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Archive for the ‘Story of the day’ Category

Story of the day: ATV restrictions in the Yukon?

March 17, 2011 Comments off

Yukon News reporter John Thompson is nominated for a Ma Murray for Environmental Writing for his story: “Group pushes for ATV restrictions.” That headline gives a pretty good indication about the story‘s topic.

A new organization wants all-terrain vehicles banned from Yukon’s fragile alpine areas and wetlands.

The Trails Only Yukon Association quietly formed over the winter and has, so far, signed up more than 100 supporters. The group is holding a public meeting at Jack Hulland school on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. to shore up support for their cause.

Many of its members own ATVs. That makes them no less horrified by the deep ruts they’ve seen torn into otherwise pristine wilderness by motorized vehicles.

The association is pushing for regulations requiring ATVs to stick to existing paths while travelling across fragile terrain.

This proposal will be unpopular with some hunters and recreational ATV users, said Ken Taylor, one of the group’s founders. That’s precisely why successive territorial governments have ducked the issue, he said.

But waiting will only ensure more of Yukon’s hinterland will be spoiled.

“The longer we wait, the longer we’ll be saying we should have done something,” Taylor said.

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Story of the day: Surrey Leader gives food bank a boost

March 15, 2011 Comments off

Surrey/North Delta Leader reporter Boaz Joseph and his Leader colleagues are nominated for its special “Faces of the Surrey Food Bank” series in the Community service category.

You can find editor Paula Carlson‘s introductory story here, which links to several in-depth features on the bank. Boaz wrote most of the stories.

In one of the most interesting stories, Boaz profiles a 79-year-old woman who once worked as a foreign correspondent for a London newspaper. And you thought only community journalists were poor…

On the living room shelf in Gillett’s tidy Guildford apartment sits a silver coffee pot from Saudi Arabia and a teapot from Sri Lanka.

“I went to some absolutely marvelous places. I spent three weeks in Riyadh with the late King Faisal.”

…Every second Thursday, volunteers with the Hampers to Your Home (H2YH) program bring the former newspaper reporter a hamper of staples, including bread, soup, cereal, canned vegetables and meat (usually fish), and pastas.

Usually, some fresh vegetables are included, although this time of year, there are fewer of those.

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Story of the day: Cam Fortems investigates Kamloops business man

March 14, 2011 Comments off

Today’s story of the day is actually a series of articles written by Kamloops Daily News reporter Cam Fortems about a local developer, Mike Rink, whose crumbling business threatens to affect the whole city’s economy.

The story, which I first showcased back in December, is nominated for the Investigative Journalism Award. And since I’ve already written about it, writing this post is as easy as hitting copy and paste…

*****

The series began on Saturday:

Mike Rink and his wife Marnie McEachern arrived in Kamloops from Regina 30 years ago in a pickup full of tools and pulling a trailer

Over the next 25 years, Rink would progress from building single-family homes to developing some of Kamloops most recognizable buildings, moving people downtown and growing a successful company.

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On Saturday, Fortems wrote about Rink’s big impact on Kamloops and his knack for attracting controversy. Fortems spoke to Rink’s sisters for the stories and even uncovers the interesting nugget that Rink was at one point a Moonie, which leads into this defining quote: “I’m not afraid of looking at things. It’s my nature.” And Fortems reports that Rink’s company has sought creditor protection after falling into an $85 million debt hole. Despite that and other quotes, Rink declined to sit for an in-depth interview. Instead, the Daily News reports Rink “provided comments on a number of aspects of this series.”

Part two, which came out Monday, told the tale of Rink’s business associates, many of whom are waiting in line for their money.

In the age of information, contractors working for Rink didn’t have to look hard to find his multimillion-dollar failings and credit problems earlier this decade, when contractors such as Silbernagel were forced to accept thousands of dollars less than they were owed.

Researching Rink’s ability to pay was even easier than finding newspaper stories about the past.

A number of contractors owed money in the financial crisis of New Future Group said they’d heard from others on the job site about late or incomplete payments before they even started on the job.

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And part three asks if Rink’s business got too big too fast at just the wrong time.

Fortems writes that a year after lenders foreclosed on one of Rink’s projects, the developer was making plans, and had a partner, for another.

While constructing the seniors’ projects, he was also in personal bankruptcy proceedings, according to federal bankruptcy and insolvency records. He entered bankruptcy in July 2006 and was discharged after filing a plan accepted by creditors in May the next year.

While he was discharged, he continued to deal with the legal proceedings until as recently as January this year, according to court records.

But as impressive as his rebound and development of the Renaissance projects was, they went over budget, said his sister and former business partner Ann Sheridan, who worked with him in 2004 and 2005.

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Fortems also writes that Rink’s plans were significantly leveraged and that Rink was paying interest rates as high as 17 per cent.

The entire series features a dizzying array of sources, documents and companies and is a great feat of business reporting. I can only guess how long the story took, but it offers an insider’s look at the property boom that gripped dozens of B.C. communities in the mid-2000s.

Story of the day: just because it’s trash doesn’t mean it can’t be sold

March 11, 2011 Comments off

Today’s story of the day comes from the Yukon News and reporter Vivian Belik, who is nominated for a Ma Murray (against a colleague!) for the environmental initiative award.

Her story, “Greenery rises from the rot” profiles the local dump and reports that Whitehorse will start selling its smelly output.

Landfill manager Dan Jordan likens composting to baking a cake.

It’s a strange analogy when you consider what’s cooking away at the city’s landfill is far from edible.

At the compost facility, waste is piled in heaps the length of a street block.

Banana peels and apple cores mingle with fish bones and grass clippings.

The smell wafts high into the air, a ripe stench that attracts hordes of flies and flocks of seagulls.

On this particular day the odour is similar to fermenting oranges and rotting onions.

It’s hard to imagine this pile of decomposing fruits and vegetables turning into rich, black compost.

However, this week the city announced it will start selling the compost that’s been cooking away at their landfill for years.

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Story of the day: Matthew Claxton calls BS on ‘off the record’

March 10, 2011 1 comment

Today’s Ma Murray-nominated piece of community journalism comes via Langley Advance reporter/columnist Matthew Claxton. Matthew’s nominated for the columnist award. Any reporter will chuckle at one of the pieces he submitted: a tale about a talkative bureaucrat who tries to go off the record after the fact.

Did I say the word reporter when I left my message, when I talked to the receptionist? Possibly not. But I definitely named the newspaper I worked for. The bureaucrat also called me back, and our receptionist reflexively answers the phone by saying “Langley Advance, a Canwest company.” If you call a bakery, you expect to find bakers there, right?

My interview subject then informed me that everything he had just said was “off the record.” He seemed quite smug. As though he had just checkmated me. Oh, no. It doesn’t work like that.

There is no magic reset button when you are talking to a reporter. Saying something is off the record, after a 15-minute conversation, carries about as much weight as seven-year-olds shouting “Jinx!” or “Punchbuggy!” in the back seat of a mini-van.

Would you like some wine with your story of the day?

March 9, 2011 Comments off

Over the next six weeks I’m going to try and showcase some of the stories up for awards.

The goal is to post a link to, and excerpt from, one article each day most days around lunch. We’ll see how that goes.

Featured today is Judie Steeves‘s report on the Okanagan wine industry for the Kelowna Capital News. The story is up for the Ma Murray for best business writing award.

In the past couple of decades B.C.’s wines have popped out of the paper bag and into a place of honour on the global wine stage.

They’ve gone from being the cartoon, with labels like Fuddle Duck and Baby Duck, to being serious art, like Calona Vineyards’ Artist Series, with original art on the label as well as in the bottle.

And, along the way, winemakers went from being geeks working in the background to ‘rock stars’ accepting tributes in the foreground—along with chefs in today’s food-and-wine-loving society.

…Spawned in response to the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S., the revolution in B.C.’s wine industry was the result of a determination by grape growers and winemakers to keep the industry afloat despite a sea of imports that threatened to drown it.

To do so, they ripped out acres and acres of hybrid grapes and replanted with premium viniferas, turning the industry on its ear in the process.

Soon admits in the early days they had to import grapes to make B.C. wines palatable—the local grapes were so bad.

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