Saturday, July 12, 2008

Muskoka Accident

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?



Gigababy said...

One word.

Anonymous said...

I cant beleive your writing saying it was a bad story, have you not seen what the newspaper usually puts out? I choose to speak to Tracy because she is a close family friend who i trusted would not manipulate my words. Clearly if you read the other reviews in the globe and national post all the articles do is critize us as reckless teenagers who get tatoos to glorify death and just love to party and drink. So oviously i did not want somethin to be maniupulated, that story sold out copies because it showed an actuall story not just a stupid account of mixed up facts and rumors. its pretty pathetic how someone can get upset over a sympathetic article like this one, if you want to analysis someones writing dont do it to victims of horrible trajedy you look stupid and heartless.

Nastasia Elzinga

Anonymous said...

A "tragedy" as you put it - people make decisions; live with the consequences.

Anonymous said...

i have to say i completely agree with your point of view (whoever wrote this blog). i believe 30 drinks were consumed amongst the 4 of them (holy shit) and anyone who risks anothers life on the road with an illegal blood alcohol level and reckless behavior (maybe they can't handle driving with loud music, maybe it is too distracting) deserves what comes to them. the girl is a whore by the way.

Jenn Jilks said...

Nothing has changed since this event. And your comments ring true with me. Journalism values are changing.

Anonymous said...

such a tragic event and you are all focusing on whether the story is good? and why questions were not answered? Very sad to hear. Regardless of the cause of the incident others loved ones have died, and the on survivor to be questioned on stuff such as "how many drinks?" . Very insensitive. Leave those details for the courts to deal with. Terrible.

Anonymous said...

Whoever called that girl a whore is an insensitive asshole who needs to get a life. She went through and has dealt with a lot so cut her some slack you asshole, she was 19 and being a normal 19 year old.