Your excellencies, honoured guests, Michener finalists, mesdames et messieurs. It’s a great honour to be president of this new Michener Awards Foundation for several reasons.
First of all, it’s this new Foundation that has the important responsibility of perpetuating these awards – awards that are so very highly prized by all of us in the media. In an earlier incarnation, when I was editor and publisher of The Financial Post, The Post and the CBC jointly won the first Michener Award. So I know how much they mean to everyone involved.
Second, it’s an honour to serve with the highly talented group of people from across Canada who have agreed to become Foundation directors.
Third, it’s great to be able to work with the founding patron of the Foundation, the Right Honourable Roland Michener. His interest – and personal generosity – in recognizing and fostering journalism of high quality and service to the community has been an important contribution to the life of this country.
The Foundation held the first annual meeting of its board of directors today. We discussed future funding, the timing of the awards and similar matters of special concern in the area of education. This year, in addition to the annual awards, the Foundation is sponsoring a seminar on Monday at which journalism students will have an opportunity of learning first hand from the finalists how they went about producing the fine work that put them in contention for the award.
In this and other ways, the Foundation seeks to go beyond the annual award to encourage far more Canadian journalists to take an interest in meritorious and disinterested public service.
One other decision the board took today deserves special mention. It was decided that in addition to the regular annual award to a media organization for noteworthy public service, a special award should be made on occasion to recognize an unusual individual whose efforts exemplify the best in public service journalism. Such an award will be made infrequently, and at the discretion of the board.
The first such award, it was decided, would be a post-humous one to the late Clark Todd, the CTV London bureau chief who lost his life September 4, 1983, while covering the Lebanon violence. The presentation will take place at next year’s awards dinner, but I’d like to mention a few points that illustrate what made Clark Todd special.
Mr. Todd, 38, was a University of New Brunswick grad who had been in broadcasting 20 years. He won attention for his coverage of violence in Poland and Belfast and other hot-spots, but he won international recognition in much broader areas than that. He received the Amos Tuck Award for Best Economic Reporting (1978), on the topic of the Fall of the Dollar: the Overseas Press Club of America Award for Best Documentary (1977), on Eurocommunism: the Bagriel Award (1979), for a report on The Pope in Poland: and the Peabody Award (1979).
One of his colleagues at CTV, Dennis Mclntosh, said that for Todd, the assignment in Beirut was special, not for its inherent danger but because of the great love he had for the country. “He came here,” Mclntosh said, “and realized the agony of the country and wanted to report to the rest of the world how he felt.”
Peter Trueman, anchorman for Global Television, had this to say about Clark Todd: “ln my view, Clark Todd’s death was not futile. He died trying to demonstrate that the Lebanons of this world won’t go away if they’re ignored: that the world is too small for a simple act of bloodshed to have no impact on all of us.”
One of my personal heroes in journalism, the late Kenneth R. Wilson, used to say that our job as journalists was to alert people to the important issues of the clay, to give them some understanding of the pros and cons, and let each individual decide what to do about them.
Clark Todd lived that kind of journalism – and died in its service.
My thanks to Founding Patron of the Michener Awards Foundation, the Right Honourable Roland Michener. We’re very grateful to you for what you have done, and we’re grateful also that your successors as Governor-General have continued the tradition of these presentation dinners at Government House.
November 12, 1983