The Final Word—The Saskatchewan stabbings and the influx of parachute journalism

15 December 2022 / by Sarah Tomlinson
The Final Word show image


On the December 16 episode of The Final Word, Silas Le Blanc talks about the increase in parachute journalism. There was a series of stabbings that occurred on September 4, 2022 in Saskatchewan on the James Smith Cree Nation reserve. A group of journalists went to cover the stabbings but left suddenly when news of the Queen’s death broke out. While they parachuted into a community that wasn’t their own, they very quickly left without telling that community’s story to its full extent. He speaks with Rachel DeGasperis, a second-year master’s of journalism student, who is covering a parachute journalism story for the Ryerson Review of Journalism. 

“Parachute journalism is basically when a reporter from an outside community parachutes into a community that they are not local to and writes a story about the residents there,” DeGasperis said. 


“Because they are foreign to that community, sometimes they get a lot of things wrong or it’s not always given the care, thought and time that’s needed to really tell the story as truthfully and carefully and holistically as possible.” 


She added that the main problem with parachute journalism is that it leaves out many perspectives from a story, making it a one-sided account of what transpired. In the case of the Saskatchewan story, DeGasperis said two journalists decided to stick around and write profiles on the convicted stabber’s wives. Ashley Stewart from Global News wrote a profile on Vanessa Burns that reveals shocking details about the stabbing—such as her involvement in the drug trafficking industry and the fact that she is a victim of domestic abuse. 


However, much of the in-depth reporting that was taking place on the reserve quickly got put to an end when the Queen’s death was announced. 


“ It was a massive news story and then suddenly, it got completely swept out of the news cycle. I think to a lot of Canadians, this is a story of the effects of systemic violence in these communities that are caused by settler colonialism,” she said. 


DeGasperis says that as a society, we need to demand more from our media outlets to do more justice to the stories surrounding Indigenous communities. 


“It’s because of the circumstances and the environment that allowed this to occur. It’s because of that intergenerational trauma,” she said. “If we want to give the story the kind of care that it deserves, and if we want something like this to not happen again, we need to address those issues.”