I’m writing this post at 11:30 p.m., a piece of bread in my mouth, dinner cooking on the stove, alert as ever after covering a hockey game. Yes, this is the life of a sports reporter. You heard that right, I went from court to sports. Welcome to the life of a ping pong ball.
So here’s how it went down: about three months ago, the senior editor at the paper where I work pulled me into the office, or “bunker” as it’s nicknamed, and said I was being put on the sports beat. I was shocked, terrified, mortified, but a little excited at the same time. It meant I’d be doing more feature writing, but it also meant I’d need to know sports rules (of which I knew nada).
I, the girl who made the Grade 6 basketball team and dribbled all of once, is now writing about professional basketball and hockey leagues for legions of super dedicated fans.
I’ll admit that after the first basketball game I covered, I cried because I felt like a fake. I’ve managed to keep my cool since then and I’m now known in the arena as the “basketball girl.” I even covered six back-to-back high school basketball games for the provincial finals; my copy was fed to three city newspapers in New Brunswick, if not more.
I’ve had to ask the sports guys a lot of stupid questions (yeah, I didn’t know the top part of the net was called the crossbar), but in the meantime I’ve got to delve into some nifty new worlds, like what makes a body builder click? What’s it likc to play basketball in countries like Japan, Libya and Iran? What does it take to be a bronze medalist in kayaking at the London Olympics?
Plus, I now know every synonym in the book for defeat and score. I’ve learned how to cobble stories together within 15 minutes of deadline. It’s a stressful situation and involves a lot of running up and down stairs from the court floor to the press box, but that might be the best part of the day.
Since then, I’ve come to admire and appreciate sports and what it takes to be a sports reporter. It’s a lot more difficult than people give it credit and takes a lot more creativity than you’d imagine.
Below I’m going to post three of my favourite court stories I wrote from before I was a sports reporter and in a few months time, I’ll post my favourite sports articles.
Time to eat!
Interviewing the head coach of the Saint John Mill Rats, David Cooper. (One of my first games!)
My first Mill Rats game… I couldn’t find the media box, but I got front row seats!
1. I think this story is really interesting because it demonstrates in “real time” what sort of drastic consequences Bill C10 is going to have on all offenders, no matter the circumstances.
Judge rules sexual relations between teens illegal
New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
Sat Nov 3 2012
Byline: OTIENA ELLWAND TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
SAINT JOHN – A consensual sexual encounter that occurred between a 13-year-old girl and an 18-year-old male was deemed illegal by a judge at St. Stephen provincial court due to the ages of the individuals. The teenaged male pleaded guilty and appeared before Judge David C. Walker recently for sentencing.
Neither youth can be identified under a publication ban ordered by the court.
Court heard that on Jan. 6, the two engaged in sexual intercourse twice. Despite the two being in agreement, under the law, a child under the age of 14 is not legally capable of giving consent; therefore, the man was charged with sexual assault.
Walker said that had the victim been 14 years old, the teenager “might not have been convicted of this offence.”
Walker said the teenager should be given credit for entering a guilty plea, preventing a trial that would have required the complainant to testify. He said the teenager took responsibility, showed remorse and had a “very positive presentence report.” The teenager has graduated from high school and is currently employed full-time.
“It will never happen again,” the teenager said in court, dressed in formal black pants and shirt, “I definitely learned a lesson from this.” He sat beside his mother and siblings, whom the judge called “very supportive,” and held hands with them as Walker delivered his sentence.
Defence lawyer Joel Hansen said the offence may have had the most profound effect and worst repercussions on the teenager, who’d had his hopes set on becoming an RCMP officer. Now that he has this offence on his record, Hansen said “that’s off the table for the foreseeable future.”
Hansen requested the court consider giving the teenager a suspended sentence with a period of probation. He said that was a reasonable sentence considering that the teenager will be required to give a sample of his DNA to police and have his name added to the sex offender registry for 10 years, which is “punishment on their own.”
Walker said that if Bill C10 – legislation that is due to drastically change the criminal justice system – had all been in effect already, the teenager would be facing a very different sentence. He said once that bill is implemented in its entirety, this same offence would result in a minimum of one year in jail for a youthful offender.
“Lives are going to be substantially impacted,” he said, explaining that offenders could be incarcerated for longer periods of time.
Walker said he took into account how close the teenager was to the legal line.
“This offence fits within the narrow confines of age, which is to your prejudice.”
He ruled that the teenager should receive a suspended sentence, which means that if he doesn’t break the rules of his one-year supervised probation or commit any other offences, he will not face any further sentencing.
He was ordered to perform 60 hours of community service, remain under house arrest until Jan. 1 and attend any programs deemed necessary by a probation officer. During his period of house arrest, he is allowed to leave his home only for work, volunteering purposes, for three hours free on weekends for personal errands, and if in the presence of his mother or sisters.
“Consider yourself unlucky to have found yourself guilty of this offence,” Walker said, “but fortunate that you have received the sentence you did.”
2. This article revealed a dire need in the community and made an impact on at least a few individuals, for which I was extremely proud. At another sentencing, a judge requested that the offender pay restitution to the Out of the Cold shelter after reading this story.
Man seeking shelter from cold admits mischief
New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
Thu Nov 8 2012
Byline: otiena ellwand telegraph-journal
SAINT JOHN – A man who couldn’t find a place to sleep broke a window so he would end up in jail, provincial court heard Wednesday.
Kevin George, 51, pleaded guilty to mischief for breaking a window on Tuesday night at Cowie and Son Ltd., a jewelry store on King Street.
Court heard the man was first seen by police at around 8 p.m. sleeping outside the King Street Royal Bank. They told him to move along, but he said he had nowhere to go. He was not welcome at the Salvation Army after he’d threatened to “break the place up” when they told him they were full.
“They told me not to come back,” George said in court, adding that he reacted this way because someone stole his bipolar medication and he couldn’t control what he said.
The Salvation Army has 27 emergency beds, all of which were full except for two as of Wednesday night, court heard. The residence’s policy is that if a person threatens staff, causes a fight, uses drugs or alcohol or acts up, they will be banned from staying there for up to three months.
Crown prosecutor Patrick Wilbur said George asked police, “What do you have to do to get locked up around here?” He went on to say he was going to go down the street and throw a rock and break a window. Police stuck around for half an hour to see if he would “act upon his threat.” He didn’t.
But 45 minutes later, police were called to the jewelry store where George admitted to throwing a brick through the front window. He even showed police the brick he’d used. He was arrested and detained for the night.
George told court on Wednesday morning that he’d arrived in Saint John a week ago with a man he’d met at a shelter in Sydney, N.S. The man lured him with promise of work in Saint John. But when they arrived, the man left George stranded at the Atlantic Superstore and stole all of his money, belongings and medication. George said he’d never been to Saint John before in his life. Besides the Salvation Army, the only alternative he could think of was jail.
“We should have a men’s shelter year-round,” said Jillian Driscoll, co-ordinator of Out of the Cold, an emergency shelter for men that usually opens in January. “They have nowhere to go and they can’t get out of the weather and typically they do get into trouble or they want to get into trouble so they will get arrested and have somewhere warm and safe to sleep.”
Judge William McCarroll said he couldn’t think of any alternative for George either.
“What are your plans? You need a place to sleep for a little while, where it’s warm and you can get something to eat. That’s the only place we’ve got for you now, is jail.”
He asked what George is going to do when he gets out of jail and George replied that he would like to go west for work, but didn’t have any money to get out there. He said that, or “commit another offence to go back to jail.”
McCarroll asked if a month in jail would be appropriate and George responded, “What about six? It’s getting colder out there.” The matter was adjourned for sentencing until Thursday morning.
3. This article taught me something about reporting on the courts. I published the man’s name before his sentencing was heard, he ended up getting an absolute discharge, which means the offence was completely erased from his record. I got a good talking to by a certain lawyer who felt it was unfair that his name was published before the sentencing was heard. I was told that he lost his job because of me. As far as I know, I was not in the wrong for publishing his name, but I have chosen to omit it below.
Man steals filing cabinet to use as fridge in trees
New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
Mon Oct 15 2012
Byline: otiena ellwand telegraph-journal
SAINT JOHN – An employee of the Saint John Regional Hospital admitted he stole a filing cabinet to store food in while hunting.
A.B. appeared in provincial court last week and pleaded guilty to stealing merchandise not exceeding $5,000 from the hospital.
“The facts are not complex,” said Crown prosecutor Jim McAvity. He told the court that on July 22, police got a call from hospital security about a theft that had been caught on camera.
A.B., who worked in the shipping and receiving department, was seen loading a filing cabinet onto the back of his truck before he drove away.
A.B. was arrested and immediately admitted to the crime. He had no criminal record.
“I don’t understand,” said Judge William McCarroll. “You take your lunch duck hunting and you wanted to have a filing cabinet to store your lunch? I’m trying to figure this one out.”
Oakley explained that he took the “most beat-up and worn-out” filing cabinet because he wanted something metal to store food in to prevent animals from getting at his supply while he was hunting.
“They chew right through wood,” he said. “That’s why I wanted something metal. … It wasn’t a great big filing cabinet, it was just a small two-drawer.”
A.B. described the tree perch, or blind, where he and five or six of his friends go to hunt deer.
“So you were going to take this filing cabinet and put it up in the trees?” McCarroll asked.
A.B. said it was because “the porcupines get up and spoil the coffee.”
That threw McCarroll for another loop. “I have a little trouble understanding. If you’re up in a tree stand, hunting from a blind, no raccoons are going to come up there when you have a few hunters up there with guns. So you leave the blind at night? And you leave your food there overnight? What else do you leave there? You can’t leave your sandwiches or they’ll spoil.”
A.B. said that now that it’s cold, he planned on leaving bacon and eggs in the filing cabinet.
“I find you guilty,” McCarroll said. “There’s a reason, but no legal justification, for the theft.
“I’ve been here a long time. Seems like people do things you’d never dream of doing.”
Sentencing was adjourned until Nov. 6 at 10 a.m.
McCarroll told the man not to worry “too excessively” between now and then about his impending sentence. “It’s not the greatest crime of the century.”