The Writing Process: A Look At The Genesis Of Three Fulcrum Stories In 2021

Reading time: 6 minutes

Fulcrum writers share insights and behind-the-scenes information on some of the year’s biggest stories

As the year draws to a close, we’ve decided to revisit some important stories that Fulcrum published in 2021. Instead of just reposting the stories, we thought we were doing something different and giving readers a glimpse into the stories. behind the scenes of how some of the year’s biggest stories came to life.

To do this, members of the editorial board were interviewed to shed light on the processes that followed the writing and dissemination of these stories to the University of Ottawa community.

The class action lawsuit launched by the victims of disgraced doctor Vincent Nadon was arguably the biggest story to cross the Fulcrum’s second-floor press room at 631 King Edward Avenue in 2021.

The court affidavits alleged that the U of O was made aware of Nadon’s inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature around 1995 following complaints by two female students. According to those affidavits, the University told the two women in a letter that it would not pursue any formal investigation due to a lack of physical evidence of wrongdoing by Nadon.

The procedural request also shared troubling details about the former doctor’s alleged crimes and the trauma they caused to the victims. This story was written by editor Charley Dutil and editor Zoë Mason. What follows is Mason’s recollection of the process.

How did the pitch come to you?

Someone who was working on the proposed class action lawsuit at the time had read one of our stories about the closing of the Marie-Curie clinic. Sean Brown, one of the attorneys working on the lawsuit, reached out to us to see if the Fulcrum would be interested in doing a larger story on the lawsuit, which of course is intimately linked to the University and the former Services of University of Ottawa Health. (SSUO).

Did you immediately know what angle you wanted to take with this story?

Absoutely. Everyone knows Nadon’s story on this campus, at least most people know it. The story they knew was about Nadon and the crimes he had committed against his patients; this story was about to talk about what happened to them since, and why they hold the University responsible, at least in part, for what happened to them.

What was the process of finding the sources? How did you decide which sources to contact?

Since Brown contacted us, we’ve had a ton of material that he was able to provide us with. We also had the chance to speak with Ellina Rabbat, one of the women who fell victim to Nadon. Since the nature of the story is touching and a source of personal trauma, we weren’t sure anyone would be willing to talk to us, but like I said, I think we really wanted this story talks less about Nadon and more about the people whose lives he has affected. So I think it was really important that Rabbat agreed to contribute to the story.

Did you encounter any obstacles in the reporting process?

There really weren’t any roadblocks with this story. There was a lot of material that we couldn’t include, so we had to be very careful with that. Immersing yourself in the detailed documents describing the allegations of these reprehensible crimes can be fraught with emotion. And of course there were a lot of legal hoops to go through. That said, I don’t think there ever was a point where we really felt our ability to tell the story was going to be hindered or compromised in any meaningful way.

What was your approach to writing this story?

The first thing we did was talk to Brown. After that, Charley and I each read the 300 or so pages of documents he sent us, took notes, and discussed at length what details we felt we needed to include or highlight. The story has been written in pieces, most of it written after our conversation with Rabbat. After speaking with him, we were determined to publish the article as soon as possible.

During the writing process, did any information change the angle of the story?

I think the Rabbat interview really changed that story by adding a very human perspective to a story that could easily have been dense and technical. She cares so much about finding ways to prevent such things from happening to other women, and I think that really shines through in the article.

In early 2021, the Fulcrum editor began walking to pass the time during the lockdown. During one of his long walks, he received an email that would end up leading to one of the most important stories of the year for the Fulcrum. Here is the story of how the Fulcrum discovered that the information of over 100 University of Ottawa students who had used the University of Ottawa Students Union (UOSU) food bank was publicly available on the union website.

How was this pitch born?

While on vacation, I was out for a walk and received an email from a worried student who discovered that the names and personal information of students who were using the UOSU food bank were publicly available to anyone. had clicked on “see previous answers” on the Google form to order from the Food Bank. This was obviously problematic, and as soon as I got home I started researching the story and doing my research.

Did you immediately know what angle you wanted to take with this story?

Yes, so this data being public could potentially compromise the privacy of the students whose names and information appeared on the form. So this is the main angle that we have chosen. We also wanted answers as to why this list was public and what would be done by the union and the Food Bank to rectify this situation.

What was the sourcing process like for you? How did you decide which sources to contact?

The first step, when I got home, was to go and see the data online. Once I saw how detailed the information was, I was frankly alarmed and worried about the students whose names and details were on the Google Form.

So I reached out to two people I trusted on the Editorial Board and asked them to compose a mass email to contact every student whose name was on the form so that they could be notified of the public availability of data and also feedback on the ground.

While they were doing this, I contacted the Food Bank and then UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner Tim Gulliver to let them know the information was public on their website and to find out why it was. was the case.

Did you encounter any obstacles in the reporting process? What were they?

Not really, we didn’t have to wait long for answers. There were over 100 names on the list, so people quickly returned to our mass email with feedback. One challenge we faced was dealing with students who were in shock and upset that this information was available to the public.

In 2021, one of the most interesting sections of Fulcrum was its science and technology section. Hannah Sabourin and Emma Willimas have managed to transform complex scientific research and break it down in their own way to make it easy to understand and enjoy for all students.

In November, Williams was able to live out every child’s paleontological fantasy when she interviewed Jordan Mallon for his article on Dinosaurs and Excavations: Everything You Need to Know.

How did the pitch come to you?

The pitch came to me as I was browsing the scientific experts page of the Canadian Museum of Nature’s directory. I saw that Jordan [Mallon] was a researcher and paleontologist. I wanted to ask him a bunch of questions about dinosaurs and excavations because they really fascinate me.

Did you immediately know what angle you wanted to take with this story?

Honestly, I don’t always know the angle of every story (this one included). I know the general plan and the questions I should ask during my interviews, but everything tends to come together as I write.

What was the sourcing process like for you? How did you decide which sources to contact?

Most of the time I write articles on recent studies published by professors here at the University of Ottawa, so the research paper is one of the sources, and the second and third are usually the authors or main teachers.

Did you encounter any obstacles in the reporting process? What were they?

I like to write so that there aren’t too many obstacles. I would say that sometimes I get caught up in scientific jargon and have to refer to a few sources to make sure I understand correctly.

What was your favorite part of this article?

My favorite part of this piece and all my others are definitely the interviews. I really enjoy listening and talking with all these scientific experts. They are all extremely knowledgeable and I learn so much every time I write an article.

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