Governor General Léger, Madame Léger, ladies and gentlemen.
This is the sixth presentation of the Roland Michener Award, established by Your Excellency’s distinguished predecessor.
The award recognizes achievement for meritorious public service in the field of journalism. It does not go to an individual but to a news organization. The annual competition is open to weekly and daily newspapers big and small, news agencies, radio and television stations, networks and periodicals. Each year since its inauguration just a few years ago, the Michener Award has grown in prestige.
Indeed Press Club Canada attempts to encourage excellence in the news media. In this regard, it has been administering the Roland Michener Award since its inception and has been striving to make it the most prestigious Canadian Award in the field of journalism.
Among those most closely involved with the award I should like to add the name of Mr. Bill MacPherson, National Editor of the Ottawa Citizen, who has been the unfaltering Chairman of the Award Committee since the founding of the Roland Michener Award. I should also like to pay a tribute to the artist who created the beautiful trophy which represents the Michener Award – Mr. John Matthews, a well-known sculptor from Ottawa.
This year the jury includes Fraser MacDougall, chair of the judging panel, former Canadian Press executive and now executive secretary of the Ontario Press Council; Yves Jasmin, assistant secretary general of Communications at the National Museum of Canada, Patrick Nagle of the Vancouver Sun and Bill Boss, director of public relations at the University of Ottawa.
There were entries from both the written and electronic press and in both national languages. The adjudicators gave the 1975 Roland Michener Award to the Montreal Gazette and the London Free Press, and they wrote in their report the following:
The Gazette’s entry centred around a series of articles by reporter Gillian Cosgrove about the treatment of unwanted or problem girls in provincially-maintained detention centres, where they were handled in ways that society no longer accepts for criminals. The reporter resorted to the not uncommon method of obtaining employment in one such centre, after unsuccessful attempts to dig out the story in more conventional ways, and emerged from her expedience with a harrowing succession of articles that provoked swift action at both provincial and municipal levels.
Policies changed, recruiting procedures were reviewed and strengthened and new resources in time were found for the system, not only in Montreal but throughout the province of Quebec. Action developed on several fronts as Cosgrove’s pieces flowed and the Gazette assigned other staffers to cover the story’s broadening implications and keep it in balance.
The London Free Press entry was a series by reporter George Hutchison, illustrated by Photographer Dick Wallace, on the unfortunately hackneyed but all-too-real problem of mercury poisoning in Ontario. Their immediate focus had been the plight of the 50 fishing families around Lake St. Clair who had lost their livelihood but the reporters’ checking carried them to the Kenora, Grassy Narrows and White Dog districts, where they learned at firsthand about Minimata disease.
As the story developed, and representatives of the two reserves travelled to Japan to establish contact with the medical and scientific specialists monitoring the Minimata situation, the Free Press went along too.
The adjudicators were impressed not only with the depth of the treatment given the story and the development of staff by the Free Press, but also with the amount of space the editors devoted to it. There is no doubt that the seriousness with which the newspaper pursued the evidence, notwithstanding the non-committal, carefully-hedged findings of Canadian experts that were included in the coverage, resulted in action on several fronts, at both federal and provincial levels.
After carefully reviewing the submissions of both the Gazette and the London Free Press, the jury was unable to decide which was the best and declared a tie. Therefore, the 1975 Michener Award will be shared by both these two newspapers.
I am pleased to ask the representative of the Gazette, Lindsay Crysler and the London Free Press representative George Hutchison to come forward to be presented with the Roland Michener Award for 1975 by his Excellency, the Governor General.
Secretary, Press Clubs of Canada
Rideau Hall, Ottawa
October 6, 1976