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BACKSTORY 2014: Behind the biggest news events of the year

Categories: Canada, Health, Journalism, Politics, World


Adrienne Arsenault reporting about the ebola crisis in Liberia in September.

Michael Gruzuk
Executive Producer, CBC News Specials and Programs

Malaysian Airlines. Vladimir Putin. Ebola. Sochi. Rob Ford. Nathan Cirillo. Names and stories behind the biggest news events of 2014, and CBC reporters have been on the frontlines of them all. Every news story is inherently dramatic, and this year's presented some notable journalistic challenges.

CBC correspondents are sharing those challenges with you in a series of segments and specials available online, on radio and television. We're calling these stories BACKSTORY 2014.

Some stories brought complications that were more emotionally nuanced for our reporters. Adrienne Arsenault reflects on the story of Kaya Turski at the Sochi Olympics. Adrienne had spent months following Turski's story, invested alongside the rest of the country in the freestyle skier's high hopes for the podium. When Turski crashed out, Adrienne had to balance her connection to the athlete with her coverage of the story, and as she admits in BACKSTORY 2014, stories of loss amid the triumph of the Olympics, aren't always easy to tell.

CBC reporters take safety seriously and do risk assessments before every assignment. But even with preparation, hostile situations are unpredictable. Nahlah Ayed and Susan Ormiston both experienced this when they reported on the destabilizing events in Ukraine this year. In her BACKSTORY 2014 segment, Susan talks openly about the balance between journalistic curiosity and personal protection. And Nahlah Ayed remembers a tenuous moment at a checkpoint where the right words and papers just weren't enough for one guard to easily wave them through.

Our reporters train for hostile environments, never expecting to have to use those skills in their own backyard. But that's what happened during the October attack in Ottawa. Evan Solomon was one of many CBC reporters on the scene within seconds. In his BACKSTORY 2014 reflection, he recalls the push and pull between his instincts as a journalist with his need to stay safe, and to immediately report breaking news to Canadians.

Sometimes a story is challenging simply because our reporters have never encountered anything like it before. That was clearly the case covering the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. CBC News dispatched one of the first crews from a western country to the region. How to safely cover the story of the outbreak became a story unto itself. Along the way, Adrienne Arsenault and her team were transparent about the precautions they were taking with the virulent virus. In BACKSTORY 2014, she opens up about precautions as a personal challenge, and also admits that that caution led to one of the most emotional moments of her time in Liberia.

Ioanna Roumeliotis explains that the most challenging story she covered this year happened at her place of work. Ioanna was one of the lead reporters on the Jian Ghomeshi story, and she had to maintain her journalistic objectivity and tenacity while covering an alarming story inside the CBC.

Our goal at CBC News is to openly communicate the challenges we face covering complex news events. Through these candid reflections from our correspondents, we hope that Canadians will come away with an enriched understanding of what a dramatic year it has been in news through BACKSTORY 2014.

Segments from BACKSTORY 2014 begin to run on The National and cbcnews.ca on December 22nd.

Watch the network special hosted by Peter Mansbridge on December 29th at 9pm on CBC Television.

It airs on CBC News Network on December 31st at 6pm EST, and again on January 3rd at 7pm EST.

David Common hosts BACKSTORY 2014 on CBC Radio at 6am on December 26th and 12pm on January 1st.

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