Ottawa, May 9, 1994. The1993 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism was shared by the Ottawa Citizen and The Globe and Mail. The tie, sixth in the 24 years of the Michener Awards, honoured the Citizen for its coverage of the controversial plan by the Progressive Conservative government to privatize Toronto’s Pearson airport. The Globe and Mail won for coverage of the tangled, tragic tainted blood story.
The Award ceremony was held at Rideau Hall, Ottawa and hosted by Governor General Ramon Hnatyshyn. The 1993 Michener Award was accepted by reporter Greg Weston on behalf of the Citizen and André Picard received the Michener trophy for the Globe and Mail.
The six finalists were selected from among fifty-eight entries including newspapers, news services, broadcasting, and periodicals. In his address to invited guests, the Governor General said that times had changed and the evolving media world would startle the journalists of yesteryear. He touched on the serious challenges posed by new technology and what impact the proliferation of personal computers might have on traditional forms of print and broadcast journalism. (full text of the Governor General’s address)
The Globe and Mail was selected as a finalist for the 3rd year in a row in its continuing probe of the tangled and tragic events behind what many believe will be Canada’s worst public health disaster – the tainted blood scandal. Reporters Rod Mickleburgh (in Toronto) and André Picard (in Montreal) once again provided the quality stories that earned their newspaper a share of the 1993 Michener Award. As a finalist for the 1992 award, the newspaper reported on the tainted blood saga that was responsible for more than 1,000 aids-related deaths as a result of blood transfusions in the 1980s. Last September’s four-part series revealed how the provinces conspired to deny compensation to victims of tainted blood and how many of them were dying destitute because federal support had run out. Federal and other reviews followed quickly. Within weeks the provinces had reversed their seven-year-old policy and provided a $159 million compensation package.
The Ottawa Citizen was co-winner of the 1993 Award for exposing the deal to privatize Toronto’s Pearson airport, a series that provided a major lightning rod for voter discontent with the government of Brian Mulroney. Detailed reports by columnist Greg Weston in the middle of the federal election campaign were a significant factor in the investigation and subsequent cancellation of the multi-million dollar deal. In its submission, The Citizen described the airport scheme this way: ‘Rarely in recent political history has a government initiative of such magnitude and public consequence been cloaked in such secrecy, the truth tightly guarded among a small group of mainly self-interested players’.
The President of the Michener Awards Foundation, Clark Davey, presented the 1994 Fellowships to Toronto Star correspondent Robert Hepburn and Le Devoir journalist François Brousseau. Mr. Hepburn was on assignment in the Middle East and was unable to attend the ceremony. Star publisher John Honderich accepted the Fellowship on his behalf.
The Michener Foundation supports four-month study leave fellowships for mid-career journalists working on projects to advance education in the field of journalism and foster promotion of the public interest through values that benefit the community.
Mr. Davey also announced the decision by the Foundation board to honour the dedication and commitment of Paul Deacon, whose “work for the last many years was instrumental in keeping the Michener Foundation vibrant and strong”. At its annual meeting, the board unanimously elected Mr. Deacon as president emeritus.
In his award night address, Clark Davey said that “every organization represented by the six finalists has demonstrated its leadership in the field of public service journalism. Often when the kinds of stories that win the Michener Award – good old fashioned muck racking – are broadcast or published there isn’t always instant public recognition that the public interest is being served. Often the news organization and the journalists who report these kinds of stories take a considerable amount of heat. Happily the newspapers and broadcasters represented here tonight show no signs of wanting to get out of the kitchen”. (Full text)
The Standard (St. Catharines) received honourable mention for an extended investigation of the municipal Hydro commission and administration. As a direct result of the stories with reporter Carol Alaimo leading the way, there was a special audit of the Hydro books, the $100,000-a-year general manager was fired, both the mayor and the chair man resigned from the Hydro commission, a management study was commissioned, and city council even passed a formal thank-you motion to both the Standard and Ms Alaimo. And, as a further consequence of the probe, rates were cut for hydro consumers. Award judges noted that small news organizations don’t require the resources of a network or a major metropolitan newspaper to make a difference. The impact of The Standard’s investigation demonstrated that fact and was an important consideration for the judges.
Citations of Merit ware awarded to:
The Edmonton Journal (last year’s winner of the Michener Award), for two massive entries which reflect the continuing and growing concern Canadians have about their own health and the health care delivery system. The judges decided to combine these two entries. One produced more than 200 stories over a period of months on key issues affecting health in men and women from teen years through the sixties. There were bi-weekly public forums which drew turn away crowds. The other series, ranging over eight days, examined the tough choices to be made in health care delivery in the wake of the Alberta government’s 25 percent funding cutbacks. Murdoch Davis accepted the award.
CBC’s ‘the fifth estate’ for opening the locker room door to one of the darker sides of Canadian sport – the sexual harassment of female athletes by their male coaches. The program emphasized how many amateur sports organizations shy away from confronting by refusing to acknowledge that it exists. And yet, as the CBC submission said, the program offered convincing proof that “from Woodstock to Calgary, some male coaches of volleyball, rowing, and swim teams have taken advantage of their positions of tremendous power and trust by sexually harassing female athletes, some as young as 14 years old”. It said that the problem exists in many amateur sports right up to national levels but sports organizations shy from confronting it. The program prompted calls for codes of conduct comparable to those governing the legal and medical professions. Executive producer Kelly Crichton accepted the award on behalf of the CBC.
The Toronto Star (another returning finalist) for a two-part series by health reporter Lisa Priest on the difficulties of getting treatment for Ontario breast cancer patients. Like a lot of other investigative stories, this one started with a telephone call from a patient distraught about delays in her radiation treatment. Ms Priest discovered that Toronto area women might have to move to northern Ontario facilities for six weeks for treatment after breast surgery and doctors admitted to her reluctantly that they were being forced into much more radical surgery because they feared delays in the less drastic treatment. The cash-strapped Ontario government moved quickly to add 26 more radiation specialists and started development of a long term cancer treatment plan.
Judges for the 1993 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 1994 Fellowship:
The Honourable D. Keith Davey, Senator (Chair of the Judging Panel); Sandy Baird, former publisher, The Kitchener-Waterloo Record; Diane Filer, a now-retired director of CBC international relations; Emmanuelle Gattuso, a former senior executive with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters; and Jody White, Ottawa public affairs consultant and a former senior adviser to Joe Clark and Kim Campbell.
The distinction between the Michener Award and other media awards is primarily the emphasis on the degree of arms-length public benefit that is generated. Journalistic excellence alone is not enough.