Journalism student Brooklyn Connolly already breaking the news

Journalism student Brooklyn Connolly already breaking the news

Fourth-year journalism student Brooklyn Connolly has learned lessons and asked herself serious questions while producing two important stories for CBC Nova Scotia recently.

Growing up in central Nova Scotia, Brooklyn Connolly escaped the confines of her hometown by reading. She found refuge in the words of Gloria Steinem, Sylvia Path, and Joan Didion. It was the characters—both real and fictional—she loved the most. As Connolly begins her career as a journalist, she’s still fascinated with people.

Back in February, Connolly was home visiting family during the Reading Week break. It was pre-COVID-19; life was normal. Connolly’s cousin is a former doula, a trained professional who helps individuals physically and emotionally through experiences like childbirth, miscarriages and abortions. Her cousin’s friends, who are also doulas, were hanging out, and a long conversation unravelled about the different ways to go through childbirth.

“It was really cool,” Connolly, 21, said. “I thought it was really interesting.” She began doing her own research. Her focus narrowed to midwives, professionals who provide care for women and their babies at medical centres, or, a lot of the time, at home.

Initially, Connolly wanted to write a profile on a specific midwife. She pitched the idea to a local news site but was rejected.

Then the pandemic hit in March. The Nova Scotia government suspended midwifery care indefinitely. Connolly now had a hook to the story. She pitched again and this time it was accepted. She started digging around and talking to people in the industry about the decision.

I just don’t think I’d do a good job writing a story if I didn’t care about it.”

– Brooklyn Connolly

It took weeks, but after learning how to gain the trust of certain people and work her way into the midwifery community, Connolly found the real story. During the six-week suspension, unlicensed practitioners were running a covert mission to help women give birth at home.

It’s an incredible scoop. Connolly conducted more than a dozen interviews for the story. She wrote it up, filed it, and then never heard from the editor again. The young journalist was crushed.

“I was really worried for my sources,” Connolly said. “I didn’t want to put in all this work and get them to trust me, and then have nothing to show for it.”

These women were brave and passionate, Connolly said. She felt it was an important story and couldn’t give up on it. She built up the courage to pitch the story to CBC Nova Scotia. It was accepted. Connolly produced digital and radio stories for the public broadcaster.

A different challenge

Looking through Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requests released on the Nova Scotia government’s website, Connolly stumbled upon shocking data last month. She immediately knew it was significant. Indigenous women in Nova Scotia represented 18 per cent of all female inmates in 2019, despite only accounting for six per cent of the provincial population.

Connolly struggled with how she, a white woman, should report on this story, but the information had been sitting there for weeks and she knew it needed to be shared. Connolly didn’t want to say much more than that she was incredibly grateful to the women who spoke to her, and she hopes people listen to their stories.

“I hope that it helps create change because it’s needed. Especially in Nova Scotia,” she said.

In both these stories, it’s the people that matter for Connolly. They are stories about humans who have been vulnerable and generous enough to share their experiences, good and bad. When it comes to writing a story about them, for Connolly, “it’s important to do it justice.”

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