By Glenda McCarthy
Four Journalism students, one instructor, and six weeks led to the creation of a special site highlighting the impact a potential Viking site would have on the small rural communities of the Codroy Valley on the Island’s west coast.
Viking Shadows in the Valley uses data, pictures, videos and to tell the story. Their finished work, the website http://vikingshadows.wix.com/inthevalley, was unveiled on June 7 via the program’s Facebook page. As part of the very first capstone project to come out of the Journalism program, it took six weeks for the students to bring together print articles, still images, video clips, drone footage and data through the use cutting-edge tools and equipment.
Alumnus Chris Lewis of Carbonear was a cameraman, chief video editor, drone pilot, writer, web designer and reporter for the project. Now an NTV News correspondent for Conception Bay South, Chris recalls how the group wanted to focus on a subject that was exciting and hadn’t been explored before.
“We got together and tried to figure out a topic that we all wanted to focus on for six to seven weeks. We had a few ideas floating around, but within days we decided we wanted to finish our year with something fun and exciting,” he says. “The possible Viking settlement in Codroy Valley definitely fit that definition.”
In 2015, researchers from the University of Massachusetts – Boston, began excavating the area after hearing claims of a possible Norse settlement. Journalism instructor, Jeff Ducharme says the possibility was a very newsworthy item on the west coast at the time and seemed like a great fit for the capstone project guidelines.
“There were a number of things we talked about. One of the big issues that was going on in the west coast was the possibility of a Viking settlement at Point Rosee,” Jeff says. “The students latched onto this project and we spent two days out there as a group, and they went out there on their own a number of other times. They worked long days; 14 hour days. They really enjoyed it and understood the significance of it, which was important. They realized the bigger picture in this project was to show if it is eventually confirmed that there were Vikings in Point Rosee, what would it mean to the people in the Codroy Valley? It is basically just a farming, agricultural settlement since there’s not much else going on out there. So how could this change people’s lives?”
Chris says the students had a clear concept for how the completed project would look.
“We had a pretty solid frame that we wanted to follow,” Chris says. “We knew we wanted a specific part dedicated to the tourism aspect of the Viking settlement, the history part, and how it would affect random people who live in the area. We had a lot of angles and that’s what we filled, along with stuff that we just found out when we were in the area. We followed our frame pretty well and got what we went for,” he says.
“We wanted to get out there and get the interviews out of the way right away. Then we had the next four weeks to edit videos, write stories, and edit the website so we spent about three-and-a-half weeks editing what we had.”
The drone footage alone was a full two hours in length and by the time they finished filming at the end of the two days, they had nearly 110 gigabytes (approximately four and a half hours) of raw footage to sort through.
“We were in Codroy Valley 12 hours the first day and 11 hours the next day for interviews, B roll and everything, so it was a lot of footage to go through at the end of the day,” Chris says. “But it was great and it was definitely my favourite thing that I have done. To see it all completed and see the positive comments from people, to see the views rack up – that’s really rewarding. It’s cool to see something you worked so hard on finished, completed and getting so much positive feedback.”
While it has since been announced there does not appear to have been a settlement for the Vikings, Jeff feels the students did a great job on the overall project.
“Unfortunately we came to find out this year that it does not appear that it was a settlement. Were there Viking’s there? Possibly, but it wasn’t a second big settlement, or the second L’anse aux Meadows site that a lot of people were hoping it would turn out to be. But with that being said, the students did a great job. They covered everything from a dance at the Legion, where they were raising funds for the victims of the fire in Fort McMurray, which was happening at the same time, to talking to people at the corner store, to talking to local amateur archeologists and going to those sites,” Jeff continues.
“One of the neatest features was talking to little kids in the school and asking them what they thought it would be like to be a Viking, listening to their comments is really cute. We asked them to draw pictures of what they thought a Viking would be and some of the art work is absolutely charming. So they took all these things and combined them.”
Jeff feels the project is quite an accomplishment and it’s a massive undertaking for the number of students in the allotted timeframe.
“Four students did this. I think when you look at the website and you see the amount of information on there, and see the things they put together, you can understand the amount of effort it took and the amount of work they put in to it. It’s really quite impressive.”