Crossing The Line: Intervening in a Story

Case study by Sophie Armstrong, Melissa Galevski, Amanda Short & Olivia Zollino

February 2018


During the early morning hours of February 11, 2017, CBC reporter Nick Purdon and videographer Leo Palleja took a drive along the Canada-U.S. border near Emerson, Man. They had heard stories of asylum seekers walking across the border illegally into Canada to make claims, and wanted to see if they could find somebody in the process. After driving through the night, Palleja thought he spotted a pile of luggage on the side of the road. On closer inspection, the pair realized it was a person sleeping in the snow. They walked over to him and found out his name was Mohamed. It was 4:30 a.m., and Mohamed was clearly in a vulnerable state: visibly cold, shaken and disoriented, largely unaware of his surroundings. “How are you feeling? You cold?” Purdon asked. Palleja filmed the exchange. Purdon told Mohamed he was in Canada, while continuing to interview him on-camera.

Purdon learned that the man was originally from Somalia. He had been wandering in the cold in -17 C weather for 21 hours before being spotted by the reporter and videographer. It became immediately apparent to Purdon and Palleja that Mohamed was in physical distress.

Their first instinct was to call the RCMP and get medical help for Mohamed. Doing so, however, would mean they would no longer be merely observing Mohamed’s situation from the outside—if they decided to call first responders, they would be actively intervening in the story.
But if they didn’t intervene and left Mohamed on his own, they felt there was a good chance he wouldn’t survive. Either way, there would be consequences for Mohamed.

The pair had a decision to make. Should they make the phone call?

Read the transcript


Next: 1. Asylum Seekers