Welcome to Rideau Hall.
Among the finalists and their friends, a lot of you are new to me. In fact, journalism thrives on variety, new blood, new stories, and new ideas.
In turn, vigorous journalism gives to our country and to all democracies, much of their liveliness. And the Michener Award in particular honours not only excellence, but the public benefit of journalism. That is why it was created.
I don’t want to over-flatter journalists. I was a reporter for too long to believe in our saintliness. Besides, with this audience I probably could never get away with it. I will wait for the Press Gallery dinner.
That being said, I stand by my story, because the fourth estate is part of a functioning democracy. Your character and your abilities help to shape our country.
The Michener Awards honour the best in public service journalism and I want to pay tribute to those who organize and support these awards including our panel of judges.
This year, our finalists – you and your news organizations – have targeted environmental problems, the right to privacy, military justice, domestic violence and child welfare. You have shed new light on major social issues and, in many cases, you have helped change attitudes and official policies.
Your stories in all their variety and all their strength have won recognition by the Michener judges as the best of the best. But in congratulating the finalists, I would also compliment the other entrants who were close behind you. And even beyond them, we have a country full of good journalists with a concern for the public interest. A number of them are covering the Manitoba flood.
When I became Governor General, I indicated the possible creation of a new award for volunteers and care-givers, as we have done; and I also asked journalists to “give good news a chance.” Today, as Governor General, with an election under way, I hesitate to make pronouncements about news, good or bad.
But on the general question of good news versus bad news, all of us know that reporting an injustice has more news value than an easy puff-piece.
Yet I believe that when a story has positive elements, they deserve recognition. And I will add that no matter how jaded anyone is, the more time he or she spends with the volunteers and the ordinary people who make this country tick, the more that person will get the idea that this nation is indeed something special.
Whenever I have to travel abroad, I always want to get my hands on Canadian news reports. It makes me realize time and again how outstanding our journalists are back home. All the finalists here tonight can be proud of their profession.
You the finalists and your organizations deserve our gratitude both for the stories you have written and for the example you have set.
I offer you my congratulations and my thanks.
His Excellency, the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc
Governor General of Canada
Rideau Hall, Ottawa
May 1, 1997.