Editor John Sullivan accepts the 1990 Michener Citation of Merit from Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn on behalf of the Winnipeg Free Press.
The newspaper received recognition for “Secrecy on Trial“, a series of stories by Free Press medical writer Alexandra Paul which questioned the ability of physicians, dentists and lawyers to regulate themselves in the public interest. Complaints lodged by patients against their doctors were not investigated by police nor would the College of Physicians disclose to patients what had happened after their complaints were registered. Complainants felt shut out of the medical disciplinary process and that in turn bred resentment and anger.
Paul compiled a list of these patients and managed to track down other Manitobans with complaints involving professionals such as dentists and lawyers. Her resulting series tapped into a public desire for more transparency in the system, particularly medical, legal and dental services, where public accountability in the exercise of the policing authority of professionals was found to be sadly lacking.
Publication of the series prompted changes by medical, dental, and legal associations and influenced Manitoba political positions on the question of officially-sanctioned privilege.
Ms Paul said she was honoured to receive recognition for her work by the Michener Foundation. The Secrecy on Trial series was supervised and edited by John Sullivan.
The Citation was presented during a Michener Award ceremony held at Rideau Hall on April 25, 1991.
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. The annual award is open to daily and weekly newspapers, news agencies, radio and television stations and networks, as well as periodicals. The winners are chosen on the basis of hard-hitting impact, journalistic professionalism, and the resources available for the project.