Your Excellency, distinguished colleagues and friends, ladies and gentlemen,
Like all the journalists who have been fortunate enough to find themselves at this podium, let me say what a pleasure and an honour it is to receive the Michener-Deacon Fellowship for Journalism Education.
First, I would like to tip my hat to the Governor General who had the good idea of supporting journalistic endeavours in the first place – Roland Michener – at a time, 1970, when we still had an incomplete understanding of the role journalism plays within a democracy and the responsibilities that go with it. I’d like to thank members of the Michener Awards Foundation and in particular the judges who selected me and the important role they have performed these past 44 years recognizing and honouring excellence in journalism. In the name of all Canadian journalists, thank you.
The life of a journalist can be somewhat fleeting. We follow daily events, we file on deadline, and then we move on to the next assignment. The opportunity for a journalist to stop everything for a moment and really dig into a story to his or her heart’s content has always been a rare and welcome occurrence. Today, it borders on the miraculous. Over the last few decades the profession of journalism has been undergoing a major transformation and not always for its betterment. So getting a chance to indulge in a subject one holds dear is a luxury indeed. Thank you for affording me this luxury.
Which brings me to the subject of my investigation: Big Data Journalism. First of all, let me say that this is very much a joint project with Concordia University’s Faculty of Journalism, which I would also like to thank, and in particular the Chair of the department, Brian Gabrial, who was a real inspiration in this regard.
Big data or digitalization is precisely what is transforming journalism today – not only, but it is certainly top of the list. Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have shown us just how formidable big data can be and, at the same time, I think many would agree, that we’re flying by the seat of our pants here. We’re not quite sure always how to deal with this stuff, how to make sense of it, how to translate it into meaningful prose and also what the ethical implications entail. This is all very much what I intend to delve into in the coming year.
I am of the generation which was much inspired by the Hunter S. Thompsons and Truman Capotes of the world, the “new journalists” who took the world by storm just at about the time, in fact, that Roland Michener thought of rewarding Canadian journalists for the first time. I think today we are on the cusp of a new “new journalism” which, thanks to the Michener-Deacon Fellowship in Journalism Education, I will have the great privilege of exploring.
2014 Michener-Deacon Fellowship recipient
Michener Awards Ceremony
June 11, 2014