Ryerson students discuss fortune telling investigative report


(RSJ ’18)

Fourth-year Ryerson journalism students Emerson Brito and Jonah Brunet were faced with a challenge to convince the victims in their Toronto Star investigation into fortune tellers that they would be presented empathetically.

“A lot of our sources didn’t want to talk to us because they were embarrassed and didn’t want to be part of the story. So a big part of our job was convincing them,” said Brito.

Fortune Sellers gave insight to Toronto’s highly profitable fortune-telling industry. Star investigative reporter and Ryerson professor Robert Cribb, Brito and Brunet dug into the industry and discovered that victims like Jack have been conned for thousands of dollars.

Their goal was to present the reasons why this type of event occurs and present that this could happen to anyone that is going through a hard time.

The process began in late January 2015 where students in Cribb’s class chose an assignment in pairs or small groups. Brito and Brunet found themselves doing the fortune tellers story with the help of Cribb and Miki Corraza, who was the main connection to their victim sources.

The team pitched their story to the Toronto Star and other media outlets in mid-April of 2015 and worked on it over the course of summer and winter break until its final release last March.

Over the year Brito and Brunet discussed their favourite experiences during this process. For Brito it was hearing the main victim’s story.

“Just to hear him go fully in depth, there were just so many layers to it, the story was very gripping,” said Brito.

Brunet most favorable moment was the video piece on W5. Jack, the interviewee was one of the sources that would not release their real name or appearance, in order to get him in front of the camera his appearance was altered through “movie make-up.”

Brito suggests that it was important for the victims to hide their identity because fortune telling is not really understood because it is widely mocked. There is a lack of empathy in this particular context which lead the team to agree to protect the victim’s identities in order to avoid derision.

Working with Cribb was a highlight for both students. His professional manner was what helped the team’s story reach its proficient standard.

Brunet’s most admirable moment with Cribb was when they filed a Freedom of Information Request. The request was filed early during the process and they got the results towards the end of February. The team then went to the Star’s news room to go over it with them.

“That was my favourite part because it actually felt like being a part of the Toronto Star news room and working with them as a fellow journalist,” said Brunet.

Over the year Brito enjoyed working with both brunet and Cribb, but his most memorable experience was Cribb’s forthright attitude.

“He won’t beat around the bush, he tells you exactly what he is expecting and what you need to work on and what works and what doesn’t which was very helpful,” said Brito.