Like many great journalists, Lindsay Sample came to the industry by way of a side door.
Armed with a very heady degree in international development, Lindsay found herself working in an outdoor gear store and desperately wanting to return to the world of practical things — things like exercise and adventure and a tangible connection to the natural world.
“I just wanted to do something practical with my degree. If I couldn’t take any agency I felt like I was going to lose my mind.” It was around that time Lindsay ended up signing up for a paddling excursion that would have her drive from Canada to Mexico, learning to become a whitewater guide by paddling rivers along the way. But jumping from performing in her school’s production of Vagina Monologues to the more “macho space” of outdoor guiding, Lindsay said she felt some whiplash. “I thought, ‘do I want to be a guide for the rest of my life?’ ” she said.
Thus began the hunt for something in-between and Lindsay’s eventual eyeing of the journalism master’s degree program at UBC. The program offered her the chance to both move to B.C. and also engage in a field that’s equal parts intellectual and hands-on. When she applied for the program, she was still whitewater guiding in Mexico and when the admissions committee reached out to schedule an interview, Lindsay let them know that they had the wrong number and should call her new Mexican cell instead.
The admissions committee responded with a letter of acceptance. Apparently they didn’t need the interview, Lindsay said with a laugh. “I guess they thought ‘you must be an interesting human.’ ”
And boy, were they right. Lindsay is now bringing her verve to The Narwhal as our new B.C. bureau lead, where she’ll guide and support our growing team of reporters as they dig into stories about the province’s mountains, rivers, forests, creatures and communities.
As a bonus, if our team ever needs to paddle their way out of a dangerous reporting environment, we know who we’ll entrust our dry bags to!
We chatted with Lindsay about her passion for journalism and what she’s excited for as she joins The Narwhal’s pod.
There are so many shifts happening in the media industry right now. People are pushing to change storytelling practice, integrating things like trauma-informed interviewing, alongside new ways of sharing information and small independent outlets stepping forward to take up space. Seeing this happening around me — and being part of it — is really exciting.
It’s the opportunity to constantly learn and contribute to changing the way things are done that makes me stoked to show up to work every day.
My first full-time job in journalism was working at CBC Marketplace, an investigative TV show focused on consumer issues. Working there, I did a lot of big investigations that involved hidden cameras and exposing wrongdoing. I have some good stories from that time, but probably the most significant story I’ve ever worked on is a big data project about the Trans Mountain expansion project.
In the months leading up to the federal government’s decision to buy the pipeline, this project was big news. One thing that you heard over and over again in stories was that the company had agreements with 43 Indigenous groups in B.C. and Alberta. But, with more than 130 Indigenous communities identified as impacted by the project and conflicting information about where the various groups stood, we wanted to find out, to the best of our abilities, what was going on. Our goal was to deepen conversations about consultation on major resource projects.
I put together a team of five reporters, two researchers, a fact-checker and an interactive designer. We called as many members in as many of the communities impacted by the project as possible, pored over government documents and sent reporters on a road trip to find out to what extent communities supported or opposed the project, as well as whether people were consulted and how consultation happened.
The end result was a massive open-source database and interactive map that detailed where communities stood on the project. We also published a series of explainer stories and videos, led by Trevor Jang, that added context and answered questions people had about consultation.
I’ve said this to The Narwhal team a bunch already, but I’m in awe of Steph Wood’s reporting, especially her story about the Sinixt people fighting for recognition of their existence at the Supreme Court of Canada. I also think Kelsie Kilawna and the team at IndigiNews is creating some of the most beautiful storytelling I’ve ever read — they are really pushing boundaries when it comes to their approach and I’m grateful to learn from them. And, I also have to give a shout out to my colleagues working on in-depth local news at The Discourse in Nanaimo and Cowichan. Those are the first things that come to mind. Oh, and Chris Cheung’s newsletter for The Tyee, ‘Under the White Gaze.’
It’s all about relationships — with your colleagues, with your readers, with the public, with yourself. When I first started out as a journalist, I was really motivated by doing work that I thought was important, basically big investigations and “serious” journalism. Over time, my understanding of what it means to share stories for a living has shifted. Don’t get me wrong, I still love digging deep and working hard, but how I go about it has changed. I’m more motivated to think deeply about the intention behind the work that I’m doing and take care of the relationships I’m building along the way.
I am honestly so excited about the work that I’m already doing at The Narwhal. There are some big investigations in the works, as well as plans to share a little bit more of the work that goes on behind the scenes and create more opportunities to listen to as many people as possible. Also, our B.C. team is going to be growing soon, so stay tuned for job postings.
I have a dog named Goose, which is not at all because of Top Gun but we do get asked that a lot.
My daughter, who is 11 months old, recently said her first word and it’s bear (not Goose!). Now, every animal that she sees she proudly shouts, “bear.”
For three years, I lived in a community that is boat-access only. Every day, I would do what I called the urban triathlon: get in the boat and head to the marina, hop in the car with my partner and drive into the city, stop once we got over the bridge, take my bike off the back of the car and then bike to the office. My commute is a lot shorter these days!
Note: This story discusses mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, there’s 24/7 phone support available with Talk Suicide Canada: 1-833-456-4566, or text...Continue reading
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