November 10, 1984. The Kitchener-Waterloo Record won the 1983 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism for a trio of three stories – Revenue Canada’s tax collecting methods, high pressure stock sales in Ontario and quality control problems in farm supply industries. The stories had been submitted as three entries but judges felt their overall quality was sufficient to combine them into one.
The Ottawa citizen and the Kingston Whig-Standard earned honourable mention, while the Calgary Herald, CBC (The Journal) and the Edmonton Journals received citations of merit. The case of James Keegstra, the controversial mayor of Eckville, Alberta, was a recurring theme in the judging of the 1983 Michener Award. (see citations below)
Governor General Jean Sauvé presented the awards at a Saturday night ceremony and dinner held at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. The event was attended by invited guests and representatives of the six finalists chosen from 39 entries in the 1983 competition. Her Excellency commended the finalists on their “very special contribution to the ongoing quest for knowledge and truth, and on your dedication to the high standards of excellence which so obviously govern your work.” (full text of Her Excellency’s award night address)
Jim Romahn accepted the Michener Trophy on behalf of the Record. The publisher of the Kitchener- Waterloo Record, Sandy Baird, said he was honoured to receive the award for the third time in five years. The trio of submissions entered by the Record in the competition included:
1) a series by reporter Philip Jalsevac on Revenue Canada search-and-seizure methods and other tax collecting practices – including the surprising disclosure that auditors were working on a quota of revenues – that shocked Parliament and public alike. The revelations led to intense scrutiny of the department’s methods, the removal of a deputy minister, the end of the quota system, and promises of further changes of policy.
2) a set of stories about suspected quality control difficulties in fertilizer and feed by Record farm reporter Jim Romahn that illustrated how to use Canada’s recently enacted access-to-information law successfully. The information in the government reports that were examined shocked Canadian farmers and the resulting newspaper stories pressured farm supply companies to pull up their socks.
3) an exposé by reporter Brock Ketcham of high pressure stock sales activities that victimized small, unsophisticated investors across the Province. The 6-month inquiry, amid threats of legal action by broker-dealers, forced the Ontario Securities Commission to order an investigation. This led to reforms by the OSC and some disciplinary fines for salesmen and companies that had been investigated.
Special Michener Award Presentation:
Former Governor General Roland Michener was called on by Paul Deacon, President of the Michener Awards Foundation, to present a special award for the late Clark Todd, a CTV reporter who was killed in September 1983 while covering the civil war in Lebanon.
A native of Saint John New Brunswick, he was a London correspondent for NBC News from 1974-1980 and appointed CTV London Bureau Chief in 1980. He has reported from Biafra, Poland, Belfast and many other conflict areas and is a recipient of many journalism awards for his work covering the international news scene. The award for ‘an exceptional contribution to public service and journalism’ was accepted by his widow Anne Todd.
Mr. Deacon also paid tribute to Roland Michener saying that “through his personal generosity of time and money, he made it possible to get the Awards Foundation rolling. His personal interest in the aims of the award and his high reputation have encouraged media, large and small, from coast to coast, to vie for this much coveted recognition”. (the full text)
Honourable Mention: The Citizen, Ottawa, for stories focusing attention on the Canadian Transport Commission’s 40-year practice of allowing people involved in regulatory control of airlines and public servants to accept free air travel for business or pleasure. The series was written by reporter Michael Prentice and detailed the use of free air passes by active and retired airline regulators and the 130 staff of the Canadian Transport Commission. The practice was abolished following publication of the stories.
The Kingston Whig-Standard was awarded honourable mention for an illuminating study of the deal the federal government made with Bell Helicopter of Fort Worth, Texas, to locate a new plant near Mirabel Airport in Quebec, rather than Kingston. This location ranked lowest on Bell’s own list of choices. Reporter Jack Rafter spent six weeks researching the deal. The judges commended him for his ‘painstaking and detailed examination’ of Canada’s first helicopter factory which will be heavily subsidized by the governments of Ottawa and Quebec.
Citations of Merit were awarded to:
CBC’s The Journal, the Calgary Herald, and the Edmonton Journal each for its part in focusing public attention on the controversial case of James Keegstra, the Eckville, Alberta, high school teacher who taught anti-Semitic theories in his classroom. Each of these finalists played a different role in developing a public awareness which led to Mr. Keegstra’s loss of his teaching position, his defeat in a bid for re-election as mayor, and dismissal as a member of the executive committee of the national Social Credit party.
Judges for the 1983 Michener Award:
Fraser MacDougall, 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 former director of public relations for Via Rail; and William Metcalfe, former managing editor of 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.