Michener honours go to the London Free Press, Fellowships honour investigative journalist Valérie Borde and the Ottawa Citizen’s Matthew Pearson
Joe Ruscitti, editor-in-chief of the London Free Press, receives the Michener Award from His Excellency David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.
Ottawa, June 14, 2017 — The London Free Press has won the 2016 Michener Award for its series Indiscernible, an investigation into the death of a local man that led to changes in Ontario’s criminal, corrections and mental health systems.
“The judges concurred that this two-year investigation exemplifies the best in public service journalism and the critical value of local media,” said Russell Mills, president of the Michener Awards Foundation.
His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, presented the Michener Award trophy to the London Free Press in a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. The media outlet was among six news organizations honoured at the ceremony. The Michener Award honours, celebrates and promotes excellence in Canadian public service journalism that makes a significant impact on the public good.
The Governor General also presented the 2017 Michener-Deacon Fellowship for Investigative Journalism to print journalist Valérie Borde, an award-winning science writer and frequent contributor to L’Actualité. Borde will investigate food safety in Canada to see if our public institutions are effectively protecting Canadians from fraudulent food claims and products.
The 2017 Michener-Deacon Fellowship for Journalism Education was awarded to Matthew Pearson of the Ottawa Citizen for his proposal to develop a teaching module for journalism instructors and online portal for newsrooms across Canada to help students and working journalists better understand trauma and its impact.
2016 Michener Award
The London Free Press: Indiscernible
The London Free Press dedicated exceptional resources over two years to investigate how Jamie High, a 40-year-old father, athlete and successful real estate agent in St. Thomas, Ontario could die naked in a police cell. With dedicated and in-depth reporting by Randy Richmond, along with data obtained through Freedom of Information requests, the Free Press produced a fearless, eloquent series that exposed serious shortfalls in policing, mental health care, justice and corrections services. Opposition politicians and industry advocates credit the Free Press series with prompting the province to increase funding for health care in jails and change the segregation policy. As well, lawyers, police and court officials in St. Thomas have new protocols to deal with people under psychological stress.
“The Free Press newsroom gave more so the work on the series could carry on over many months,” said Joe Ruscitti, the paper’s editor-in-chief. “So say what you want about the state of journalism in Canada and maybe especially local journalism, Indiscernible and all the Michener work from across the country say different.”
The judges noted that Indiscernible exemplifies the best in public-service journalism and the critical value of local media to relentlessly pursue stories and seek accountability from those in authority.
Michener Citations of Merit were presented to The Globe and Mail; National Observer; La Presse; The Toronto Star; and to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio-Canada and The Toronto Star for a joint submission.
Citations of Merit
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Canada, and The Toronto Star: Panama Papers
The result of the largest-ever journalistic collaboration, the Panama Papers has become a catch-phrase capturing global frustration and outrage over the entrenched, secretive and sprawling network of offshore tax havens. More than a year of original reporting by the Toronto Star and CBC -Radio-Canada exposed in detail the techniques used by Canadian individuals, banks and corporations that diverted billions from the country’s public treasury or engaged in bribery or paid secret commissions and breached international sanctions. The reporting also examined the regulatory framework that allows tax avoidance, and sometimes evasion, to flourish, from international tax treaties that foster offshore wealth movement to secrecy in this country`s corporate registration system. The Canada Revenue Agency, aided by a $450 million budget increase, has since initiated 122 audits and dozens of criminal investigations dealing with individuals identified through the Panama Papers leak.
“Providing new knowledge and insight into how the world works is the way journalists demonstrate leadership; it is also the ultimate expression of public-service broadcasting,” said Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News.
The Globe and Mail: Shadow flipping
The Globe and Mail’s deep exploration of real estate sales practices in B.C. exposed an industry rife with speculation as agents sold properties before deals had closed, and made tax-free profits in the process. The Globe’s tenacious investigative team revealed loopholes, lax self-regulation and insufficient provincial oversight.
“Everyone knew something was happening in the real estate markets of Canada’s biggest cities but it was only through journalism that the public and policy-makers got the facts,” said David Walmsley, the Globe and Mail’s editor-in-chief.
“Our series produced the data that had been missing from the debate. The addition of this information resulted in the most consequential government policy moves involving any journalism in 2016.”
The stories raised public and political consciousness about unethical real estate practices that disadvantaged clients and triggered an investigation that resulted in 28 recommendations to protect clients and increase accountability and transparency in the B.C. real estate industry. The revelations were also impetus for a new provincial foreign-buyer’s tax, government regulation of the real estate industry, investigations by the Canadian Revenue Agency, and probes into the misuse of farmland.
National Observer: Pipeline Panel
The story that derailed the Energy East pipeline hearings last fall started with the National Observer’s revelation of a private meeting between members of a National Energy Board (NEB) panel and former Quebec premier Jean Charest. Charest was working for TransCanada pipelines while also advising the NEB about how best to manage TransCanada’s Energy East hearings in Quebec in the face of strong opposition to the Alberta-New Brunswick oil pipeline.
By September the regulator’s chief executive and the entire federal hearings panel recused themselves from the process, two NEB employees were reassigned and the Energy East pipeline hearings postponed. The National Observer not only exposed the compromised position of NEB panelists, it reopened disturbing questions about the pattern of cooperation between the NEB and the industry it is supposed to regulate. The examination of thousands of pages of correspondence, reports and briefing notes, reveal missing evidence, sloppy investigations and edits to reports that downplayed mistakes made by industry.
“Our reporting has triggered a significant change in federal oversight that allowed Canada’s National Energy Board to propose a review of the impacts of climate change as part of its assessment of a major pipeline project. This was possible because we asked tough questions about potential ties between federal officials and industry,” said Mike De Souza, the managing editor of the National Observer.
“As the media landscape changes, I think it’s important for us to demonstrate that responsible journalism matters and that it’s critical for strengthening public trust in our democracy.”
La Presse: Investigation into Video Lottery Terminals
An enterprising team of journalists from La Presse presented a comprehensive picture of Quebec’s booming video lottery industry, worth a billion dollars a year to provincial coffers. The detailed investigation revealed that hundreds of bars with video lottery terminals (VLTs), many in poor neighborhoods, deliberately flouted rules intended to protect patrons from addiction, and that the provincial regulatory agency passed off routine breaches, even in the case of repeat offenders. The series disclosed that close to 70 bars with VLTs had links to organized crime and Lotto Quebec took no action.
“Lengthy features like this one are necessary and vital. Moreover, this investigation really allowed society to improve as the government was forced to make certain decisions and tighten the screws on Lotto-Québec in order that it improve its surveillance of the gambling industry,” said Eric Trottier, assistant editor and vice-president of La Presse.
As a result of the reporting Quebec’s Minister of Public Security quickly ordered the regulatory agency to revise several decisions, and to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for regulation breeches. The Quebec government is to withdraw 1,100 video lottery terminals from bars in vulnerable neighbourhoods, and Lotto Quebec decided not to re-commission 375 machines in storage.
Toronto Star: Secrecy and SIU
Public anger against a pattern of excessive police force in Toronto, especially against black Canadians and those in mental-health crisis, followed the fatal shooting of Andrew Loku in July 2015. Protests erupted when Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) determined in March 2016 that the officer who fired the fatal shots did not exceed “justifiable force” and that no criminal charges would be laid.
Persistent journalism by the Toronto Star exposed a lack of transparency in the SIU’s public reporting process. The Star’s coverage contributed to significant actions, including the release of a redacted version of the SIU report, a new protocol that allows public access to police board reports following SIU investigations of Toronto police, and an independent review of Ontario’s police oversight bodies. The review’s final report, tabled in April 2017, made 129 recommendations to improve police oversight and transparency in Ontario.
“Journalism needs the Michener Award more than ever in the current context of tumultuous change and painful cutbacks in the news industry. We need to celebrate,” said Michael Cooke, editor-in-chief of the Toronto Star. “There’s still plenty of great journalism being done coast-to-coast and yay! to the Michener organization for a bright spotlight.”
Judges for the 2016 Michener Awards:
Kim Kierans (chair), professor of journalism and vice-president at University of King’s College in Halifax and former CBC news reporter and editor; Kevin Crowley, director of communications and public affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University and former business editor with the Waterloo Region Record; Claude Papineau, former vice-president for French services of The Canadian Press and former parliamentary correspondent; Christopher Waddell, professor and former director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University and former national editor of the Globe and Mail and parliamentary bureau chief for CBC Television News; and Mary Lynn Young, associate professor of journalism, former associate dean at UBC’s Faculty of Arts, and former director of the UBC School of Journalism.
Judges for the 2017 Michener-Deacon Fellowships:
Susan Mitton (chair), former regional director, CBC Maritimes; Michael Goldbloom, principal and vice-chancellor of Bishop’s University, Lennoxville, Quebec, and former publisher of the Gazette and Toronto Star; Donna Logan, current member of the Michener board, former media executive of CBC, and founding director of the Graduate School of Journalism at UBC; Geneviève Rossier, directrice des communications, relations publiques et visibilite numerique a Bibliotheque et Archives National du Quebec, former directrice communications, marketing et contenus numeriques, La Place des Arts; and Romayne Smith Fullerton, associate professor, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario, and ethics editor at J-Source.
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