Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mesdames et Messieurs. Welcome to Rideau Hall.
l always enjoy this event. It gives me the chance to reminisce about my years as a journalist. Of course, back then, in the early sixties, in London, covering the news was very different – since this was before satellite. We used film – and yes, it was film, not video – we had to have the film ready for 11:30 in the morning, so it could be shipped back – by a motorcycle and plane relay – for the 11 o’ clock evening news.
Now, with news channels, you are always on air in the electronic world, and this is having some impact on the written media.
The constant presence of provincial, national and international news seems to have squeezed out a lot of community reporting. It is obvious that the ordinary, quiet activities of volunteers in communities, of town councils which quietly do the business of the community, do not make headlines.
So l have no formula to offer you. l only put forward some experience, from my travels to many parts of Canada – in the Kooteney Valley in British Columbia, for example — the small towns of Castlegar, Rossland, Nelson. These are communities where citizens were proud to attend in large numbers ceremonies for volunteer awards – for people they had submitted to the selection committee.
These are not national stories. Yet they are part of the fabric of this nation. Of course, we are here today to honour some of the best reporters, for the good public service stories of the past year. So, forgive me for preaching to the converted. Your stories revealed real issues facing Canadians. And because of your efforts, people are looking at ways to fix the problems.
The impact of your stories shows the power the media can have on people’s lives. What you choose to report, the issues you cover, the events you decide to be newsworthy can affect the public agenda.
With that power — with any power — comes responsibility. Today, l am pleased to honour, with the Michener awards, the people who are carrying this responsibility out with skill and integrity.
My congratulations to the winner, and to aIl the finalists on their excellent work.
Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.
His Excellency, the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc
Governor General of Canada
Rideau Hall, Ottawa
April 19, 1999.