Ottawa, December 8, 1988. CBC-TV and Southam News were recipients of the 1987 Michener trophy. Governor General Jeanne Sauvé presented the awards during a ceremony held at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. The winners were selected from among 6 finalists in the competition.
CBC-TV was honoured for ‘Runaways – 24 Hours on the Street’, a moving persuasive two-hour documentary on the plight of thousands of Canadian children who ran away from home and lived on the streets of major cities in an atmosphere of drugs, vice and crime.
The story was captured over a single 24-hour period August 5th and 6th when CBC cameras ran in the streets of Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver, depicting the children in the environment where they lived. No one read a script. The children talked naturally, in the jargon of the streets, sometimes using words and expressions that some people might find objectionable. When broadcast, that language added to the realism of the program. It got attention in the House of Commons and sparked requests for video tapes from police forces (including one in the U.S.), colleges, various agencies and institutions. Howard Bernstein accepted the award on behalf of CBC Television.
Southam News won for the ‘Southam Literary Project’ – an exhaustive study of literacy across the country that provided the first accurate measurement of the literacy skills of adult Canadians. It sparked major literacy initiatives in both public and private sectors, encouraged adults with literacy problems to seek help, and found that the literacy skills of many Canada high school graduates were inadequate for the 1980’s. The survey also found that 24% of adult Canadians are illiterate.
Southam’s senior correspondent, Peter Calamai, managed the project, which included an in-home survey of 2,400 Canadians and provided the foundation for statistical reports. He guided the survey methodology and then travelled coast-to-coast in Canada and abroad to put a human face on the survey results. He wound up writing a 30,000-word series of articles on the project. The Michener Award was accepted by Nick Hills, general manager of Southam News.
Her Excellency Jeanne Sauvé paid tribute to Roland Michener for creating the award to recognize journalistic excellence. In her address to the assembled guests, and specifically to the finalists, Her Excellency said that “Like all those who search for the truth and make it their mission to shine a light upon it, you accomplish a task that is indispensable to the flourishing of the spirit, the transmission of values and the progress of civilization. You mark out the way ahead for our nation”. (the full text)
1988 Michener-Deacon Fellowships:
The Michener Awards Foundation announced that free-lance journalist George Tombs of St. Lambert, Quebec, and agricultural writer Jim Romahn of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record have been named as recipients of the 1988 Michener study-leave fellowships of $25,000.00 apiece. They were introduced to the assembled guest by Foundation President, Paul Deacon. (full text)
Mr. Tombs proposal to study the ethical standards of the press in Canada, United States, Britain and France was appealing to the judges all of whom have concerns about practices that have become acceptable in the media and which, intentionally or not, may wound individuals in the public eye.
Mr. Tombs embarked on his free-lance journalism career five years ago after graduating from McGill University in 1978 with an honours BA in history, and spending some time in the shipping business. A feature and documentary writer and broadcaster, he lists his chief areas of interest as politics, economics, human rights, science and technology, the environment, culture and society. Tombs is multilingual. Fluent in French and English, he has a working knowledge of German and Spanish and good basics in Polish. (Normally applicants are sponsored by their employers. Because Tombs is a free-lance writer, has no steady employer, his application was supported by the Quebec Journalists Federation). (Tombs fellowship report)
Mr. Romahn proposed to study biotechnology at the University of Guelph and at the Biotechnology Research Institute, a joint project of the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo. He’s a 1965 honours journalism graduate of the University of Western Ontario. He worked for The Record as a summer student in 1963 and in 1964, and joined the newspaper’s staff on graduation. In 1968 he joined Agriculture Canada in Ottawa as a science writer, subsequently serving as chief of the news section and as speech writer for the minister before returning to The Record in 1974 as farm writer and columnist. He has enjoyed remarkable success as an investigative reporter. Twice The Record won the Michener Award with his work. Twice more his work put the paper among the finalists for the distinctive award. (Romahn fellowship report)
Eastern Graphic, Montague, PEI.; The weekly newspaper lived up to its motto ‘The Lively One‘ by digging up confidential information on the proposed fixed link between Prince Edward Island and the mainland. The federal government announced November 13, 1987, that plans were being developed to proceed with a fixed crossing costing $659 million and said Islanders had only until December 1 to express their opinions at meetings. Access to technical reports was limited but the newspaper managed to obtain all the reports and published the major findings. This provided PEI voters with data they would not otherwise have received before the plebiscite on the crossing Jan 18, 1988. The Graphic was the only news medium to draw attention to a report on the ice floes in the Northumberland Strait, the proposed site of the crossing. Following the plebiscite, the government announced a study of those ice floes. Jim MacNeill, Eastern Graphic publisher, accepted the Honourable Mention award on behalf of the newspaper.
Citations of Merit in the 1987 competition were awarded to:
Kitchener-Waterloo Record, for publishing a telling two-part series on bigotry in the area’s schools that offered the county board of education constructive solutions for a policy aimed at ending discriminatory treatment of racial minorities. Two reporters, Barbara Aggerholm and Luisa d’Amato, spent five months gathering information. The stories described racial slurs and taunts, sometimes in the hallways, and sometimes in class where teachers either didn’t hear or paid no heed. The series generated much debate and many letters to the editor. Leaders of minority groups said the stories encouraged them to speak out at public meetings and advocate changes in school board practices. Luisa D’Amato accepted the Citation on behalf of the Record.
CFPL-TV London for ‘Season to Season‘, a one-hour documentary about the life of a southwestern Ontario farm family aimed at broadening public understanding of the problems of rural Canada. Cameraman Richard Johnstone captured the passing seasons and the difficulties posed by weather threatened crops, dying cattle, the large financial investment and the little return. In spite of the problems managing the beef and cash-crop farm, the family continued contributing to community life in the small town of Ilderton just north of London. Reaction to the program was immediate with requests for videotape copies and a re-broadcast on CBC’s Country Canada and TV Ontario. The program was conceived by managing editor John MacDonald and produced by Helen Wainman. News Director George Clark accepted the Citation of Merit on behalf of CFPL-TV.
The Vancouver Sun, for a massive series to inform its readers fully on the AIDS problem. The Sun set the stage for the series with a report on a poll it had commissioned which indicated that British Columbians were unclear about AIDS and all its ramifications. Four Sun reporters interviewed doctors, lab technicians, homosexuals, heterosexuals, teenagers, and health officials to get beyond the myth and the hysteria about the disease and give people accurate and easy-to-understand information. It wound up by appointing a panel of experts to answer written question on any aspect of the disease. Managing editor Gordon Fisher accepted the Citation of Merit on behalf of the Sun.
Michener Award Night Photo Gallery
Judges for the 1987 Michener Award:
Fraser MacDougall, retired, Canadian Press and Ontario Press council, and chair of judging panel; Bill Boss, Bedford Mills, Ontario; Pierre Lemieux, CPR Public Affairs, Montreal; Gail Scott, journalism, Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, Toronto; Hon. Mitchell Sharp, former federal cabinet minister; and Graham Trotter, Edmonton, retired.
Judges for the 1988 Michener Fellowship
Senator Richard Doyle, former editor-in-chief of the Toronto Globe and Mail and chairman of the judging committee; George Bain, columnist and journalism teacher; Lise Bissonette, Quebec writer and editor; Doris Anderson, Toronto; and Ted Chapman, retired Calgary broadcaster who lives in Vancouver.
The judges of the Michener Award competition are required to take into account the resources available to each entrant, putting smaller organizations on equal terms with large ones.