When the news broke Feb. 3 about Awso Peshdary being accused of terrorism, the Algonquin community was shocked that a jihadist recruitment operation could allegedly be running on campus.
I was not one of them, as I had more time to stomach it before the news broke.
On Jan. 15, Stewart Bell, a National Post reporter, contacted me through Twitter and asked if he could phone me regarding a story at Algonquin.
I agreed, anxious as a student reporter, to hear from a veteran one.
What he began to tell me and what he had heard from his sources was ominous.
He pointed out to me the Larmond twins’ arrests on Jan. 9 and the subsequent arrest of Suliman Mohamed on Jan. 12.
Bell gave me the basics at that time.
He believed that the Larmonds were connected to Awso Peshdary through the Muslim Students’Association.
My head was spinning, and I was filled with fear.
Then fear drove me to dig.
Digging showed me I could not do this by myself and I did not want to abuse my exclusive privilege.
As a white female of European descent with only a basic knowledge of terrorism and Islam, I did not want to rattle cages that I didn’t fully understand the contents of. Jan. 20, I passed the story on to my program coordinator, Joe Banks, and he assured me that he would “take it from here.”
After the story initially broke about Awso Peshdary, Algonquin Times reporter Trevor Alain took the lead.
This was followed by an unprecedented visit from Algonquin journalism graduate Aedan Helmer, asking for our assistance and sharing his gathered information about the unravelling story.
Helmer shared his information with us prior to releasing the articles he had written for the Ottawa Sun, titled: Alleged jihadists in Ottawa share common link and Remembering a younger John McGuire on Feb. 14.
Helmer intricately explained the web that linked the alleged ISIS terrorists for the class.
What became apparent to me in the midst of our lesson is that journalism is all about timeliness.
Even the way we learn is unconventional and evolving.
After our session, our class we brainstormed our stories and angles for the coverage in this issue of the Times.
Many of my classmates stepped up and offered their best effort to uncover the truth for the student body.
When the story broke nationally, Bell once again attempted to contact me, asking if I had anything.
Using my better judgment, I simply responded, “Since it is breaking news at Algonquin, I’ve been advised to direct you to Joe Banks.I am not involved with the story at this time.”
We all have it within us to find the truth.
The way to do it, is to know where to look.
Through Helmer disclosing his documents and findings with our class we learned that the way to find what you need is to know where to look, and to be meticulous in doing so.
You have to question everything twice and verse yourself so deeply in the facts that you know when something strikes against the grain.
The articles before you are the Times pursuit down the rabbit hole, and I can assure you that as journalists we will always be relentless in our search for the truth