Student's controversial story goes viral
© Submitted photo
Brandon Ramey, a second-year journalism student from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, is breaking through as an intrepid reporter at St. Thomas University, having recently tackled a controversial subject for his course. The story was posted online and went viral within hours.
Brandon Ramey of Happy Valley-Goose Bay has only started the second year of his journalism course, but the St. Thomas University student has already proven he can tackle the tough - and controversial - stories.
On Sept. 20th, Ramey had a story he did for class posted on The New Brunswick Beacon, a website which showcases the work of St. Thomas University journalism students.
The story was about a young gay man, Colin Briggs, who was - allegedly - asked by his church, The Crosspoint Wesleyan Church in Fredericton, NB, to stop volunteering with church youth because of his sexual orientation.
According to Ramey's story, Briggs spent much of his time since 2011 dedicated to church activities and volunteer work. He even joined a mission to Haiti during his final year of high school.
According to the article, when Ramey interviewed the Pastor of the church, Mark Brewer, regarding Briggs' dismissal, the Pastor replied "We felt it would be in the best interest of him and the church if he stopped serving...This would "avoid any potential uproar that may be caused if families were to find out an openly gay male was working in the children's ministry."
The controversial story was quickly picked up by social media, and went viral. Since Sept. 20th, Ramey's article has received 221 tweets and more than 11,000 Facebook hits. Even some notable Canadians - such as TV personality Seamus O'Reagan - re-tweeted the story.
The public reaction took young Ramey by surprise.
"I didn't know it was going to be big, but I knew it was going to be a hot topic," he said in an interview with The Labradorian recently.
"I was receiving a lot of Facebook messages from people I didn't know...some people from across Canada who aren't even in the Maritimes...they said it was a story that needed to be out there."
Ramey stumbled across the story of Colin Briggs accidently. It started when Ramey put a post on Facebook one night, asking his friends for story ideas for his class project.
"Sure enough, the next morning I wake up, and got a text from a friend saying, 'I think I have a story for you if you still need one.'"
Many journalism students would shy away from such controversial topics like gay rights and religion, but Ramey didn't hesitate to tackle the subject.
"I figured, if anyone is going to cover it, why not me?"
Negative and positive
After handing in his article for class, Ramey's journalism professor, Jan Wong, suggested the story was worthy enough for The New Brunswick Beacon, where the article went viral in a matter of hours.
Ramey soon found out having a popular article online has its negative side effects. Not all the online comments he received on the story were positive.
"There's people...just shafting my ability as a writer," says Ramey.
But Ramey hasn't let any negativity affect him or his confidence. He realizes that criticism is just part of being a journalist.
"I think it's important, I think it's a good thing because, in journalism, you're going to come across that no matter where you go, no matter what story you cover - there's always going to be someone who disagrees with you and you can't let that discourage you from doing the story."
After watching his story pick up steam online, Ramey also got to witness his scoop being picked up by the mainstream media in the Maritimes, such as CTV's Canada AM.
Ramey proved how tough he could be when he decided to follow up on his hit story. The following Sunday, he actually went to the Wesleyan Church service to get reaction from the congregation. Entering the church, Ramey knew he wouldn't be the most popular guy in the pews.
"I knew that it wasn't going to be pretty. I knew that immediately, as soon as I decided to do it," says Ramey.
"They recognized who I was right away and everyone in the church was quite 'hush- hush.' No one would talk to me and if they did talk to me, they wouldn't tell me their names."
Ramey's follow-up story, based on his visit to the Crosspoint Wesleyan Church, also received attention on Facebook and Twitter.
Ramey plans to pursue journalism as a potential career and will be applying to major in journalism later this fall.