Michener Honours go to the Toronto Star, CBC's Rita Celli and Montreal freelancer Francine Pelletier

OTTAWA, June 11, 2014 /CNW/ - The Toronto Star has won the 2013 Michener Award for its reporting on the activities and behaviour of the Mayor of Canada's largest city that resulted in a police investigation and Rob Ford being stripped of all powers, Russell Mills, President of the Michener Awards Foundation, announced today.

In a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, presented the Michener Award trophy to The Toronto Star. The Star was among six news organizations honoured at the ceremony. The Michener Award is presented annually for journalism that makes a significant impact on the public good.

The Governor General also presented the 2014 Michener-Deacon Fellowship for Journalism Education to Francine Pelletier, a Montreal-based journalist. She will organize workshops on big data journalism and elements of digital information at Concordia University.

The 2014 Michener-Deacon Fellowship for Investigative Journalism was awarded to CBC journalist Rita Celli who will examine public policy questions raised by the profits generated by the mining industry in Ontario.

The Michener Award honoured the Toronto Star for its reporting that revealed a serious public concern about the conduct of the city's mayor Rob Ford. Despite intimidation and an organized campaign trying to undermine the credibility of the reporting, The Toronto Star exposed Ford's public drunkenness, boorish behaviour, abuses of his office and existence of a video of him smoking crack cocaine accompanied by members of a drug gang. The Star did not waiver as the mayor countered every story with vehement denials and attacks. Behind the scenes the Toronto police launched an investigation that proved all the Star's allegations to be true. Going to court to win the release of details about the police investigation, the Star's work led the council of Canada's largest city to remove all powers from the mayor, leaving him as a figurehead.

Michener Citations of Merit were presented to:

The Canadian Press exposed the broken commitments of the federal government and National Defence to the country's newest generation of veterans who served in Afghanistan. The series entitled The Long Road Home, revealed that Canadian veterans are being shortchanged by the government and the country they served when it comes to mental health services, support for the disabled, jobs after leaving the forces, adequate pensions for those who serve, assistance to the families of soldiers and even support for the burial of impoverished veterans. In too many cases the tragic result of this abandonment is suicide. Keeping a spotlight on the issue The Canadian Press generated a sustained response from outraged Canadians, and forced the federal government to improve a range of programs and services that support veterans.

CTV News broke many of the stories in the Senate expense claim scandal involving Senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Mac Harb. It also revealed a backroom deal in which the Prime Minister's then chief of staff personally covered the $90,000 that Duffy owed to taxpayers. CTV's reporting contributed to significant action: investigations by the RCMP, the federal Ethics Commissioner, and a Senate committee; criminal charges against Brazeau and Harb; the suspension of three Senators — Brazeau, Wallin and Duffy — and the retirement of Harb; the departure of the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Nigel Wright; and reforms to Senate expense reporting. Through its coverage, CTV demonstrated the important role that journalists can play in holding government officials accountable to the public they serve.

The Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald series Fatal Care revealed that 145 children in foster care died in the last 14 years, three times more than the province reported. The victims were mostly aboriginal children, one in three were infants, and one-third died because of unsafe sleeping conditions. The investigation exposed a byzantine and secretive death review system that is accountable to no one, and outdated laws that prevent parents from talking about their child's death. The sensitive and thorough reporting pressured the government to open death records for public scrutiny, prompted a provincial roundtable on child welfare reform, and led to calls for new legislation to restructure the system and to update the law covering publication bans.

A Globe and Mail investigation exposing the volatility of Bakken oil shipped in massive trains from North Dakota helped explain why the 2013 rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic killed 47 people and caused so much damage. Over a four-month period, Globe reporters travelled to four provinces and three states, filed access to information searches, withstood industry bullying and government stalling, uncovered earlier warnings about the dangers, and developed key sources willing to speak out about inadequate regulation, expedient oil-testing shortcuts and lack of oversight in the transportation chain. The goal was to prevent another tragedy.

Reaction from the Canadian government was swift as it moved to declare crude oil a highly dangerous substance and take measures, along with U.S. authorities, to introduce tough safety and testing regulations for oil trains.

The Windsor Star provided a powerful voice for a community fighting to keep cancer-related thoracic surgery in the city. As part of a consolidation plan, Cancer Care Ontario directed Windsor hospitals to send their patients to London, a two-hour drive away. When the Windsor medical community resisted, Cancer Care Ontario threatened to withdraw funding for all cancer surgeries in the city. The Windsor Star's persistent and comprehensive coverage highlighted inconsistencies and potential health risks in the Cancer Care Ontario plan. In doing so, the newspaper galvanized a community-wide protest that eventually caused the agency, and the provincial government, to reverse its decision. Officials from the local medical community credited The Windsor Star for playing a leadership role in securing a positive outcome for cancer patients in the region.

Judges for the 2013 Michener Award:

Kim Kierans (chair), Professor School of Journalism and Vice President 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; Allan Mayer, former editor-in-chief of the Edmonton Journal and former reporter with the Edmonton Sun and London Free Press; Claude Papineau, former Vice President for French Services of The Canadian Press and former Parliamentary Correspondent; Christopher Waddell, 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.

Judges for the 2014 Michener-Deacon Fellowships:

Clinton Archibald (chair), retired professor of public ethics, Saint Paul University, Ottawa; Michael Goldbloom, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Bishop's University, Lennoxville, Quebec, and former publisher of The Gazette and the Toronto Star; Susan Mitton, former regional director, CBC Maritimes; Ivor Shapiro, chair, Ryerson School of Journalism; Maryse Cardin, instructor, School of Communications, Capilano University, North Vancouver.

SOURCE Michener Awards Foundation

For further information:

Michener Awards Foundation:
Russell Mills
(613) 727-4723, x 5179
email: mills@algonquincollege.com
Web sites: www.michenerawards.ca 
www.prixmichener.ca

Rideau Hall Press Office
Julie Rocheleau
(613) 998-7280
e-mail: julie.rocheleau@gg.ca