happening right now. Were there any surprises that you ran into the last month?
A: Besides the editing process I think it was really interesting where a bulk of your information comes from. So I expected to find something in say a Northern Health document, but it wasn’t really there. I did get some information from there, but actually it’s finding people that are affected and are adjacent to that issue because that’s normally where you’re going to find those things. For example, nurses in Northern Health and I think probably in other health authorities, can’t really speak out against the health authority that employs them because they’re not protected by whistleblower clauses. So who do nurses talk to? They talk to their union. So then that kind of set me through different paths.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about part two coming up?
A: I’ve actually gotten a few emails wondering where Chetwynd and Dawson Creek were in the mix of that story. Story one, I focused on the Regional Municipalities Coalition and Chetwynd and Dawson Creek are not members of that coalition.
So for story two I definitely want to highlight the issues and the solutions that went into the situation in Chetwynd and in Dawson Creek. Every region has their own struggles with health care. They kind of do boil all down to the same issue so it’s interesting that these issues are causing different, other issues in different communities.
I’m also looking more at the history. Northern Health was founded in 2001, Fort St John got their hospital in the late 1800s, and there has been evidence of shortages of professionals in the north since the seventies. I also want to talk to people that have been patients. I have been contacted by a few people hoping to kind of get their voices in there as well.
Thanks for reading!
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