Back in 2000, at a Foundation board meeting, I put forward the idea that the Michener Awards should have a web site and in both official languages.
The proposal was enthusiastically received by all the board members. Clark Davey then suggested that I should be the one to make it happen. I naively agreed to undertake the project not fully understanding the implications or the enormity of the task that lay ahead. What did I know about the mechanics of building and maintaining a web site? Precious little. But at this point it was put up or shut up! So off to school I went to learn how.
Lest anyone think this site is the product of my work and my work alone, I think it’s time to give credit to all the people along the way who have volunteered their time to breathe life into this endeavour. The site would not exist without them.
First and foremost a huge amount of credit must go to my son, Matthew. He’s an IT specialist. I’ve never truly understood the full scope of his day job. It’s too complicated for mere mortals like myself. But I do know that without his assistance, there would be no web site. His suggestions, page codes, page construction and technical advice are the backbone of the Michener Awards website. He remains the technical consultant of record.
It was Patricia McRae of the Governor General’s research office who kick-started the search for historical data. We had virtually no information or pictures prior to 2000. Pat opened the books for us and provided the authority and access to the personal files of the Governor General which had been stored in their archives since the inception of the Michener Awards in 1970. She also provided official access to the records of Library Archives Canada where most of the historical content for this site was ultimately extracted.
The many hours spent at Library Archives Canada has paid off enormously. I discovered a treasure trove of photos, GG speeches, lists of ceremony participants and other important data needed to fill site pages. It was a laborious chore but the rewards certainly made it all worthwhile. Thanks go to reference archivist, Sophie Tellier who picked up where Pat left off when she retired.
Members of the board have been invaluable too. Clark Davey initiated work on the ‘history’ page. His flawless recollections of the events that transpired in the early years are remarkable. To this day he continues to contribute useful suggestions that bring new content to light.
Past Foundation presidents Pierre Bergeron and David Humphreys have been particularly helpful. David is responsible for the Fellowship pages. On a day-to-day basis he has always been available on the other end of the telephone to offer his support, advice, and assistance as required. And on behalf of the Foundation itself, his contributions have been enormous. Pierre has identified dozens of Quebec journalists in our photos as well as providing guidance through some difficult policy decisions. I cannot thank them both enough.
Russ Mills, Kim Kierans and Arch Mackenzie have all pitched in when needed. Lots of what you read on the site is the product of their dedicated work.
René Roseberry has been the unsung hero for years handling French language news releases announcing finalists, award winners and fellowship recipients. To this day he still available to provide updates for the French site even when he’s off visiting some other part of the world.
But by far, the biggest contribution to the French language site is the work of Alain Guilbert. I can’t say enough about his unselfish and tireless efforts on the French site. He’s the Chef de Mission of prixmichener.ca. All the heavy-duty work of translating the reconstructed English pages for the French language section of the Michener site has fallen on Alain’s shoulders including story descriptions, photo captions, and general historical content. He’s always been available. He has never complained. His work has been phenomenal. I salute him.
Once the basic technology was more or less mastered, the main task at hand was to find all the missing information relative to Michener Award years – 1970-2000 – so that we could reconstitute the elements comprising 30 years of award ceremonies, the award winners, speeches, photos etc. All of this was buried somewhere in the Foundation’s dusty ill-kept files and those belonging to the office of the Governor General. So the search for historical content began in earnest. Simultaneously, we had to cover and document all the on-going post-2000 award ceremonies.
Acquiring photos and historical information dating back to 1970 was always a challenge. Getting the names of all the news people in those old photos was even more difficult.
Some group photos are 20-30 years old and my thanks go to the many managing editors and journalists across the country who have so graciously taken the time to help me identify the people in our photos. The list includes our own John Honderich who has an impeccable memory for people and faces.
One of the site’s prized possessions is a photo provided by former board member Cynthia Baxter. It was the very first Michener Award being presented by Governor General Roland Michener in 1970 to the very first recipient, Clive Baxter – Cynthia’s husband and award-winning journalist.
I am writing this note in 2014 – a full 13 years after this web site was launched and the site is technically still under construction. There are a few gaps in the history pertaining to the early years. So work continues. Do let us know if you have any interesting photos or other memorabilia which you could contribute to the website. It would be most welcome.
The main purpose of the Michener Awards web site is to provide a permanent historical reference point for the best of Canadian meritorious public service journalism. I believe the Michener Award is the finest in the country because it recognizes and honours journalism that gets results – journalism that aims to change the rules and the laws of our governing bodies to make our society a better place. We need to showcase that kind of excellence and the people who make it happen.
What started off as a questionable decision on my part has turned out to be a labour of love. Over the years, I’ve met and exchanged so many e-mails and phone calls with so many journalists, editors and publishers. I consider the time spent a most enjoyable and rewarding experience.
I’m delighted that Edith Cody-Rice is the the new manager of the web site and will be ably assisted by Brent Eades. I wish them both well in this endeavour. The site is in excellent hands.
Michener Awards Foundation