Opinion by Vanessa Thomas
I get a lump in my throat when I think about how I was unjustly portrayed as a villain. I had the same hollow feeling in my heart when my grandmother passed away when I was 10.
I was represented in the Ryersonian’s editorial last week as a journalist everyone should rightfully hate. Although the editorial was a string of lies and a few seconds of observation blown out of proportion, I take it deeply to heart. The editorial was an attack, not only to my reporting ability but, most of all, on my character.
Last week I was sent to do my first “pick-up.” In the journalism vocabulary this means getting a comment from a family member of a dead person and hopefully a picture. It is one of the worst assignments in journalism.
I didn’t expect to receive a comment from Manish Ohdavji’s family. I did expect to get a door closed in my face. My heart was pounding as I rang the doorbell of the Ohdavji house.
When I received no reply I was kind of thankful. I retreated from the home and did not return for more than four hours.
Later, while interviewing neighbors, I spotted a car pull into the driveway so I returned to the house.
The editorial said I “ambushed” the two men “before they had a chance to move.” This is a lie.
I walked to the house in open view of the family across the street. As I approached the two men they turned to face me.
The editorial stated the brother was “weeping openly.” This is a lie. He was solemn and sad, but he wasn’t crying.
The editorial stated the men “mumbled something” to me and “retreated inside.”
This is another lie. After introducing myself as a student from Ryerson, who was writing a story for a student newspaper, the two men voluntarily answered my questions. The interview lasted an entire three minutes. It was then I learned for the first time the family had just returned from the funeral.
The biggest insult was when the editorial stated I was “pumping” my “fist in the air” and “jumped up and down the family’s lawn” after they “retreated inside.”
This is not in my character.
I would not display my emotions so aggressively during such a sensitive occasion. Before I could even digest what happened, another car pulled in the driveway one minute later.
When I introduced myself to Ohdavji’s father, a family friend said he didn’t want to talk, so I left.
The editorial falsely states I “refused” to leave and that the father “was forced to scurry inside to safety”.
In both instances, Aaron Sands, managing editor of the Ryersonian and writer of the editorial and Jarrett Churchill, features editor, caught the last few seconds of my conversations with the family members.
The majority of their editorial observations were made inaccurately while the two walked from their parked car three houses away.
Many press representatives, including the Ryersonian and myself, were at the house for the same reason: to get comments and pictures from family members.
The next day, the Ryersonian and The Eyeopener both received additional comments from family members.
Why would the family talk to anyone from Ryerson if I had misrepresented the Ryerson media in any way?
The family trusted me to tell their side of the story and I accurately reported their feelings. It was only when I was three houses down the street of the Ohdavji home, after the two family-member encounters, that it occurred to me what I had accomplished. I shared this moment with another journalism student who had accompanied me. I did jab my fist but there was no jumping, no repetitive “pumping” of my fist, no family members in sight.
I jabbed my fist in the air a single time not because a death had occurred, but because, despite the odds, I came away with the difficult story that I was sent to cover.
Is it wrong to pat yourself on the back for job well done? I didn’t think so at the time and I don’t think so now.