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Jen St. Denis on Diving Deep into the Downtown Eastside

Our beat reporter chats about what she hopes her coverage will accomplish in the community.

Emma Cooper 3 Aug 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Emma Cooper is the outreach manager for The Tyee.

Jen St. Denis, our new Downtown Eastside reporter, came aboard The Tyee in early July, on the heels of the worst month ever for opioid overdoses in B.C.: an epidemic amidst the pandemic. While the Vancouver neighbourhood has not experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, ongoing overdose deaths and homelessness have hit the community hard and frontline workers are stretched. It’s a pivotal time.

St. Denis jumped at the chance to cover the area. For her, reporting on a vibrant community that’s also ground zero for the opioid epidemic is a natural fit with her career so far. As a journalist, she’s investigated the appalling conditions in the Balmoral and Regent hotels, tracked the tent city at Oppenheimer Park, and covered the overdose and housing crises in depth.

These are challenging stories, but St. Denis is more than ready. Some insight into her hustle: she once returned to school as a parent with a 10-month-old. (True grit! It’s not just a Coen brothers movie.)

She also brings a wealth of community news experience from her eight years working as a Vancouver-based journalist and an intense drive to serve the community and hold power to account. Her goal is to report to the community itself, not provide a touristy view of the area.

Although she’s been on the job for just less than three weeks, St. Denis has already tackled big stories, like how guest restrictions at publicly-run SRO hotels are affecting residents, the looming threat of eviction when COVID-19 protections end, and the death of overdose prevention worker Thomus Donaghy, and the call for better support for folks on the frontline.

And she’s covered city council decisions on policing as the government grapples with calls to defund police and end street checks.

Her ability to start in on big, complex stories so quickly is a result of her impressive CV and that aforementioned hustle. Starting at the North Shore News and Business in Vancouver, St. Denis went on to report for the daily Metro newspaper (later StarMetro Vancouver). Her work has appeared in the Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, South China Morning Post and CTV News. As the city hall and housing reporter for StarMetro, St. Denis dug into the big issues that affected the lives of people in the Downtown Eastside and the city.

In this short and conversational livestreamed Three Things interview, St. Denis will discuss why it’s so important to focus on the Downtown Eastside right now, what she’s learned from other reporters who’ve done similar work, and what she hopes her reporting will accomplish. Three Things is a chance to hear what is on the minds of the folks in The Tyee family. Tune in live to ask questions directly via chat.

Join us for a lively and personal interview hosted by yours truly on Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 1 p.m. PST. Register here for the webinar or follow us on Facebook and YouTube where the livestream will be broadcast.  [Tyee]

Read more: Housing, Media

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