An inspiring talk with Alex Roslin

By Jenn Hardy

I don’t want to make him sound old, because he isn’t, but I’ve been following Alex Roslin’s career for years. It was never really even on purpose, but it seems every time I came across a super interesting investigative piece, Alex wrote it.

Co-founder and the current president of the Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting, Alex has worked as an associate producer for CBC-TV’s the fifth estate and Disclosure. He is a six-time nominee for investigative and writing prizes from the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and the National Magazine Awards and has two Canadian Association of Journalists awards for investigative reporting.

A relaxed, yet attentive group listens to Alex Roslin centre)

I admit that I am in awe of this man.

Despite the horrible weather I happily dragged myself across town last night to attend his workshop on the basics of Investigative Journalism last night at the Atwater Library. If you missed it, you should probably regret it, because regardless of what kind of writing you do, the tips he gave could better any type of story.

Last night Alex reminded me why I wanted to become a journalist in the first place: I want the truth. I CAN handle the truth! And so can you. Wouldn’t you rather know the truth even if it disproves your original gut feeling? Surely we didn’t all become writers simply to feed our own egos…?

Alex used anecdotes from his very exciting 20-something year career to give us an idea of how exploring a simple curiosity can lead to very interesting, important discoveries. He gave workshop participants some things to pay attention to when generating story ideas and gave us a few interesting ways to research a potential story. Why not snoop around at city hall or check out the court house?

A great emphasis was put on Access to Information Requests, which was a nice reminder for those of us who hadn’t done it in a while, and and a great tip for those who had never heard them. Alex also said the best way to get in-depth information is to structure your interviews properly. Befriend but don’t deceive your interview subject, and make friends with people who have the inside scoop.

As freelance writers, we often focus on getting stories written quickly so we can pay the bills. But this means we often just scratch the surface. And where’s the fun in that?

Thank you to Lorraine and Ian for organizing this workshop and thank you Alex for reminding us how very exciting investigative reporting can be.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Veena says:

    Thanks for this. Reminded me of the podcast I heard of Stephanie Nolan delivering the Dalton Camp lecture that I heard lately. (CBC Ideas) She’s done amazing stories under truly daunting circumstances and spoke very much about the “need to know and tell” as a driving force. This is one of the elements that drives me for sure in my career as a Communications Consultant for non profits, full-time journalism in the past and freelancing every now and then.

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