I am delighted to welcome you to this ceremony where, in keeping with the wish of the creator of this award for journalism, His Excellency the Right Honourable Roland Michener, we have gathered to celebrate the recipient of this award. I would like to thank the members of the jury, who considered each nomination and came to a decision. It is my delightful task to congratulate the winner and the other finalists on behalf of all Canadians.
I will not dwell on the obvious: the role and usefulness of print and broadcast media. Instead, I would like to underscore the responsibility engendered by the exercise of a profession that touches all spheres of society and all of us, and serves as a link between citizens who do not produce information in its various forms. This responsibility is increasingly difficult given the competition between purveyors of information who, day by day, are becoming ever more dependent on markets. That is why so much effort is made to make a consumer product so attractive, yet at the same time, relevant and authentic.
Much is made today of the right to information. Here again, we must define what is worthy of telling and how best to apply it. It is not entirely true that we can say whatever we want about anyone or anything. Respect for others should dictate the parameters in this regard. And when it comes time to speak, it must be done in such a way as to inform while maintaining that degree of intimacy to which every citizen has a right and, in the case of public affairs, while considering the interest and usefulness of the information being shared. The press is everywhere; it utilizes every form of curiosity; it is as much a source of entertainment as it is a need. If it is to instruct and educate, it must strive for excellence, which will ultimately gain the public trust.
And so it is for this reason that the State recognizes the importance of an award for journalism and that the governor general presents that award on behalf of the Michener Foundation. It is precisely because it does not impede freedom of expression that the award is able to push journalists and readers alike to wade through the flood of images and text and sort the good from the bad. By setting high standards for news, reports, commentaries or analysis, it fulfills its duty to protect the public order; it does not impose the substance or the form. It suggests what is most likely to clarify and please. And in so doing, it identifies criteria whose application, while not the absolute standard, determines the limits that may prevent harmful excesses in a world where the press, like other institutions, is not immune to the risks of excessive permissiveness.
Again, I offer my congratulations to the recipient of the Michener Award. Its contribution is worthy of praise and is especially important given the competitive nature of the profession that must constantly drive journalists to impose a discipline on themselves that will enhance the prestige of their craft by seeking out that which gives meaning to the values held dear in this country.
The Right Honourable Jeanne Sauvé
Governor General of Canada
Rideau Hall, Ottawa
Thursday, November 16, 1989