Senior writer Belle Hatfield receives the 1990 Honourable Mention award from His Excellency Ray Hnatyshyn on behalf of the Yarmouth Vanguard.
The weekly Nova Scotia newspaper was recognized for its eight-part feature series and special supplement based on the stories of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It also examined the areas where society expects there should be help and intervention to protect the most vulnerable. It was discovered that almost without exception, social agencies had failed, first to recognize what was under their noses and then to effectively deal with the social dynamics – the perpetrator, the family and the broader community.
Ms Hatfield describes the series this way: “We wanted to honour these women’s stories, but still find a way to empower change in the social agencies faced with dealing with this issue. Police, health, education, social services – the representatives we met with from all these agencies wanted to do a better job. The survivors just wanted the taboo about discussing child abuse and incest lifted from the shadows. Our message was clear – this happens in your community. All of us have a role to play in stopping it. Let’s not be afraid to talk about it.”
Publication of the stories generated community and provincial endorsation and action. The award was presented during a ceremony held at Rideau Hall on April 25, 1991.
The judging for the Michener Award goes beyond journalistic merit to consider what the project has accomplished, the absence of self-serving journalistic interest, and the resources available to entrants so that larger and smaller competitors are on a more equal basis..