The BC Flood: Anatomy of a TV news story
ABBOTSFORD, BC – As a TV news group, some days are better than others. Some are harder, some are more rewarding, and some are wild. Sometimes, you get all of the above.
If you haven’t seen our story since Wednesday night, I recommend you check it out first.
CTV National News has three crews covering the unprecedented situation in BC Our mission is to locate those affected by the situation in the Abbotsford area, and tell stories of rescues.
We arrived at Abbotsford around 11am and started. We knew we had to find a spot where the lifeboats were being launched. The problem is that no one seems to know.
A local recommends a place. A videographer from CTV Vancouver suggested another way. We did some fancy Google maps and got to the second place (around a mountain or two) in 20-30 minutes.
But there are no lifeboats.
So we spoke to a police officer who told us he had no knowledge of any lifeboats. We were about to give up at that point when a man with a perfectly groomed mustache and a fierce gaze that made him somehow seem trustworthy immediately stepped forward. He overheard our conversation with the officer and told us he knew where the lifeboats were launching.
Again, go to Google Maps, to pin. Again, a circuitous route, circling a few mountains.
Thirty minutes later, we were at the spot our dear friend recommended. And again, there are no lifeboats.
We decided to try a little further down the same path, but that didn’t work. So we tried a second path, and again, found nothing but wet ground.
On the third and final option for routes from that point, we encountered a group of about six men, with a pickup truck and a dinghy in the back. It looks promising. We spoke to them, and it turns out, they’re trying to reach a 67-year-old family member, who they haven’t heard of yet. They were concerned his phone line was down, and he was stranded on the other side of the floodwaters.
They let us tag along with them and we included them in our stories.
After we followed them as much as we could, we exchanged numbers so they could keep us updated. They did, then, via text, and we were able to include the happy outcome in our stories.
By this point we had reached a section of the Trans-Canada Highway that was closed. We saw what looked like a roadblock and decided to drive towards it.
As we got closer we realized it wasn’t the police, it was some vehicle and boat. Right in front of them, was where the Canadian highway disappeared into a sea. When we saw that footage, we knew that was where the story had to begin.
We talked to the people there. Turns out, they were volunteers. Just a bunch of people in the same boat, taking calls, responding to Facebook messages and rescuing people.
We talked to one of them and made it into the story. Then they finished for the day.
As we tried to make our way back to Abbotsford from the closed section of Highway 1, we came across a few houses, windows flooded. We shot some footage and included it in the story. We did a part on camera there, with me in the swinging cars, talking about the extent of the flooding.
Right now, we’re running out of time to hit our deadline.
As we were leaving, we found an email from Candy Chan, a Toronto-based mission editor and producer. She found a boy who had been saved early in the morning. He had to climb out of his bedroom window to get into the rescue boat. We go back to Abbotsford to find him, and talk to him about his ordeal. He also gave us the footage he shot.
Now, it’s crunch time. Deadline looms.
We tried to find a place with Wi-Fi, to sit, take out our laptops and start piecing the story together, but every Starbucks and Tim Hortons store we could find was closed. door.
Finally, we found a restaurant with a simple nickname: Wings.
We sat down, plugged in and started working at a brisk pace.
Watching the footage, choosing the best shots and recording the best is a daily routine, but it’s more stressful when you do it backwards.
The plan is to edit the story right here at Wings, while perhaps eating a few wings, but our internet connection has other plans.
With low internet speeds, trying to edit HD footage from a remote server is impossible.
So, at the last possible moment, the edit was moved to an editing suite in Toronto. We finished the story, approved the script, and Joe Amato, an editor in Canada’s largest city, got to work.
Our group returned to a field that had become a lake. The same location we first found when we entered Abbotsford and shot two more on-camera parts of the story. We brought that back to the editor in Toronto, using a magical television engine called Dejero.
It’s been 12 hours since we started working on the story, and we’re done.
You’ve probably made it so far. Maybe not. For anyone who has seen the story and is interested, I thought it might be a good idea to draw the curtains to explain how these stories came to be.
Usually, as is the case today, it was a combination of games, calculated decisions and pure chance.
At the end of the day, we have to tell a great story. Everyone did what everyone else did. They come together when needed, go above and beyond, and look out for their fellow human beings.
The story is about people. The best stories are about people doing great things.