Rockfall Investigative Story Shortlisted for National Journalism Award

AN investigative story by The Squamish Reporter has been shortlisted for one of Canada’s most prestigious journalism awards. Here’s what got buried under the rock’, a cover story published in the June  1, 2015 issue has been shortlisted for the Canadian Association of Journalism award

The Canadian Association of Journalists runs these annual awards program that recognizes the best in Canadian journalism—with a particular focus on investigative work.  
After more than a thousand cubic metres of granite fell off the Squamish Chief mountain, the District of Squamish commissioned a geological report. The report concluded that events of similar magnitude had a return period in the range of 50 to 150 years.
Our investigation revealed contradictions, glaring omissions and sweeping generalizations in the report which falsely created an impression of minimal risk. The geologists had miscalculated the return period of a similar event by ignoring rockfalls in recent history. 
 The investigation proved that such an extremely hazardous event could happen much sooner than the report had predicted and could take many lives. It highlighted the need for a thorough hazard analysis of the mountain which had never been done before. rockfall
This is the third time The Squamish Reporter has been shortlisted for a CAJ award. 
In 2010, an investigative story regarding a confidential report about fire department was one among the stories shortlisted for the award. 
A fire protection survey, conducted by the national Fire Underwriters Survey  organization, which is used by insurance companies to determine the level of fire protection in communities, had found that Squamish’s fire department was short-staffed. The story revealed that instead of getting more staff, the council chose to eliminate one full-time firefighter position.
The Reporter received an e-mail from the chief administrative officer of Squamish after the original report was published. “You have quoted from a study that is not public and has never been released to the public. We demand that you reveal how you received this confidential document so we can take legal action against this person,” the email said. “If this is not forthcoming, we will be forced to take our own legal action with you. Please retract this article immediately and provide the name of your source before Thursday, Sept. 16th, at 1:30 p.m.” 
The Reporter had refused to reveal the source or take down the story, citing huge public good behind the investigation.
Next year, a story highlighting the seepage issues on local dikes was shortlisted for the award. The story uncovered a crucial report on dike safety the district had commissioned after 2003 flood, but had ignored for several years.
In 2003, massive flooding in the Squamish River breached the dike at several points along the river. The municipality hired consultants to find ways to strengthen the dike, but never acted on these consultant reports. One of the them, the Thurber report of 2008, warned the dike seepage must be addressed to avoid catastrophic damage in the event of a 2003 like flood. The Reporter articles uncovered the Thurber report, and the fact that Squamish had ignored the report for several years.
With pressure from Brackendale residents and a letter from the local engineer Frank Baumann, the district finally decided to give more than $900,000 to dike remediation.
The finalist for the 2015 award will be announced on May 28th in Edmonton.


  1. Matt Parker says:

    Congratulations Gagan!