On behalf of the Michener Awards Foundation, I begin by thanking Your Excellency for your support and your hospitality. I join in your welcome for the presentation of the 38th annual Michener Award – and the 22nd annual Michener-Deacon Fellowship
Your support is key to making the Michener Award Canada’s most prestigious honour for public interest journalism.
Everyone who attends one of these ceremonies – or should we say celebrations – recognizes they are special. We will soon honour one actual winner of the Award.
But all six finalists are worthy contenders. They represent the best of Canadian investigative journalism in 2008. Their success deserves to be more widely known than we can possibly achieve here at this ceremony. Their work can be an inspiration to aspiring journalists.
And since we are championing public interest journalism, it surely makes sense to communicate the results to that wider public we are seeking to serve.
We are pleased that for the first time, CPAC, the Cable Public Affairs Channel will be broadcasting a program about the finalists on its national network. Also for the first time, www.michenerawards.ca or prixmichener.ca will feature the work of all the finalists.
The news media are going through a difficult period. New technologies and the recession are taking their toll. Some are calling it a transition. Budgets are being cut as newspapers struggle to survive. It becomes more difficult for journalists to even apply for fellowships like ours.
I’m reminded of the famous comment of Thomas Jefferson:
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.”
We know that isn’t the choice today. But fewer newspapers and reduced television news resources are already upon us. We want to do everything we can within our own limited means to promote the kind of journalism that is represented here this evening.
We are going to begin the honours this evening by recognizing one of our own. In 1983, the Foundation created a Special Award. It was intended to recognize an individual whose lifetime work exemplified the best in public service journalism.
It is presented only occasionally – at the discretion of the Foundation.
Today it’s my pleasure to announce that we are presenting a Special Award to Clark Davey.
Your Excellency, Clark has worked tirelessly for the foundation through the terms of several of your predecessors. He has served on the board of directors, including terms as president and secretary.
But, of course, there is much more here than long service.
The distinguishing feature of the Michener Award is that it goes to a news organization rather to an individual. But we will see shortly that success requires the talents and dedication of several individuals.
Clark Davey has contributed his talents and dedication in abundance through a lifetime that has exemplified the best in public interest journalism. As a reporter in the Parliamentary Press Gallery, as Managing Editor of The Globe and Mail, as publisher of The Vancouver Sun, The Ottawa Citizen and The Gazette, Clark Davey’s contribution to investigative journalism is inspirational.
I would ask Clark to come forward and I invite your Excellency to present the Michener Awards Foundation Special Award.
(Clark Davey award presentation)
The Michener-Deacon Fellowship is Canada’s premier award to encourage excellence in investigative journalism that serves the public interest. It has enabled many remarkable projects over 22 years.
There is no better example than last year’s winner. Denise Davy is with us this evening representing a finalist for the Michener Award. As a beat reporter for the Hamilton Spectator Denise Davy knew that children’s mental health was a much bigger story than the one she was able to cover day to day.
The fellowship allowed her to explore the issues to a deeper level. She was able to talk to experts across the country and provide a national perspective. Her full report and links to the series are on our website.
The judges awarded the 2009 Michener-Deacon Fellowship to Ed Struzik, a senior writer at The Edmonton Journal. His proposal for a project on Arctic Sovereignty was a strong first pick for a majority of judges. They felt that, though the topic is much discussed and reported, Mr. Struzik’s credentials indicate he is capable of providing new perspectives of national public interest. They believed his stories could make a difference in how Canadians understand the issue of arctic sovereignty.
In his application, Mr. Struzik pointed out that the rules governing the Arctic are changing. Eight countries have legitimate claims to Arctic areas. Ice is melting at a rate that will allow shipping from the north Atlantic to the Pacific. The rising price of oil and new technologies are making Arctic oil accessible. What is required now, Mr. Struzik says, is a national strategy and an international treaty to govern shipping and oil exploration.
He tells us he will join an expedition of geologists who are building a case for Canada to claim an area the size of the three Prairie provinces. They are also mapping the ocean floor to prepare for safe shipping. The result will be a series of articles which The Edmonton Journal has committed to publish. And Mr. Struzik hopes to turn the series into a book.
Your Excellency, Mr. Ed Struzik.
There were 31 entries for the 2008 Michener Award. They included excellent entries from smaller daily and weekly newspapers, illustrating once again that judges take into account the resources available to support each entry.
Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce the finalists for the 2008 Michener Award.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Canada and The Canadian Press:
These news organizations teamed up to undertake an analysis of Taser stun guns and particularly their use by the RCMP. They collaborated on data analysis, identification of vital trends, interviews and preparation of stories for newspapers, websites, radio and television. A scientific analysis by CBC/Radio Canada found that more than 10 per cent of Taser units tested were either defective with some discharging significantly more electrical current than the manufacturer’s standard.
Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe:
An 18-month investigation by the weekly newspaper resulted in the publication of a shocking report of misuse of public funds, illegal political contributions, non-approved and non-verified expense allowances and suspicious international missions by the CEGEP of Saint-Hyacinthe. The investigation triggered an investigation by the Auditor General of Quebec and recommendations for improved governance at CEGEPs.
The Globe and Mail:
A six-month investigation of Canada’s 911 system for handling telephone emergency calls found that outdated technology was being used. The industry and regulators both dragged their feet on changes. After the investigation, the federal government ordered a nation-wide update of the country’s emergency phone system, including technology to locate 911 calls from cell phones.
Scientific tests conducted by the newspaper resulted in a series of stories on high levels of lead in toys being sold in Canada. This led to the largest series of product recalls in Canadian history after federal officials confirmed the Star’s findings. In the last Speech from the Throne, the federal government promised swift action to toughen toy safety laws to protect consumers and their children.
The Hamilton Spectator:
An extended outbreak of Clostridium Difficile at Burlington’s Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital claimed the lives of 91 elderly patients. The Spectator launched an investigation, using Access to Information legislation, computer assisted reporting and investigative techniques. The coverage was crucial to action taken by the Ontario government to increase funding for infection control and to require hospitals in the province to report publicly on outbreaks of C. Difficile infections.
Winnipeg Free Press:
A two-year investigation of the state of the First Nation child welfare system in Manitoba was prompted by the tragic death of a five-year-old girl. The newspaper found that child welfare agency responsible for protecting her did not know she was missing until nine months after her death. Following the investigation, amendments to the provincial Child and Family Service Act were passed to make child safety the primary consideration.
Now comes the moment we’ve all been waiting more. I will ask Susan Wheeler director of the verification bureau of the Auditor General’s office of Canada to present us with the envelope which contains the decision of the judges for the winner of the 2008 Michener award.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen – the winner of the 2008 Michener Award is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Canada and Canadian Press.
Michener Award Ceremony
June 10, 2009