Ottawa, April 10th, 2003. The Toronto Star was the winner of the 2002 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. The Star won the award for ‘Investigation into Race and Crime’, a series of reports that showed the Toronto police department treated blacks differently than whites in the world’s most ethnically diverse city.
The Toronto newspaper was among six finalists honoured in a ceremony at Rideau Hall. Jim Rankin, representing the Star, accepted the award from Her Excellency, Adrienne Clarkson during a ceremony held at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Citations of Merit were presented to five other newspapers. The Governor General said that “all six finalists have every right tonight to be nominated for the Michener Award. They show how freedom of speech really matters to us and how that freedom commits editors and publishers to public service”. (full text of her award night address)
The Toronto Star series began in 1999 with reporters questioning the collection by Toronto police of race-based numbers. The paper reached a milestone in May 2002 when the police released a database of 480,000 arrests and tickets and a further 800,000 charges. Reporters and experts used computer-assisted analysis of the data to document unequal police treatment of blacks and whites in the world’s most culturally diverse city. Reports were published in October and November 2002. The Ontario Human Rights Commission announced an inquiry into racial profiling. Former Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander convened a summit meeting of community leaders. The Ontario Solicitor General announced a review of the public complaints system. The Toronto police chief announced a race relations outreach program. The effects of the series continue.
The judges said all six finalists for the Michener Award (selected from 41 entries), provided excellent examples of public benefit that resulted from publication of the stories. The judges decided against singling out any one entry for honorary mention as the runner-up.
The Michener Award recognizes outstanding and disinterested public service in journalism. It is presented annually to a news organization – newspapers, broadcasting stations and networks, news agencies and periodicals are eligible—rather than an individual.
2003 Michener-Deacon Fellowship:
The Governor General presented the 2003 Michener-Deacon Fellowship to Margaret Munro, science writer with The National Post. Ms Munro will use her 4-month study leave to travel from her base in Vancouver to other major cities across the country, contact research companies and interview doctors, ethicists and patients. She will examine, among other issues, potential conflicts of interest and ethical challenges arising from the pharmaceutical industry’s funding of medical research. (Click here for more on her fellowship and her report)
Citations of Merit were awarded to:
The London Free Press, for solid and persistent city hall reporting that exposed widespread abuses. These included secret overtime payments and buyouts to senior staff, the failure of managers to keep minutes of meetings, neglect of anti-sexual harassment policy, and the wielding of power by unaccountable bureaucrats that rightly belonged to elected councillors. Three reporters were assigned to the stories and many other staff members participated with columns, editorials, pictures and cartoons. The intense coverage prompted the departure of London’s Acting City Manager and a shake-up in the City’s administrative practices undertaken by City Council. Unusually strong interest has been shown in challenging the mayor and council in the next election.
The Ottawa Citizen, for Drug Habits: Behind Canada’s Giant Rx Bill, a seven-part series that undertook to answer the question, What is driving drug costs to record levels? Three reporters examined the practice of prescribing new, aggressively marketed, expensive drugs that are not necessarily more effective than cheaper options. They showed that some popular and expensive drugs are not nearly as effective as their manufacturers claim. The series looked at Canada’s restrictive patent laws and the politics behind them. The impact of direct-to-consumer advertising by drug companies was scrutinized. After the series was published Health Minister Anne McLellan decided against introducing direct-to-consumer advertising.
The Globe and Mail, for reporting on questionable government spending and impropriety. In early January of 2002, the Globe and Mail published charges that the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada and staff members repeatedly tried to influence the commercial dealings of Canada Lands Co. and obtain jobs for friends. On March 11, the paper reported the government paid a favoured advertising agency $550,000 to produce a report of which no trace could be found. In October, a two-part series was published which detailed how a cozy network of insiders squandered taxpayers’ money on federal contracts following the 1995 Quebec referendum. The Auditor General said federal bureaucrats who were involved broke “just about every rule in the book.” She referred the matter to the RCMP whose investigation is continuing.
La Presse (Montreal), for a series of reports which examined homeless issues in depth following an eviction of homeless persons from their place of refuge on Notre Dame St. in Montreal. The newspaper began by exploring how and why certain individuals find themselves obliged to spend their winters on city streets. The reports helped to elucidate clearly the reality which is both as widespread as it is misunderstood. La Presse demonstrated that existing resources are inadequate make a difference. At first the issue was considered to be an inevitable result of de-institutionalization as well as the character of those without shelter. These articles helped mobilize Montreal’s political will to apply the necessary funds and innovative programs which address homelessness effectively. To address the subject in a more global way journalists analyzed how Paris, London and Toronto deal with the problem.
The Edmonton Journal, for Lost Children of Hobbema, a series that brought into stark focus the tragic circumstances that led to the deaths of seven children in three years on the oil-rich Samson First Nation Reserve. Three Journal reporters won the confidence of residents on the reserve to get their stories.
The results showed the impact of federal, provincial, and band policy and practices – including trust-fund cheques for 18-year-olds – on the lives of native children. The series demonstrated that serious problems faced by band welfare agencies were not detected by the Alberta Children’s Services department before it was too late. The department has changed its policy and every agreement with band agencies is scrutinized to ensure the department is aware of potential problems before tragedy strikes.
Michener Award Night Photo Gallery
Judges for the 2002 Michener Award:
David Humphreys (chair of judging, Michener Awards Foundation), former managing editor, The Albertan and The Ottawa Journal; 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 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.
The Michener Award is unique because of its emphasis on the impact of the journalism for the public good, plus recognition of the resources available to the entrant in an effort to put smaller and larger organization on a more equal footing.