Roadkill: Where Does It Go?

Column A: Free Press
Column B: Participatory journalism
Column C: “How Participatory Journalism Turns News Consumers into Collaborators”

I was on my way home from UBC one afternoon when I noticed a dead coyote on the side of the road. I was shocked to see such an enormous deceased animal, but I realized that in Vancouver it’s normal to see a squirrel or a bird laying on the road, maybe even the occasional raccoon, but rarely such a large animal. (I thought it was a German Shepard and gasped so loudly I woke the lady sitting next to me on the bus.) The next day on my way to school, the poor coyote was still there but had been placed up onto the median. Why hadn’t the coyote been taken away the night before? Who picks it up? Where would they take it? What do they do with it? How was I going to get my questions answered?

In the article written by Olivia Koski, “How Participatory Journalism Turns News Consumers into Collaborators,” she points out how journalists who engage the public, actually learn more; the story is more in depth and accurate and invites the public’s interest into the story.

She also notes that “a lot of newsrooms pay lip service to “audience engagement,” and if it’s an afterthought or feels like an obligation, the effort to engage will most likely fail.” She states that journalists who recognize their audience as a resource, and “engagement as a way to tap that resource”, are able to use it to cover what would otherwise be stories that are impossible to report. Koski believes that, “the process begins in the same way lots of journalism begins: with a question.”

Granted, I wasn’t trying to write a story, but I did have questions I thought others might have answers to. Maybe I could get my questions answered by engaging the public and specifically the public of UBC. So, as an experiment, I posted a question on a private UBC Facebook group of around fourteen thousand people. The question I asked was:

“Has anyone else noticed the dead coyote along SW Marine? The poor pupper was laying on the road yesterday and this morning it had been moved to the grass. Does anyone know who takes away these poor animals that get hit? I saw a racoon a few weeks ago too and it’s just awful.”

Almost instantly, one student answered with very helpful information on how animals are disposed of in Vancouver. The site she provided was:

Just by going to the “Urban Wildlife Control” site, many of my questions were answered. Did you know you need to call the Ministry of Environment at 1–877–952–7277 for the removal of dead coyotes, not the City of Vancouver?

However, one guy took his chance at humour and posted: “Call Canada Goose.” For those who don’t know, Canada Goose is a Canadian outdoor clothing company who uses real coyote fur as trim on the hoods of their parkas. Canada Goose are known for celebrating the trapping and killing of wildlife for unnecessary, decorative fur trim, despite the fact that the majority of Canadians are against companies using real fur.

Another person was particularly concerned and asked if it was “The UBC Coyote” that had been killed. Upon further research I have discovered that there is a Facebook page dedicated to Carter the Coyote who is a well known coyote around the Vancouver UBC campus. Hopefully it wasn’t Carter.

Further, in Koski’s article she notes that, “Questions are a more neutral format where stories can start from…” She also states that “With public-powered journalism, professionals continue to do the good work they’ve always done — reporting, verifying, and synthesizing complex information — but audiences are regarded not only as recipients but as resources to inspire and inform the work they do.”

All in all, it was amazing how fast participatory journalism worked using one of many free press sites available to the public.

With the easy accessibility of free press sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., participatory journalism will be the way of the future if one is seeking to obtain information needed on a much quicker level then if done the old fashion way, such as calling the City or contacting the University firsthand.