Behind the headlines with Dani Mario: Snowmobile anger

What better way to usher in to a new column than to look at a story that had people talking and taking sides across the country.

What better way to usher in to a new column than to look at a story that had people talking and taking sides across the country. You know what a reporter loves more than telling stories? Telling good backstories in the newsroom.

When CBC's Steve Pasqualotto came back with the story of an alpaca farmer who confronted two snowmobilers with a gun, I knew I had to find out how he did it. It was part luck, and part legwork.

Day of door-knocking 

Steve said one of the snowmobilers got in touch with him through a mutual friend and offered up the video and his story. Problem was, Steve didn't know the identity of the man with the gun, and it wasn't going to be easy to find him.

Steve has knocked on a lot of doors in his 24 years with CBC. Over the course of a few days last week, he'd be adding a lot of other porch visits to the count. 

Steve had managed to find the location of where the conflict took place. After referencing a map of landowners names and property lines, he managed to narrow down the search.

At each door, he showed the residents the video and asked whether they recognized the gun-wielding man. The last door on his list of several homes turned out to be the right one. 

(Warning: Language in the video below may offend)

Steve said finding that farmer was absolutely critical.

"It was clear from watching the video that he was extremely angry and it seemed evident to me that there was a backstory that needed to be told," Steve said. "I think he was surprised. He didn't know he was being recorded and after talking to him, it was easy to see he was frustrated over a number of incidents that happened over a number of years. I just asked him whether his appearance in the video was the way he wanted to be portrayed, so he agreed to go on camera."

Audience reaction

Once Steve had the interviews "in the can," as we say in broadcast news, the story was ready to roll.

Steve knew there would be a big response to the story, but he was surprised at how much traction it received. It led to a follow-up story on the tensions between snowmobilers and property owners in Saskatchewan, and it was gas to the fire for people on all sides of the debate.

After the dust settled, it was the most viewed story produced for to date. The point-of-view GoPro recording of the scuffle from one of the snowmobilers helmet cams was also the most viewed video across CBC over that same period of time.  

The story aired on our network news and into the United States. The raw video ran on the viral video show, Right this Minute on HLN Network. The commentators had everything right, except when they mentioned that "the farmer claimed the snowmobilers had scared him while he was out riding his alpacas." That had me doubled over, laughing. It's a good thing we have good reporters around to get the story straight.

Steve said he hasn't closed the book on this story yet, and we can expect more.

The RCMP have seen the video and have turned the case over to prosecutors. Steve will be following up on whether charges are laid.

This is Dani's first column of what will be a regular feature. 


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