Toronto Star's Exclusive
The Star's coverage of the Muskoka accident has been poor, and yesterday the coverage dipped further. In an exclusive, the Star obtained an interview with the survivor of the accident, Nastasia Elzinga. The story was billed as a "special" to the paper and was written by Tracy Nesdoly.
Nesdoly had previously written for the Star; then she had been identified as a freelance writer and content manager for Workopolis, which works in partnership with the Toronto Star. Nesdoly's Workopolis profile provides further details about her: "Tracy was a reporter for 15 years before moving into the corporate world and has been a public relations and communications executive for a number of Canadian companies including Indigo Books & Music and Birks" (all emphasis added).
There are numerous problems with the story:
• No other person is interviewed, forcing the reader to take everything Elzinga says on her word.
• The reporter mixes her opinion into the story: "Seconds later, Nastasia Inez Elzinga, 19, known to her friends as Staz, would be choking on water and fighting for the surface, the lone survivor in a July 3 crash that took the lives of the driver of the car, her tall, gorgeous boyfriend, best friend, mentor and tormentor Tyler Mulcahy, 20, and his friends Cory Mintz, 20, and Kourosh Totonchian, 19."
• What Elzing may have been thinking at the time of the accident seems implausible: "'It was so great. I remember thinking this is the best, I love this song, I love these people, I love this place. If it had lasted it would have been the best weekend of the summer,' she says."
• Certain statements require a source that is never identified: "She swam for shore, scrambling up rocks to the road. Mulcahy's dad's Audi S4 had ripped through the guardrail on the curving road, flown off the road and over a sharp embankment into the Joseph River, where it landed on its roof, submerged."
• An instance where the reporter should have sought a corroborating interview was ignored: "A man said to me, `Did you see the accident,' and I said, `I was in the accident, there are three boys, get the three boys out.' I was hysterical and screaming to get them out." Who was the man and why wasn't he interviewed?
• At no point does the reporter seriously question Elzinga about the alleged drinking that may have happened prior to the accident, instead the reporter offers uncorroborated quotations including "The boy who loved to drive fast was a boy who always wore his seat belt and made everyone do the same. He would leave his car behind if he thought he'd been drinking too much, without hesitation, Elzinga says."
This is a weak story that the Star should be embarrassed to have published. It's insult to the staff reporters who do ask real questions. Was this a public relations exercise? It was written by someone who says she has experience in the field.
One more question: Why did a poorly written, one-sided story - a prime example of what journalism should not be - get the front page of the Toronto Star?