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Reporters consider significant stories from 2013

Child slavery, cool bugs and irate residents provide memories

By: By Gazette Staff

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 25, 2013 06:00 am

GROSS AND MEMORABLE – This cabbage looper bursting with wasp larvae provided reporter Kevin Ma with his most memorable story of 2013.
GROSS AND MEMORABLE – This cabbage looper bursting with wasp larvae provided reporter Kevin Ma with his most memorable story of 2013.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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The reporters and editors at the St. Albert Gazette handle hundreds of stories every year. This holiday season these staffers are looking back at the one story from 2013 that stands out for them, because the story touched them the most, was the most fun to cover, the most memorable to write … the reasons vary.

Another instalment will appear in the Dec. 28 edition.

Anna Borowiecki – entertainment reporter

Peace on Earth, good will to men. It’s a common saying we hear at Christmas.

But look around you. Here in St. Albert life is generally tranquil – dull, some might say.

But look further afield across the oceans, and all hell breaks loose. Bomb explosions. Chemical warfare. Riots. Mass graves. Political imprisonment. Rape and kidnapping.

So where is this peace we blather about?

While we in an industrial nation stuff our faces with turkey and unwrap presents that are not always appreciated, so many others in the world are suffering needlessly at the hands of greed and ignorance.

It’s easy to buy into the safe, saccharine-style Christmas that high-priced marketing agencies throw at us. But where’s the soul?

For me, Christmas is an important spiritual holiday, one that first and foremost reminds us to care for the weak and vulnerable everywhere.

And that’s why, as the Gazette’s entertainment reporter, it gave me personal pleasure to write about Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus’s Nov. 30 concert entitled Freedom Is In Our Hands.

This was not a typical concert in which the musical director selects a repertoire of lovely songs and the choir shows off its vocal prowess.

No, conductor David Garber had programmed an evening of slave songs as a modern day call to action challenging us to eliminate 21st century child slavery.

The 110-voice choir had partnered with Fort Saskatchewan’s Rudolph Henning Junior High, which in turn was working with Save the Children to help build 200 schools in developing countries.

As Garber and I spoke on the phone about child exploitation, he was very emotional discussing children as young as four working 18 hours a day in horrific conditions. Or children kidnapped from their homes and turned into cold-blooded killing machines. Or children torn from their families and forced into the sex trade.

As he spoke there was a strangled catch in his voice adding a sense of desolation to his already growing repugnance of child slavery.

To say I was affected would be an understatement. Slavery of any form is disgusting, but child slavery even more so.

What garners my admiration is that the choir members stepped forward and raised their beautiful voices to not only highlight, but also do something in practical terms to assist children denied the freedoms we take for granted.

In one of life’s great ironies, Nelson Mandela died about a week after the concert. In my mind, I instantly connected Garber and Mandela, two men fighting for the same thing.

Mandela was a great world leader who battled slavery and oppression. In watching television coverage from Africa, I felt a sadness wondering who would now speak for the continent’s enslaved children.

A leader among leaders, Mandela passionately dedicated his life to the unrelenting pursuit of racial equality and freedom for all. He had walked the long road to freedom, faltered at times but eventually reached the mountaintop.

In his turbulent journey, he always recognized the importance of children. At a National Men’s March in 1997, he said, “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.”

How right he was.

Although Mandela and Garber are completely unrelated, they both had deep concerns about the oppression of children and in different ways have acted to achieve freedom.

Perhaps Mandela said it best at his 90th birthday gathering on June 25, 2008. “It is now in the hands of your generations to help rid the world of such suffering.”

Do we have the will?

Kevin Ma – science and agriculture reporter

You know what every newspaper needs? More death battles.

That’s why I was overjoyed when agronomist Dan Orchard told me about the Ring of Death at the CanoLAB crop science conference: an arena in which he’d have pests and pest predators battle it out before a live audience.

“We show the carnage that takes place in your soil without you knowing,” he told me. Or, as I heard it, “TWO BUG ENTER. ONE BUG LEAVE!”

If he had Mad Max in black leather there, it would have been perfect.

You know what else a paper needs? Xenomorphs.

Entomologist Vincent Hervet had brought cutworms infested by parasitoid wasps to the conference and timed it so that the wasps would emerge during his talk.

“For those who have seen the movie Alien,” Hervet said, “it’s kind of the same thing.”

The result? Close-up views of a cutworm in its death throes as hundreds of wriggling, writhing larvae burst from its body, and lots of oohs and ahs and ewws! from the audience.

Ridley Scott would be proud.

This conference was a blast to cover and a riot to write up. Best of all, it helped these scientists get their research out to the public in a memorable way.

Victoria Paterson – St. Albert city hall reporter

It was a heck of a way to start my city council reporting duties.

I started at the Gazette in July, but the first council meeting I attended was in late August and brought with it a gallery full of concerned Erin Ridge residents who were upset over the new francophone high school planned for Eldorado Park.

There were even more angry members of the public the next week, this time francophone students and supporters joining those Erin Ridge residents, so council heard impassioned pleas from both groups.

To recap: many residents of Erin Ridge, on learning of the school planned for Eldorado Park, raised concerns about ongoing traffic problems in their area, particularly along Eldorado Drive and Erin Ridge Drive, and worries about how the addition of a high school to an area already impacted by the hospital and short-cutting commuters would make it worse.

Meanwhile, students and parents from the francophone community pleaded with the community and council to let the school move forward so their high school students can get out of the basement of Youville Home.

It wasn’t the most positive story I’ve ever had the opportunity to cover. There were many emotions running on high and a lot of confusion and frustration. But it was my introduction to St. Albert politics and a few of the issues that would become hot topics during the election: land planning, the absence of a municipal planning commission, traffic and public consultation.

Plus I spent so much time on this topic I started dreaming about it.


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