Ottawa, April 14, 2005. The Globe and Mail has won the 2004 Michener Award for meritorious public service in journalism. The newspaper was honoured for its relentless investigation of the federal sponsorship scandal which began with reporter Daniel Leblanc’s access to information request more than four years ago.
It was a significant contributor to developments in 2004 including a scathing report by Auditor General Sheila Fraser, the recall of Alfonso Gagliano as Canada’s Ambassador to Denmark, the firing of three heads of Crown corporations and the launch of the public inquiry headed by Mr. Justice John Gomery. Coverage by the Globe continued through 2004. The newspaper also won a Citation of Merit for another entry (see below). The Globe’s editor-in-chief, Edward Greenspon, accepted the award on behalf of his newspaper from Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.
Pierre Bergeron, President of the Michener Awards Foundation, said the finalists were selected from 51 entries, representative of large and small news organizations from across Canada. He said that the excellent quality of the entries was an indication of the high calibre of public service journalism being done in Canada.
The 2005 Michener-Deacon Fellowship was presented to Jenny Manzer, a freelance journalist from Victoria, B.C., for her proposal to study and produce a series of articles about Canada’s drug approval and monitoring system. She plans to investigate all stages of the approval process and provide realistic proposals that policy-makers can consider to develop a system that puts public safety first.The fellowship provides $25,000 for four months’ work on an approved project (full story)
During her opening address prior to the presentation of the awards, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson said that “when we speak of journalism and public benefit, we are talking about stories that leave something substantial behind, not simply by giving insight or evoking empathy but in actually improving the social condition.” (Full Text)
Globe and Mail reporters Daniel Leblanc and Campbell Clark began their inquiry into the Federal government sponsorship program after hearing concerns about the management practices of some senior bureaucrats in Ottawa. They began following the money trail by filing access-to-information requests and examining internal government documents and the sponsorship program’s audit from 2000. Earlier stories highlighted the questionable nature of sponsorship program spending. By 2002, the sponsorship scandal was no longer about patronage or uncontrolled spending, but about alleged fraud. Their investigation led to one of the biggest political scandals in Canadian history. Mr. Leblanc said it was the aggressive use of the Canadian flag in federal advertising in Quebec that piqued his interest because other advertisers weren’t doing the same thing. The documents he obtained gave him a sense that something was wrong and every time he wrote a story that got close to this he would receive anonymous calls and letters telling him to go forward.
Tonight’s Award ceremony marked the completion of Pierre Bergeron’s five year term as President of the Michener Awards Foundation. He commented on the finalists for the 2004 trophy. “This year Michener Award finalists made and shaped the news, today’s news, that are making and shaping Canadian society hopefully for the better and parfois for the less better. This is what we are all about. This is the challenge of doing our job in the public spotlight with the public interest in mind.
The news organizations we are honouring this year did not wait for the news to hit them and report to the public. They went one large and important step further by taking the time and asking the classic 5 W’s of our profession by putting a special emphasis on the fifth ‘W’, the Why? They made the news. They provoked and they challenged and this is why they are here tonight to be honoured and recognized. As I come to the end of my stewardship, it is with great sincerity that I thank you again, Your Excellency, for your beneficial interest in and quiet support for the Michener Awards Foundation. Our award process has been made stronger by your advice and challenge. I am also happy to report to you and this wider audience that our financial foundation is stronger than ever through the continuing generosity of the Deacon family, our directors and the work of the Community Foundation of Ottawa.”
David Humphreys was named President of the Michener Awards Foundation. He is a former bureau chief of The Globe and Mail and former managing editor of The Ottawa Journal and The Albertan (Calgary). He also served as Europe correspondent for FP Publications. He is currently president of the Humphreys Public Affairs Group. Past President Pierre Bergeron will continue as a Director on the Foundation’s Board.
Citations of Merit were presented to:
Calgary Herald: An eight-page investigative report, “The Direct Sell“, was the result of a year’s worth of work by business reporter Grant Robertson. The report explored the deceptive marketing practices of Direct Energy, a U.K.-based company that was supposed to bring a revolution in customer service to the province’s natural gas and electricity markets. It was also poised to become the energy supplier to four out of every five Alberta homes. After the report was published, the Alberta government reinstated a consumer education program and Direct Energy announced a number of changes in its sales tactics, including independent monitoring.
Canadian Medical Association Journal and Découverte (Radio-Canada science program): The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) and Découverte were selected jointly for their reports on the outbreak of Clostridium difficile, a hospital-acquired infection, in Quebec hospitals. CMAJ reporter Laura Eggertson broke the story in June with her report that at least 79 patients had died of the infection. As a result, the Quebec Ministry of Health struck a committee of experts which recommended a number of changes to hospital protocols. In October, Découverte aired a report on the virulence of the strain of Clostridium difficile, which had just been established, and identified it as a possible cause of the deaths of 600 hospital patients in one year. Following the report the Quebec health minister formed a surveillance committee and reviewed policies on the use of antibiotics. The Public Health Agency of Canada announced the launch of a surveillance program at 25 major Canadian hospitals.
The Independent (Newfoundland and Labrador): A cost-benefit analysis of Confederation published over a period of six weeks in the fall of 2004 required a significant commitment of resources by a relatively small weekly newspaper. The analysis indicated that the rest of Canada has benefited much more than Newfoundland from the province’s decision to join Canada in 1949. The Independent’s work was widely reported in other media across the country. While some economists have disputed the results, the newspaper’s work was a significant contribution to the debate about equalization and Newfoundland and Labrador’s place in Canada.
The Globe and Mail: Investigations of the insurance and mutual funds industries by teams of reporters from the Report on Business disclosed improper use of funds and had significant results. In November, property and casualty insurers announced that they would disclose all commission practices and send a brochure to every policy holder in the country outlining relationships with independent brokers. In December, four of Canada’s largest mutual fund companies and three major brokerages agreed to pay $200 million in restitution to investors in a settlement with securities regulators.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “Faint Warning” was a unique CBC investigative project to evaluate the federal government’s adverse drug reaction reporting system. It took five years and many legal appeals under the access to information law to obtain the government’s 37-year database of adverse drug reaction reports. A searchable version of this database has been posted on CBC.ca, the corporation’s web site. After the series was broadcast on radio and television, the number of adverse drug reactions reported to Heath Canada increased sharply as did the number of alerts issued by the department. The federal health minister has vowed to make it mandatory for doctors to report serious and unexpected adverse drug reactions.
Cdn. Medical Assoc. Journal
Editor – Report on Business
Globe and Mail
Judges for the 2004 Michener Award:
Russell Mills (chair), Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Media and Design, Algonquin College, and former Publisher of the Ottawa Citizen; Arch MacKenzie, former Ottawa Bureau Chief, The Canadian Press and The Toronto Star; Dr. Catherine McKercher, former Washington correspondent, The Canadian Press, Associate Professor of Journalism and Communications, Carleton University; Duncan McMonagle former Senior Editor, The Globe and Mail and former Editor-in-Chief, Winnipeg Free Press; René Roseberry, former News Editor, Le Nouvelliste, Trois Rivières and President of the Grands Prix des Hebdos du Quebec.
Launched in 1970 under the auspices of Canada’s third Canadian Governor General, the late Roland Michener, the award focuses on the degree of public benefit generated by media projects, both large and small, in print and broadcast.