November 6, 1982. The Kitchener-Waterloo Record and CFTM-TV (Télé Métropole), Montreal, were co-winners of the 1981 Michener Award for excellence in public service journalism. The announcement was made at a dinner hosted by their Excellencies, the Rt. Hon. Edward Schreyer and Mrs. Schreyer. They were joined by former Governor General Roland Michener and Mrs. Michener. The Government House gala honoured the winners with the presentation of the annual bronze trophy to each of the two organizations. Three other finalists received citations of merit. The finalists were selected from a record total of 49 entries – the highest ever since the inception of the Michener award program in 1970.
In his address to the assembled finalists and guests, Governor General Schreyer congratulated the finalists and said that news organizations carry a heavy responsibility deciding what information gets out to people. The assumption of that responsibility is “one that must be exercised with the greatest sense of freedom and fairness”. (Full Text)
The Record received the award for exposing a land swindle in which more than 1,000 Canadian, American and European investors lost millions of dollars. The Record’s investigation into the affairs of Canadian Concord Funding Limited started with an anonymous tip and spanned 18 months. The newspaper ignored threats of libel action and one writ for libel in its pursuit of this story. Acting on information from the newspaper’s reporter Brock Ketcham, the Ontario Security Commission raided the offices of the company and seized large quantities of documents. Charges were laid leading to the first jail term ever imposed under a securities act conviction in Canada.
CFTM-TV, the co-winner of the award, was honoured for a series of five reports prepared by journalist Yolande L’Ecuyer that brought to light certain management problems within the Féderation des Caisses d’Entraide Economique. Questions were also raised about the financial structure of these bodies and the existence of numerous conflicts of interest within some of their boards of directors. These reports also illuminated for investors a situation not known to them concerning the handling of their savings and raised the veil on the ambiguity of the formula under which risk investments were sold in the guise of co-operative shares with sure return.
The outstanding effect of these broadcasts was to impel the government to act in a matter that had been brought to its attention in 1978 by a study of the Quebec Securities Commission. At that time the government had not taken any action to carry out the recommendations of the commission report which urged it to intervene to protect savings of the public. The series raised an enormous amount of interest and afterwards practically all the rest of the media in the province became involved.
Citations of Merit ware awarded to:
La Presse, Montreal, for five reports examining the million dollar deficit involving la fête national du Québec. Delving behind the scenes, reporter Michel Girard attributed the deficit to numerous abuses and bad administration, with the charges documented in detail in the articles. It was also shown how some members of the Parti Québecois and friends of the party had profited financially from the celebrations. Following publication, the minister responsible announced that revisions would be made to the whole organizational structure for the national day celebrations in order to correct certain abuses of power.
North Battleford News Optimist, for an investigation disclosing efforts to make farmers pay twice for expensive farm equipment. Each farmer had paid an implement dealer money owing under a conditional sales contract. But the dealer failed to pay money to the mortgage company that purchased the contracts from him. After reporter Linda Lewis‘ story appeared in the newspaper, the Farmer’s Union pressed the legislature for retroactive legislation. While it wasn’t retroactive, legislation enacted by the Saskatchewan government sought to prevent any such thing happening again. The farmers involved had nothing to cheer about but the rest of the farming community came out a major winner.
Regina Leader-Post, for a succession of carefully researched stories by reporter Peter von Stackelberg, disclosing fraud and incompetence in safety studies into pesticides, drugs, and other chemicals. The disclosures led to the appointment of a special federal committee to deal with the health and safety issues involved.
Judges for the 1981 Michener Award:
Fraser MacDougall, former Canadian Press executive and now executive secretary of the Ontario Press Council; Bill Boss, former director of public relations at the University of Ottawa; Emery LeBlanc, former editor of L’Evangeline and now director of public relations for Via Rail of Montreal; and William Metcalfe, former managing editor of the Winnipeg Free Press and Ottawa Journal.
The Michener Award, founded in 1970 by the late Right Honourable Roland Michener, then Governor-General, goes to a news organization. The judges’ decisions are heavily influenced by the degree of public benefit generated by the print and broadcast projects submitted for consideration. The annual award is open to daily and weekly newspapers, news agencies, radio and television stations, networks and periodicals.