Ottawa, May 12, 1995. CKNW/98, New Westminster, was the winner of the 1994 Michener Award for its powerful coverage of the issues surrounding a British Columbia power project because of its perceived threats to salmon stocks and the environment. The radio station was among 6 finalists chosen from 51 entries competing for the award.
Shirley Stocker, executive producer of the CKNW’s public affairs programming, accepted the award from Governor General Roméo LeBlanc, himself a former broadcast journalist and host of the award ceremony held at Rideau Hall. This marked the 25th year of the Michener Award since its inception in 1970 under the auspices of the late Governor General Roland Michener. His Excellency praised the Michener approach to rewarding good journalism by saluting news organizations and thereby giving recognition to all the people who participate in the development of stories. He said that ” good journalism is a team event and the award goes to the team”. (full text of the Governor General’s award night speech)
CKNW’s talk show host, Rafe Mair, was a potent force in the British Columbia government’s decision to kill the billion-dollar completion of the Alcan power project. Mr. Mair began his opposition of the Alcan power project, on environmental and fisheries grounds, in early 1994 and never stopped until the project was defeated. Media colleagues, critical and otherwise, acknowledged the power of his campaign. Subsequent harsh criticism by a special inquiry of the federal fisheries department would lend support to his stand, especially in the context of the East Coast cod disaster and growing concerns about threats to the West Coast salmon stocks. Rafe Mair’s work has made him a Michener finalist three times since 1989.
The judges for the 1994 Award said they were impressed by the continuing high quality of public service journalism represented in the 51 entries despite continuing austerity for many news-gathering organizations. The six finalists were chosen by the narrowest of margins and displayed the arms-length and publicly-beneficial journalism for which the awards were established in 1970 by the late Roland Michener, then Governor General.
The recipients of the 1995 Fellowship were Sue Ridout of CBC-TV, Vancouver, and Pierre Sormany, a freelance journalist from Quebec.
Sue Ridout was selected for her proposal to study the cultural relativism of journalism ethics. She will examine the ways in which cultural background can influence ethical decision-making among journalists working for news media serving Vancouver’s ethnic communities. Immigration is drastically altering British Columbia’s population mix with an influx of more than 50,000 newcomers, mostly from Southeast Asia, settling largely in the province’s lower mainland. In that context, Ms Ridout asks, “how do we as journalists go about representing their interests and concerns?”
She worked as a researcher in 1978-79 for the project officer of TV Ontario and from 1980-1988 was with several CTV television programs, the last as producer of W5. She joined CBC that year as producer of the TV show Monitor and moved to Vancouver in 1989 as senior producer in the current affairs department. Currently the executive producer of television news and public affairs at CBC-TV in Vancouver, Ms Ridout plans to complete her fellowship at the Centre for Applied Ethics at the University of British Columbia.(Ridout fellowship report)
Pierre Sormany has been involved with many sociological and economic projects that precede his successful fellowship proposal to examine “the new social contract” Canadians must adopt because of the national public debt burden. The resulting social spending cuts affect more than two million jobless Canadians who must cope with the steady erosion of the social safety net. “The problem is not just an absence of wealth but the absence of mechanisms to distribute this wealth among the citizenry” says Mr. Sormany. His studies will include a cross-country assessment of Canadians most at risk in the austerity campaign and the mechanisms that can ease their plight. He also plans to produce a TV documentary for Radio-Canada.
He has been a journalist since 1971, first as a business writer with Le Soleil. He worked as a free lancer from 1976-1983 in print and broadcast, mainly in the fields of science and medicine. He served for two years as an advisor to the Quebec ministry of science and technology and returned to journalism as a contract employee of Radio Canada in 1987. He lectures at the Université de Montréal and is the author of Le Métier de journaliste, a standard reference work for the teaching of journalism in Quebec.
Le Devoir, Montreal, for a series of reports by senior reporter Sylvain Blanchard on flawed tax-collection practices in Quebec which led to the resignation of a senior official and improvements to the tax system proposed by a special expert committee. The series reported, for instance, that some 113,000 taxpayers had been accused of improprieties without much hard evidence. One reform: A presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.
Citations of merit were awarded to:
The Daily Herald, Prince Albert, for a tenacious enquiry into spending practices by municipal politicians and officials.
Findings by Herald reporter Greg Urbanoski generated the principal issue of the Prince Albert 1994 municipal elections and dealt a harsh political lesson on the failure to meet public expectations of probity. All but one of the incumbent city councillors seeking re-election, lost his job. (The Daily Herald was a recipient of Michener Citation of Merit in 1991).
The Telegraph Journal, Saint John, for the precedent-setting tribute by an English language news-paper to New Brunswick’s 30,000 francophones. The First World Acadian Congress was held in Moncton last year attended by several hundred thousand. Telegraph Journal reporters visited Acadian exiles in Louisiana and Massachusetts for numerous feature stories, profiled the original Acadian families and repeated much of the material in a special supplement for the congress. The newspaper reported a gratifying rise in circulation but an even more satisfying wave of thanks – and surprise – from the other language group. André Vieniot accepted the Citation on behalf of The Telegraph Journal.
The Toronto Star, received a Citation of Merit for a detailed record of abuse of public trust involving a police inspector, a lawyer, an accountant and a banker, plus reluctance of police and legal watchdogs to intervene. Star reporter Kevin Donovan’s pursuit began in 1986 and eventually prompted investigations by the RCMP, national revenue, and the Law Society of Upper Canada. The Law Society eventually charged a millionaire Bay Street Lawyer with three counts of professional misconduct and five of conduct unbecoming a lawyer. Dave Ellis, Assistant Managing Editor, accepted the Award on behalf of The Star.
The Edmonton Journal, for a series of projects providing a broad range of community public service, including one which sought to temper public over-reaction to teenage crime; another that analyzed human stresses caused by many factors; and another which covered ways and means to strengthen the family unit. The Journal initiatives were bolstered by popular public forums, often with community agencies. Murdoch Davis, editor-in-chief of the Edmonton Journal, accepted the Citation of Merit on behalf of the newspaper.
Judges for the 1994 Michener Award:
Arch MacKenzie, Chair of the judging panel; former Ottawa bureau chief of the Canadian Press and the Toronto Star; Jeannine Locke, former journalist with the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, the Ottawa Citizen and the Toronto Star; now-retired CBC film-maker; Marilyn MacDonald, former Atlantic provinces magazine and CBC journalist, now director of public relations at Dalhousie University, Halifax; Barry Mullin former ombudsman, Winnipeg Free Press, now journalism lecturer at the University of Winnipeg; Guy Rondeau, former bureau chief, Canadian Press, Montreal.
Judges for the 1995 Fellowship:
The Honourable D. Keith Davey, Senator (Chair of the Judging Panel); Sandy Baird, former publisher, The Kitchener-Waterloo Record; Françoise Coté, Quebec author and journalist; Jodi White, Vice-President of Corporate Affairs at Imasco Limited, Chair of the Public Policy Forum.
The Michener Award is unique in its emphasis on the degree of public benefit generated by an entry a nd by its weighing of the news-gathering resources available to the competitors.