November 6, 1987. The Globe and Mail was the recipient of the 1986 Michener Award for a series of articles and editorials which examined an amendment to the Criminal Code. This amendment threatened freedom of the press by making it an offence for newspapers to make public the existence of search warrants or police raids without the consent of every person involved.
The award for distinguished public service in journalism was presented by Governor General Jeanne Sauvé in a ceremony at Government House in Ottawa. Accepting the award on behalf of the Globe and Mail was managing editor Geoffrey Stevens.
The Kingston Whig-Standard received honourable mention and citations of merit were awarded to the Regina Leader-Post, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record and the St. Catharine’s Standard (see below).
In its series, the Globe and Mail focused on a Criminal Code Amendment that banned publication of information on police raids unless everyone involved in the search and seizure approved. The newspaper, which had the support of publishers, broadcasters and media organizations, published several hard-hitting editorials criticizing the amendment. It also took action by deliberately publishing prohibited search warrant information. When the Crown did not take any action to prosecute, the newspaper challenged the amendment in the Supreme Court of Ontario on the grounds that it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court agreed and the amendment was struck down. The government decided not to appeal and the amendment was scrapped.
Following acceptance of the award, managing editor Geoffrey Stevens said – “It’s very rare when a newspaper can compel the government of the day to change the law”. The articles were written by reporter Peter Moon and editorial writer William Thorsell.
Governor General Sauvé praised the finalists and said; “I congratulate the journalists nominated and awarded here today on your ability to use that power within the context of a highly competitive and demanding society to demonstrate that there still exists in this world a place for in-depth analysis and critical assessment” (full text).
There were 74 entries for the Award from newspapers, periodicals and broadcasting organizations.
Paul Deacon, president of the Michener Awards Foundation, had announced earlier that Moira Farrow of the Vancouver Sun and Roger Bainbridge of the Kingston Whig-Standard were the recipients of the 1987 Michener Fellowships. This is the first time study-leave fellowships have been offered since the inception of the Michener Award program which started in 1970. The fellowships are designed to allow mature journalists to take four months of out-of-office study to help enhance their competence.
Moira Farrow, 49, was born in England and has been reporting for the Vancouver Sun for about 20 years. She has travelled extensively in Asia and Africa reporting on Third world problems. She plans to use her Michener fellowship to pursue Third World studies at either the University of Western Ontario or the University of Ottawa. (Farrow fellowship report)
Roger Bainbridge, 46, was born in Toronto and is a graduate of the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute and of Queen’s University. A Kingston Whig-Standard staffer since 1968, he has been editor of the news-paper’s weekly magazine since it was started in 1979. He intends to use his Michener fellowship to study at first hand magazine operations in Canada and the United States. (Bainbridge fellowship report)
The Michener Awards Foundation was established in 1982 to perpetuate the Michener Awards, which had been started a dozen years earlier by Roland Michener, then governor general. The fellowships were added to the Foundation’s program to offer further encouragement to public-service journalism in Canada.
The Kingston Whig-Standard for a series of articles about five Soviet prisoners of war in Afghanistan who wanted to emigrate to Canada. The government mounted an unsuccessful rescue mission in October, 1984, after giving Russian and Ukrainian organizations in Toronto an undertaking to bring the men to Canada. In January, 1986 The Whig-Standard decided to pursue the matter by examining in Canada the reasons for the government’s failure, and by sending three of its staff to Afghanistan to get the prisoners’ side of the story.
Reporter lan Hamilton got the in-Canada assignment. Reporter David Presser, photo editor Jack Chiang and photographer Mark Pleasants travelled to Afghanistan to work on the story. Subsequently reporter Bill Hutchinson came into the picture, covering developments in Ottawa. Where the government failed, the newspaper succeeded in finding and interviewing the prisoners. As a result of the series, all five of the Soviets were brought to Canada as refugees.
Citations of Merit were awarded to:
The St. Catharines Standard, for a series of stories by reporter Michael Clarkson which exposed corruption and nepotism within the Niagara Regional police force. Mr. Clarkson’s investigation revealed that 27 percent of officers and civilians on the force were related and brought into focus issues involving such a high percentage. The series spurred the Niagara Regional Board of Police Commissioners to take drastic remedial action. Following the story’s publication, the police commission set up a special committee to monitor hiring practices. It also conducted a review of the $37.5 million police budget, payment of sick leave benefits and even the administrative structure of the force. The chief of police took early retirement and charges relating to hiring practices under the Ontario Police Act were withdrawn.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Record, for a series of articles by farm writer Jim Rohman publicizing a questionable project which tried to claim a scientific research tax from the federal government. The research program would have cost the federal government $10 million in tax revenue under the scientific and research tax credit. The project was dropped after the publicity.
The Regina Leader-Post, for a special supplement – a 64 page booklet entitled: “Hooked, Examining Substance Abuse”. The newspaper assigned 10 reporters and 6 photographers to study the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Its 46 articles focused on the human side of the problem. The booklet was also sent to schools in Saskatchewan, along with a teaching guide prepared by the newspaper’s education specialist.
Judges for the 1986 Michener Award:
Fraser MacDougall, retired, Canadian Press and Ontario Press council, and chair of judging panel; Gail Scott; Bill Boss, Bedford Mills, Ontario; Jack Brayley, Wallace Nova Scotia; Jack Fleming, Calgary; Emery LeBlanc, former editor of L’Evangeline and now director of public relations for Via Rail of Montreal.
Judges for the 1987 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 Bruce Alloway, a retired broadcaster.
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.