Your Excellencies, parliamentarians, members of the board of directors, ladies and gentlemen:
On behalf of the Michener Awards Foundation, I thank Your Excellencies for your support.
We are all here because 37 years ago The Right Honourable Roland Michener established an award to honour and celebrate excellence in journalism that provided an outstanding public service.
The Foundation has been privileged to work with your predecessors over the years as they took steps to maintain the prestige and the relevance of the awards.
Earlier today, you organized a roundtable forum in the Rideau Hall Art Matters series. This particular discussion grappled with the huge challenges for news organizations and journalists in this era of globalization and cyber communications. Enhancements to this ceremony are further evidence of your interest. We thank you for these timely innovations.
For its part, the foundation has also made several innovations over the years. We tend to judge our success by the quality and, of course, the quantity of entries for the award and applications for the Michener-Deacon Fellowship.
Appropriately enough, we focus on communications.
We have developed a first-class website. It enables us to make available a wealth of current and archival material about the awards as well as the work of the fellowship winners.
One of the foundation’s very first innovations – back in 1987 – was to establishment the fellowship. The Michener-Deacon Fellowship has two objectives. One is to allow mature journalists time to complete a project that serves the public interest. The other is to strengthen the journalists’ own professional experience.
Since 1987, 28 journalists have benefited from fellowship grants. We are pleased that applications for the Fellowship have been increasing. This year the judges had to select from among several highly qualified candidates.
On a personal note, it’s a pleasure to introduce this year’s winner. Chris Cobb learned journalism and began his career is his native England. His career in Canada began in 1975 when he succeeded in circumventing the formidable barrier represented by my secretary and convinced me to give him a job at the Ottawa Journal. Chris Cobb is now a senior feature writer and reporter at the Ottawa Citizen. He is the Canadian President of the Commonwealth Journalists Association, an organization dedicated to nurturing journalism in developing commonwealth countries.
He has held training seminars for journalists in African countries and in Guyana. Recently he has undertaken special projects on AIDS in Africa, traveling for two weeks with the UN Special Ambassador Stephen Lewis.
Mr. Cobb has also written extensively about the media. He describes his most recent book – Ego and Ink – as a gossipy tale about the rise of the National Post and the subsequent national newspaper war.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the signing in Ottawa of the International Landmines Treaty, he will use the Fellowship to research and write about the treaty — how it evolved, what impact it is having across the globe and why Canada’s leadership and interest appear to have waned.
There were 47 entries for the 2006 Michener Award – that is, the award for public service journalism published or aired during the calendar year 2006. For the first time this year, we invited entries for journalism published online. We received none – but we know that will change before long.
The entries from traditional media were geographically well-balanced. There were nine French language entries, including two from smaller news organizations.
Overall, there were seven entries from smaller organizations, including two from weekly newspapers. This is particularly encouraging. Over the years, the results have proved that the size of the news organization isn’t a barrier to recognition at this ceremony.
Excellencies, Participants at your Art Matters Forum discussed journalism in the age of cyber communications. Whenever these issues are examined, one of the constants that seems to come through is that — while changes are inevitable — there will be a bright future for reporting of facts that serve the public interest.
The Economist newspaper looked at the future of news recently and concluded, quote, “Titles that invest in the kind of investigative stories which often benefit society the most are in a good position to survive.”
Just last month Macleans magazine ran a similar report and concluded – “There seems to be plenty of demand for quality reporting on things that matter.”
The news organizations we are honouring this evening clearly engaged in reporting that matters and reporting that benefits society.
June 8, 2007