Ottawa, May 24, 2001. CBC-TV’s the fifth estate, was winner of the 2000 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism for a series of six investigative reports on the police and the justice system. CBC was among six finalists selected from 44 entries. Executive Producer David Studer accepted the Award on behalf of CBC.
The six fifth estate programs provided revealing details about how police and justice officials approach their jobs, the techniques they use, and the way they respond to mistakes.
One program described how an aggressive, politicized Toronto police union threatened to target political enemies and carried out the threats. Two programs were devoted to errors by the police and prosecutors in the 40-year-old Stephen Truscott murder conviction. Another described how police forces paid one criminal as a secret informant and another as a witness in prosecutions; and the Saskatchewan justice system came under scrutiny for allowing preposterous charges ranging from sexual abuse to murder to proceed, knowing they were false.
Governor General Clarkson said the finalists for the 2000 Award “have put their resources – human and financial – into stories that were disinterested and in the public service. Ultimately, these awards are about the public’s benefit from excellent journalism”. (Full text of Her Excellency’s Award night address)
1999 Michener-Deacon Fellowship:
The Governor General also presented the 2001 Michener-Deacon Fellowship to Martine Turenne, a reporter with L’Actualité magazine. The Fellowship provides $20,000 to support a four-month study leave. Ms. Turenne will use the Fellowship to report on the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on an underdeveloped region of Mexico by studying at a Mexican university and living in the heart of the region. Her proposal was selected out of 10 entries for the Fellowship. Full Story.
The Michener Award is open to both print and broadcast media of any size, and it goes to a news organization rather than an individual. Special consideration is given to the resources available to the organization. There were 30 entries from dailies, six from radio, five from television, two from news services, and one from a monthly publication.
The Globe and Mail received a certificate of Honourable Mention, which goes to the runner-up in the Michener Awards, for two entries that disclosed unethical practices in the securities business. One series described how Yorkton Securities Ltd. acted simultaneously as investor, investment adviser and corporate insider for companies it was promoting. It resulted in a change of practices and an Ontario Securities Commission investigation. The second series uncovered evidence of systemic “juicing” or “high closing” of prices on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Canadians investing in mutual and pension funds could be paying too much due to artificially inflated prices as a result of these practices. Senior writer Jacquie McNish accepted the Honourable Mention award on behalf of the Globe.
Citations of Merit went to:
Winnipeg Free Press for Innocents-On-Line, a series that led to a commitment by the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to try to prevent pedophiles from stalking children on the internet.
Starting with a tip from a reader, the series documented cases of stalking but no police action was possible because no law had been broken. The Manitoba Justice Minister began a campaign for an amendment to the Criminal Code which spread across the country. Lindor Reynolds accepted the Citation of Merit on behalf of the Free Press.
The Toronto Star, for Blind Trust, an investigation into alternative medicine, demonstrated lax quality control and misleading claims in the herbal remedy sector in Canada. Independent tests for The Star showed that what’s on the label often bears no resemblance to what’s in the bottle. As a result of the series, the Ontario Coroner’s office established a means of tracking deaths involving alternative medicine. Amid growing concern about risks of alternative medicine, the new tracking system promises to give give doctors a better understanding of the link between loss of lives and use of unproven cures. Star reporter Leslie Papp accepted the Citation of Merit on behalf of the Toronto Star.
The Ottawa Citizen, for Losing the War on Drugs. This 16 part series drew the connection between illicit drugs and the tough related social issues of organized crime, overdose deaths, addiction, smuggling, civil liberties, corruption and violence. The thoroughly documented and researched series concluded the benefits of outlawing drugs don’t outweigh the harms they cause. Trying to stamp out drug abuse by banning drugs has only created an illegal industry worth billions of dollars and has “empowered organized criminals, corrupted governments at all levels, eroded internal security, stimulated violence, and distorted both economic markets and moral values”. Alternatives to prohibition were outlined. The stories also had a broad impact on stakeholder groups and was a significant contribution to the public policy debate. Reporter Dan Gardner accepted the Citation on behalf of the Citizen.
The Telegram (St. John’s) for Access Denied, a successful challenge to the Newfoundland Freedom of Information Act. Noticing an increasing tendency to withhold documents or deny requests, the paper assigned three reporters and an editor who worked over seven months to test the act. They filed a range of 69 requests, tracked them through the system, and reported the results. The FOI Act was not working. Time deadlines were ignored, some requests denied with no practical form of appeal and released documents were often incomplete. Others were lost, and still others faced massive fee barriers Following the project, the Newfoundland government announced a commission to review the issues raised. Editor Russell Wangersky accepted the award on behalf of the Telegram.
Award Night Photo Gallery
Pierre Bergeron, far left, President of the Michener Awards Foundation, introduces the finalists of the 2000 Michener Award who are seated with their Excellencies at Rideau Hall, May 24, 2001.
From left: Martine Turenne (winner of the Michener-Deacon Fellowship), Russell Wangersky, St. John’s Telegram;David Studer, the fifth estate; The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada; His Excellency John Ralston Saul; Jacquie McNish, The Globe and Mail; Lindor Reynolds, The Winnipeg Free Press; Leslie Papp, The Toronto Star; and Dan Gardner, The Ottawa Citizen.
Judges for the 2000 Michener Award:
Senator Joan Fraser, former editor, The Gazette, Montreal; David Humphreys (chair) former managing editor, The Ottawa Journal and European Correspondent for FP Publications; René Roseberry, former news editor, Le Nouvelliste, Trois-Rivières and President of the Grands Pix des Hebdos du Quebec; Arch MacKenzie, former Ottawa Bureau Chief, The Canadian Press and The Toronto Star; Duncan McMonagle, former editor-in-chief, Winnipeg Free Press.
The first award covered the calendar year 1970. Since then, a rich variety of news organizations have had their names inscribed on Michener trophies – print and broadcast, large and small, French and English, East and West. The Michener was also the first national journalism award open to both broadcast and print media.