How Barb Pacholik covered the case of a convicted pedophile.

By Paige Kreutzwieser

Barb Pacholik, a senior reporter at the Regina Leader-Post, tackled a difficult subject in her piece “Betrayal: What do you do when you discover your friend is a pedophile?”

Pacholik received a 2014 Beyond Borders Award for the feature that focused on Jon Walsh and his friend Bradley Chanin. After Walsh found evidence of child pornography on Chanin, Walsh exposed his friend as a pedophile to local police. Pacholik followed the story from the first press release all the way to Thailand, where Saskatchewan’s Internet Child Exploitation unit tracked one of Chanin’s victims. Pacholik was also nominated for National Newspaper Awards for the story.

Pacholik graduated from the University of Regina’s School of Journalism in 1987. She worked at the Brandon Sun before starting at the Leader-Post in 1988, where she currently works as a crime reporter. Pacholik has also co-authored three crime novels. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

J-Source: Where did your love of writing come from?

Barb Pacholik: I think what I love about print is the ability to really, deeply tell a story. When I started at the Leader-Post, one of the senior editors used to talk about reporters coming from two different camps—there were the reporters who loved to write and there were the reporters who loved to research. I actually fell more into the camp of the ones who loved to research. But, when I started to write my books, I developed more of a love for writing. And that really comes from the love of the writing and just being able to play with words, think a little bit more about phrases.

J-Source: Where do you find these feature stories?

BP: It’s a lot of luck and reputation. I remember one of the first crime stories I was working on, and I was banging my head because I was following Anne Kyle who had been a great crime reporter at the Leader-Post. And I had trouble getting the door open, because it was always, “Well, where’s Anne?” You sort of struggle with that. So, after how many decades you’ve been at it, [a reputation] opens a few doors.

J-Source: How did you find the story of Bradley Chanin in “Betrayal: What do you do when you discover your friend is a pedophile?”

BP: There was a press release that came out from the Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit. They’ve always made a point of issuing press releases when there has been somewhat of a major arrest. I think in the very first press release, they said this guy was now being charged as a sexual tourist. I remember thinking, “Well, that’s a little different.” Because that kind of thing had never happened before.

For whatever reason, I thought, I’m going to call this guy’s house and see who answers. I called the house and his mother answered. I explained who I was and said I was doing this story about this charge being laid, and she just started telling me how her son was in a dark place and he’s an alcoholic, and some of that worked into the story. And then, serendipity: two or three weeks later, I get this call one day from [Jon Walsh] and he starts telling me how he knew Brad Chanin and he’s the one who essentially blew the whistle on him. So, it was one of those things I said, “I think there is something here, and I want to do a story about it, so can I call you when, and if, this guy pleads guilty?” So, we agreed and that’s where the thing lifted off.

J-Source: What techniques did you use to get all the different sides of this story?

BP: I really needed to know, and I wanted to know, all the facts that had been entered in the court during his guilty plea. Understanding the way the courts work, I was able to get a transcript to the sentencing and that was sort of my starting point because that gave me a factual basis for what had gone on.

A lot of it was just listening. His friend—that’s what made that story, to be honest. I always tell people, without their trust in me to tell a story, I can’t tell good stories. He really opened up to me. A lot of it was interviewing; it was him, it was going back to the police and talking to them, it was talking to the crown prosecutor. I made several attempts to contact Brad Chanin. I really wanted to talk to him but unfortunately, he never called me back.

J-Source: How did you feel after hearing Walsh’s side of the story?

BP: I guess I’ve done enough crime reporting that it wasn’t like I was shocked or anything like that. I knew I had a good story and was very, very—even from the outset— thankful that he had opened up to me in the way he did.

I recognized this is a terrible, terrible thing that had happened, but looking at it as a journalist, I knew there was a good story to tell. And a different story, one that maybe hadn’t been told before about someone who makes that decision to turn in someone very close to them. And that was a story I hadn’t read before. We are in the news business. The fact that I could tell a story that maybe people hadn’t heard before felt good, like it was a good thing.

J-Source: In an article after the award nomination, it says Walsh had said something to you along the lines, “Doing the right thing is only hard when you stop and think about it.” Have you encountered other stories like this, where someone had to do something like Walsh?

BP: I’ve had some really powerful conversations with women who are sexual abuse victims and had to make that decision to really in a sense put themselves out there. So, I guess I’ve had the opportunity on a few occasions to hear people that did the right thing, knowing that it was at risk to themselves. And when I first talked to Jon Walsh, my initial thought was it’s an interesting story but probably not something I’ll be able to use because so many times before in those similar circumstances, they say it’s off the record and they can’t risk putting themselves out there. And he put himself out there, not only to turn in his friend but to talk about it later and to put his name to the story. So, I’ve seen a few people like that along the way. I always feel very honoured that they have given me their story and trusted me with their story.

J-Source: What are your future plans? Do you plan to write another book?

BP: Well, I never planned to write the first book, so I have no plans right now for another book. I never say never but, right now, I don’t have a contract or anything in the works. How long will I keep working? I don’t know.

I said they are going to have to take me out of journalism kicking and screaming. You have your really good days, where you really love what we do. And then there’s the bad days, where you watch 90 journalists across this country get laid off and 90 really solid journalists and that’s heartbreaking. So, how long will I keep doing it? I guess we will see how long we still have print newspapers.

[[{“fid”:”5896″,”view_mode”:”default”,”fields”:{“format”:”default”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:””,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:””},”type”:”media”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“height”:285,”width”:195,”style”:”width: 100px; height: 146px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;”,”class”:”media-element file-default”}}]]Paige Kreutzwieser is a graduate of the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. She also holds a BA in political science and certificate in Indian Communications Arts. As a journalist, Paige has worked for CJME News Talk Radio, CBC, First Nations University of Canada and Regina Leader-Post. She is currently working as a reporter in Weyburn, Sask., for Golden West Radio.