Ottawa, November 12, 1983. The weekly Manitoulin Expositor of Little Current, Ontario was the recipient of the 1982 Michener Award for public service journalism for its determined effort to reduce a critical community suicide rate.
This was the first Michener Award ceremony held under the auspices of the newly organized and newly titled ‘Michener Awards Foundation/La Fondation des Prix Michener’ with Paul Deacon as its first President.
The Expositor, covering Manitoulin Island on the north shore of Lake Huron, had been concerned for 10 years about a suicide rate it estimated in 1981 was running at about 20 people per thousand or twice the national rate. A constant stream of information and opinion and finally, the concerted action it stirred up in the community, led to a 24-hour telephone link to a Sudbury Telecare system that resulted in the saving of two lives in the first few weeks.
The Expositor was among six finalists honoured in a ceremony at Rideau Hall, Ottawa, presided over by His Excellency the Right Honourable Ed Schreyer, Governor General of Canada.
Accepting the Michener Award on behalf of the weekly Manitoulin Expositor was editor Peter Carter who said – “I guess we got this award for community service in journalism. It’s not pleasurable reporting suicide rates, but I think we did something by reporting them, and that’s what journalism can do”. Mr. Carter, a Sudbury native and graduate from journalism at Ottawa’s Carleton University, worked in the Espanola bureau of the Elliot Lake Standard before joining The Expositor two years ago.
The newspaper’s publisher, Rick McCutcheon, said the paper simply, “gave it (the suicide situation) the coverage we thought it deserved” and added later that the entire Expositor Office staff, together with its columnists, freelancers and community correspondents, are able to share in this honour through their unflagging efforts that enable the newspaper to publish each week.
Fraser MacDougall, Founding President and chair of the award jury, cited The Expositor for, “proving that bigger isn’t necessarily better and for tackling a critical suicide problem so effectively”.
Governor General Schreyer spoke of the importance of a free press and said that while the history of journalism has seen immense changes in terms of technology, the responsibility of journalists remains the same – “to present full, accurate, unbiased and truthful information…and strive for the highest degree of professionalism”. (The full text)
He also thanked the Michener Foundation for ensuring the awards are put on a solid footing that will ensure it endures and occupies the place it really should on the nation’s calendar.
Foundaton President, Paul Deacon, paid tribute to Roland Michener for recognizing and fostering excellence in Canadian journalism. In a special commemorative citation, Mr. Deacon honoured Clark Todd, CTV London Bureau chief, who was killed in September covering the civil war in Lebanon. A special award will be presented next year to recognize his contribution to meritorious public service journalism. (The full text)
Michener Award founder, former Governor General Roland Michener was present at Saturday’s ceremonies and thanked both those who had nurtured both the award and, “the sort of meritorious and socially-beneficial reporting the awards are intended to recognize and encourage.”
Note: Since 1970, the administration of the Michener Award has been handled by the Federation of Press Clubs and later the National Press club but on September 2, 1983 the Michener Awards Foundation/La Fondation des Prix Michener officially came into being with Paul Deacon as President. The first annual meeting of the board of the re-named Foundation was held at the National Press Club in Ottawa on November 12th, 1983. (meeting minutes)
The daily Hamilton Spectator, runner-up, received honourable mention for sensitive reporting credited with helping to ease the shortage of volunteers & money to benefit the terminally ill in nearby North Halton municipality. Reporter Michael Davie developed two telling stories and took the photos to illustrate them while working as a one-man bureau for The Spectator in the local area. One feature story described the efforts of a woman to win acceptance by the municipality of a system of palliative care for the terminally ill and resulted in acceptance of and financial support for the project from the regional local government. More people volunteered and many more called for information about palliative care.
Citations of Merit ware awarded to:
The Edmonton Journal, a previous winner, for a series of 86 articles it published on the impact and consequences of industrial pollution at the Suncor oilsands plant in northern Alberta during the winter of 1982. Reporter Ed Struzik interviewed company and government officials and people in the affected downstream communities. He also made a 10-day canoe trip through the Athabaska Delta to see things at first hand, covered a pollution trial at Fort McMurray, and obtained confidential documents from government sources. The investigation forced provincial authorities into a number of remedial actions which included laying pollution charges against the company and calling a major inquiry.
The Globe and Mail, for coverage about the plight of Donald Marshall, the Nova Scotia Micmac Indian who spent 11 years in prison for a slaying he did not commit. Sentenced to life in prison in 1971, Marshall asserted his innocence continuously in Dorchester prison and eventually was released on day parole in March, 1982. He remained silent until Globe and Mail reporter Michael Harris persuaded him to go public. The story told about the prison ordeal of a man sentenced to life at age 17 and of the RCMP’s discovery of new evidence that supported his claim of innocence. The Globe series stirred the criminal justice system into action – a Nova Scotia Supreme Court hearing and eventual acquittal when Marshall became a fully free man.
CBOFT (Radio-Canada) Ottawa for a TV production that illustrated the talent and unsuspected skills of the handicapped and how they can benefit society. The television play ‘On est comme on est’ was written, interpreted, and produced by shut-in handicapped people and aimed at increasing their self-confidence by showing their exceptional courage and gifts. By presenting the play, CBOFT producer Line Robinson and her crew helped give the Ottawa area Radio Canada audience a much deeper understanding of what handicapped people can do if given an opportunity.
CKTV Regina for one program in a series of documentaries entitled ‘Decade of the Family’ dealing with the responsibilities of the family in the 1980′ decade. The particular program entered for the Award took a searching, sensitive look at suicide, its alarming growth, particularly among the young, and how it affects individuals and families. The provincial minister of education said the film had a significant impact on young people, making them aware that there are other solutions for their problems than suicide.
Michener Award Night Photo Gallery
Judges for the 1982 Michener Award:
Fraser MacDougall, Founding President and chair of the judging committee; Charles Edwards, former General Manager of Broadcast News (who died in the week following the final judging); Emery LeBlanc, former editor of L’Evangeline of Moncton, New Brunswick; and Marcel Gingras, former editor with Ottawa’s daily Le Droit.
Judges for the Michener Award are guided by the criteria of disinterested, meritorious public service. While those three qualities remain paramount, the judges also take into account the available resources of a news organization to let the smaller players compete more equally with the larger.