It took one tweet from Toronto police to mobilize the Toronto Star’s 150-person newsroom on the most violent day in the city’s recent history.
“Collision, numerous pedestrians have been struck by a white van on Yonge St and Finch area. further when I get more.”
Within minutes, several Star reporters and photographers were dispatched to Canada’s most famous street, where 25-year-old Alek Minassian drove a rental van through a crowd of pedestrians, killing 10 and injuring 16.
By the end of the day, the rolling file was updated 123 times, with 19 bylines, several photos and videos and a graphic showing the van’s path of destruction. That story alone was visited nearly two million times.
In the 36 hours after the attack the Star used every tool at its disposal, publishing 39 files, which included: profiles of the suspect and the known victims; a piece on the cop who kept his cool in a tense standoff with the suspect; an analysis of the message the suspect posted to Facebook minutes before the attack; a look at how the local hospital coped with its biggest-ever Code Orange; and eight columns.
The collection of stories generated 3.9 million page views.
The old-fashioned reporting was twinned by innovative storytelling and newsgathering techniques on the digital desk.
Digital producers used images, maps, alerts, videos and photos on thestar.com, apps, social platforms and more to keep audience across the world up-to-date on latest developments.
It also used innovative social listening techniques to generate additional leads for reporting teams, unearthing the names of the injured and dead — as yet unknown to the world — gathering photos, contacting family and friends, painting a picture of their lives that would inform poignant features the Star published days after the attack.
In the wake of the carnage and devastation on Yonge Street, the Star also found ways to tell real-time stories of Toronto the Good.
The transit officers on the scene who stopped to administer first aid. The pizza shop owner who began throwing pizzas in the oven when police, fire and ambulance personnel drove past his store. And the florist who handed out free flowers to help “the world feel better.”