Ottawa, June 13, 2008 – The Globe and Mail and La Presse have won the 2007 Michener Award for their reporting on the treatment of Afghan detainees. The judges decided to honour both newspapers for separate entries covering different phases of the Afghan detainee issue.
In a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Her Excellency The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean presented coveted Michener Award trophies to Edward Greenspon, Editor-in-Chief of The Globe and Mail and Philippe Cantin, Editor of La Presse. The two newspapers were among seven news organizations honoured at the ceremony. Entries for the annual competition were submitted by print and broadcast media from across the country.
The Governor General also presented the 2008 Michener-Deacon Fellowship to Hamilton Spectator reporter Denise Davy whose proposal to investigate and report on the crisis in children’s mental health won high praise from the judges. Ms. Davy said more and more children are being diagnosed with mental health disorders and many are not receiving the proper treatment. (Full Details)
The Globe and Mail published reports in March and April of 2007 that led to an inquiry and a new agreement, allowing Canadian investigators access to detainees. Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor was shuffled out of his position following criticism of his handling of the issue.
In accepting the Michener Award, Ed Greenspon said that the detainees’ stories fit all the criteria of public-service journalism. “Canadians want to know their representatives are acting within the rule of law even in difficult times. By holding government and the military repeatedly to account and shining a bright light into the dark dungeons of Afghanistan, Graeme Smith, Paul Koring and Michèle Ouimet have reminded us what journalism looks like at its best.” (Paul Koring, on The Globe and Mail’s winning entry)
Stories published by La Presse in October and November of 2007 indicated that abuse of detainees was continuing. In January 2008, the Canadian government revealed that the transfer of prisoners to Afghan authorities had been suspended.
In his acceptance speech, Philippe Cantin said he was honoured to be sharing the award with the Globe and praised the work of the entire La Presse news team responsible for developing the series on Afghanistan. He also congratulated lead reporter Michèle Ouimet for her courage under fire and for the risks she took to obtain the information required for her stories. Ms Ouimet is a foreign correspondent for La Presse covering stories in Afghanistan and in the neighbouring regions.
This is the third year that Her Excellency, Michaëlle Jean, has presided over the presentation of the Michener Award since her installation as Governor General in 2005. In her welcoming address to the assembled guests, she said that as a former journalist herself, the awards held a very special meaning for her. She paid tribute to all journalists “for remaining vigilant in the face of the world’s atrocities, and inspiring in the face of its wonders….and above all for upholding the truth when so many things would seek to lead us astray”. (The full text)
David Humphreys, President of the Michener Awards Foundation, said the national competition drew 50 entries from coast to coast. “They came from news organizations large and small and in both official languages, demonstrating a high quality of investigative journalism.” He said the Michener Award gave recognition to..”journalism making a difference for the public good”. (The full text)
Following the opening address by the governor general and the president of the Foundation, the finalists were invited to give a presentation on the origination, background and preparation of the nominated stories and the contributing editors and reporters who had a hand in their development. (see the stories behind the stories – Paul Koring, The Globe and Mail; Robert Cribb, The Toronto Star; Linden MacIntyre, CBC-TV & Greg McArthur, The Globe and Mail)
Citations of Merit were awarded to:
Toronto Star: for a series on the lack of transparency around patient safety called “Medical Secrets” which exposed a number of problems in Ontario hospitals including details of errors made by medical professionals.
Following publication of the stories, the Ontario government announced that the public will be able to access patient safety information; that hospitals will be required to post data on adverse events on their websites; and that the public will be able to find out whether any health care professional has been found guilty of malpractice, has a criminal conviction or has a limit on a licence to practice. Tanya Talaga and Rob Cribb were the reporters on the series, which began in October 2006 and included nearly a dozen stories. (Robert Cribb talks about the making of the series)
Le Devoir: More than a dozen stories revealed a serious financial crisis at the Université du Quebec à Montreal created largely by huge cost overruns on real estate projects including construction on a science pavilion and a building to house student residences, classrooms, offices and an underground parking lot. Construction ground to a halt in 2007. Even unfinished, the building is in need of repairs. Following publication of these stories, the Auditor General of Quebec conducted a special audit of the situation and the Quebec government adopted new rules requiring universities to seek approval for real estate projects. Publisher Bernard Descôteaux accepted the Michener Citation of Merit on behalf of Le Devoir.
The London Free Press: More than 40 articles about elevated levels of lead in London’s drinking water were followed by prompt action by the Ontario government. The paper discovered the city had been tolerating high levels of lead for at least 12 years because the province had no regulations to mandate water testing. The series by reporter Jonathan Sher prompted a government investigation following which the environment minister immediately implemented new regulations. All schools and day care centres in the province are now required to test and flush their water systems daily, rather than weekly. Requirements for water testing by municipalities were also strengthened. Managing editor Joe Ruscitti, accepted the award on behalf of the newspaper.
The Province: Following the release of a Fraser Basin council study showing that dikes protecting 20 Fraser Valley communities were inadequate in the face of major flooding, the Province decided to investigate. A series of articles written by Glenda Luymes and Brian Lewis called “Fear on the Fraser” exposed the threat of floods on the Fraser River in great detail. Following the series, the British Columbia government announced that it would spend $33 million to upgrade dikes on the river and a total of $100 million over the next 10 years on flood mitigation measures in the province. The series “Fear on the Fraser” was last winter. Province editor-in-chief Wayne Moriarty said the crew that produced the series worked endless hours to produce a nationally recognized series and the Michener Citation of Merit was a real honour and well deserved for the people who worked on the project.
Ros Guggi, deputy editor of The Province, accepted the award on behalf of the newspaper.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and The Globe and Mail: Journalists Greg McArthur of The Globe and Mail and Harvey Cashore of CBC’s fifth estate began to investigate separately the financial relationship between former prime minister Brian Mulroney and German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.
Eventually the two organizations allowed the journalists to work together while they maintained editorial control over their own stories. They submitted a joint entry of stories aired on the fifth estate and published in The Globe and Mail that revealed significant new details about the financial dealings. As a result of the stories, the House of Commons ethics committee held hearings on these dealings and a public inquiry was called. (Story background by Linden MacIntyre and Greg McArthur)
Michener Award Night Photo Gallery
Judges for the 2007 Michener Award
Russell Mills (Vice President and Chair of Judging), Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Media and Design, Algonquin College in Ottawa, Chair of the National Capital Commission and former Publisher of the Ottawa Citizen; Kim Kierans, Professor and Director of the School of Journalism at the University of Kings College in Halifax and former CBC News reporter and editor; Donna Logan, Professor Emerita and Founding Director of the School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia and former Vice President of English Radio Networks for the CBC; Dr. Catherine McKercher, Associate Professor of Journalism and Communications, Carleton University, and former Washington correspondent, The Canadian Press; René Roseberry, former News Editor, Le Nouvelliste, Trois Rivières, former Director of Public Relations and Information, Université du Québec and President of the Grand Prix des Hebdos du Québec.