The 2008 Michener Award finalists talk about their award winning stories and the people who helped make them happen – Michener Awards Ceremony, June 10, 2009.
The Canadian Press teamed up with the CBC and Radio Canada to undertake a multimedia analysis of Taser stun guns and in particular, their use by the RCMP. More than 10 per cent of Taser units tested were either found to be defective or behaved unexpectedly, with some discharging significantly more electrical current than the manufacturer’s standard. The award winning Taser Gun Project: The stories from the files of The Canadian Press
Your Excellencies, fellow nominees, invited guests,
As journalists, our job is to ask questions. With the Taser story there was — and still is — no shortage of questions.
My colleague Sue Bailey and I began asking questions about stun guns five years ago, with a series on Taser use in Canada. At the same time, the CBC and Radio-Canada also developed a keen interest in the subject.
In October 2007 a gentleman from Poland, Robert Dziekanski, died after being shocked with an RCMP Taser. The big questions: how could this happen? And could it happen again?
Perhaps we had some clues. Sue and I began sifting through and analyzing hundreds of RCMP Taser reports for the years 2002 to 2005. A pattern emerged: more than two-thirds of people stunned were unarmed.
In the months following the death of Mr. Dziekanski, the story only grew.
In the interest of asking more questions — and hopefully finding some answers — we at The Canadian Press and CBC / Radio-Canada thought it best to join forces. And ask those questions together.
Getting all 4,000 RCMP Taser reports through the year 2007 was not easy. It was a long battle under the federal information law. And public outcry eventually forced the RCMP to release more data about how and why they were using Tasers.
We continued asking questions. And we found the RCMP were firing their Tasers multiple times in almost half of incidents — despite an internal policy that warned multiple jolts may be hazardous. Indeed, many questions were asked. And many people helped ask them.
I want to mention a few of them now. I extend thanks to our many colleagues at CBC and Radio-Canada. Frederic will mention names in a moment. For the moment, I want to single out a fine collaborator, the industrious David McKie; the inquisitive Sandra Bartlett; tenacious Frederic Zalac, and the dogged Susanne Reber.
At The Canadian Press,
- The best reporter I know, Sue Bailey;
- Rob Russo, our bureau chief, whose unflagging support allowed us to ask those important questions;
- Deputy bureau chief Dean Beeby, whose keen eye and sharp mind were great assets;
- Eric Morrison, our president, who is always full of encouragement
- Scott White, our editor-in-chief, who did not hesitate at the idea of teaming up with a competitor to pursue an important issue of public interest;
- Darlene Parsons and Kevin Wiltshire of our bureau, who did the lion’s share of work on the database and had many helpful observations;
- Data analyst Phil Harbord, who worked so hard to help us make sense of all these numbers;
- Technician Richard Paquette, who made glitches disappear and wonderful patterns emerge;
- The many other reporters in our bureaus across Canada who did fine work on the Taser story;
- And our wonderful graphic artists Sean Vokey and Tammy Hoy.
Michener Awards Ceremony
June 10, 2009
Standing (L-R): Eric Morrison, President, Canadian Press; Rob Russo, Ottawa Bureau Chief; Scott White, Editor-in-Chief.
Seated (L-R): Jim Bronskill, national reporter; Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada; His Excellency Jean-Daniel Lafond; and Sue Bailey, Ottawa reporter.
Photo was taken following presentation of the 2008 Michener Award at a ceremony held in Rideau Hall, Ottawa, June 10, 2009.