The invasion of Fredericton and journalistic licence


Courtesy: ABC

A few weeks ago, I was working on a light story about why eerie flocks of seagulls have been circling over buildings, sometimes for hours on end. To give the story a voice, I needed regular people on the street to say they’d seen it too. (Depending on where you live in the anglophone world, these folks are known as “streeters”, “MOSs”, or “vox pops”.) Most of my streeters had seen it too, and many said it reminded them of the Hitchcock movie The Birds. Although gulls were not attacking anyone in Fredericton, the movie reference was a perfect excuse to have some fun with the story.

A few days after it aired, I spoke again to a bird expert whom I had consulted (not the guy featured in the story). We’ll call the other guy Tim. Tim said it was a shame I referenced The Birds; the insinuation being it trivialized whatever was upsetting the gulls. I understood where he was coming from, but at the same time, I needed to engage more people than just bird spotters.


Then, last week, I got a tweet from a colleague in Toronto, who said she heard my voice on Anderson Cooper’s AC360 show on CNN. It turned out Cooper used part of the report for his spoof segment, The Ridiculist (@ 1.56 below). Cooper also said “parts of New Brunswick, Canada have been invaded by a flock of seagulls.” Oh.

With a quick Google, I discovered that the report had also been syndicated to local stations across the U.S., re-voiced by some American news lady, and given a new “invasion” twist to suggest that Freddy Beach was under attack.

What did I expect, right? But it’s a lesson learned, that as soon as you publish a story, you never know where it will go and how it will morph.

All a bit of fun, of course. I just hope Tim wasn’t visiting Tyler, Texas on February 3rd. You can watch the KLTV segment here.

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