CBC-TV's Alex Shprintsen receives 2007 Peter Gzowski Literacy Award of Merit



    NOTE TO EDITORS: Please visit http://www.abc-canada.org/ for photos.

    TORONTO, Oct. 4 /CNW/ - Alex Shprintsen, a producer for CBC-TV's The
National, received the Peter Gzowski Literacy Award of Merit at a gala awards
dinner in Toronto last night. The award, founded in 1993 in honour of the late
veteran broadcaster and journalist Peter Gzowski - a passionate champion for
literacy - is open to all Canadian journalists working in any medium and
recognizes their outstanding achievements in enhancing public understanding,
support for, and awareness of, the literacy cause.
    Mr. Shprintsen's series of two documentaries, entitled Canada's Shame,
focused on the alarming fact that millions of adult Canadians are, in varying
degrees, challenged with low literacy. He brought the reality of that
challenge home with compelling portraits of Jacques Demers, former coach of
the Montreal Canadiens, who faced literacy challenges throughout his
professional career, and of Lynda Richards, a Saskatchewan learner whose
literacy acquisition provided her the skills and confidence to establish a
school cafeteria service - and read a book to her grandchildren.
    The two parts, which aired May 23 and 24, 2006, respectively, on both CBC
News: Sunday and The National, also delivered to a national audience revealing
figures that compare Canada's literacy levels with those of Sweden, a country
making real gains due to a concerted investment in adult literacy.
    "The nature of literacy challenges - what they look like and how they
affect our citizens and our economy - is not an easy thing to convey, and Alex
Shprintsen and his team did a superb job in putting a face to the issue," says
Margaret Eaton, president, ABC CANADA. "Kudos to CBC-TV for delivering a very
compelling piece to a broad, national audience." In addition to Shprintsen,
the production showcased the talents of reporter Dan Bjarnason, cameraman Eric
Foss and editors Loretta Hicks and Alicia Lee.

    Award donations to literacy efforts

    In addition to presenting Shprintsen with the award, ABC CANADA is also
presenting, on his behalf, $500 to the Saskatchewan Literacy Network, where he
met Lynda Richards, and $500 to the Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy.

    ABOUT ALEX SHPRINTSEN

    Alex Shprintsen, an 18-year print and broadcast veteran and a producer at
CBC-TV's The National, was compelled to research low literacy in Canada after
learning that Jacques Demers, former coach of the Montreal Canadiens, had
lived with the challenge of low literacy all his life. He discovered that few
are aware of how wide-ranging low literacy is, and how devastating the
consequences can be. "There's a kind of vicious cycle," he says. "The very
people in a position to convey the problem generally have no one in their
professional circle who are like that."
    The resultant series of two documentaries, entitled Canada's Shame and
which aired May 23 and 24, 2005 on both The National and CBC News: Sunday,
profiled Jacques Demers, former coach of the Montreal Canadiens who faced low
literacy challenges throughout his professional career, and Lynda Richards, a
Saskatchewan learner whose literacy acquisition provided her the skills and
confidence to establish a school cafeteria service. The programs also
delivered to a national audience revealing figures that compare Canada's
literacy levels with those of Sweden, a country making real gains due to a
concerted investment in adult literacy.
    As a young boy in Kharkov, Ukraine (his family immigrated from the Soviet
Union to Canada in 1976), Shprintsen would often be asked by his kindergarten
teacher to read to his classmates. He proved to have an aptitude for languages
(he is fluent in Russian, English and French) and his parents, both engineers,
encouraged reading. With that background, reading was something he took for
granted. And throughout his professional career - which included stints as a
producer at the BBC World Service Radio, a Los Angeles Times correspondent in
Kiev, and a producer at TV Ontario's Between the Lines, and which garnered him
several Canadian and International journalism awards, including a Gemini and a
New York Film Festival award - Shprintsen proved time after time he was a
great communicator who had no reason to know that communication would be so
difficult for so many.
    He now knows. "People don't understand that there's a problem, and that
there's a price to be paid for that," he says. For his considerable effort to
bring the issue to public attention - aided so skillfully by reporter Dan
Bjarnason, cameraman Eric Foss and editors Loretta Hicks and Alicia Lee - ABC
CANADA is pleased to present him with the 2007 Peter Gzowski Literacy Award of
Merit.

    About the Peter Gzowski Literacy Award of Merit

    Journalists may submit their own work, or nominate the work of a fellow
journalist. In the case of those nominating other people's work, the entries
must be submitted with the knowledge and consent of the journalist. Others who
may nominate include an employer, a colleague, industry-related association
representatives, an ABC CANADA Board or Committee member, regional literacy
coalitions or networks, national literacy organizations or anyone employed in,
or working with, the Canadian literacy field. The award is presented on merit
and is not necessarily presented every year.

    Past recipients are: Mike Aiken (Kenora Daily Miner & News and the Lake
of the Woods Enterprise) and Irene Davis, 2006 (freelanced piece in The Globe
and Mail); Sean Fine, 2005 (The Globe and Mail); Paul-Emile Cormier, 2004
(Journal l'Etoile, New Brunswick); Alan White, 2003 (Telegraph-Journal, New
Brunswick); Joel Jacobson, 2002 (Halifax Herald); Peter Calamai, 1996 (Toronto
Star); and Denise Donlon,1993 (MuchMusic).

    About ABC CANADA

    ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation is a national charity committed to
promoting family, adult and workplace literacy to the general public, the
business community and to the public sector. ABC CANADA's focus is on public
awareness programs, providing promotional support to local literacy groups,
and conducting research to further the development of a fully literate
Canadian population. www.abc-canada.org





For further information:

For further information: Media, please contact: Jim Pollock, Director of
Communications, ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation, Ph: (416) 218-0010, ext. 126,
1-800-303-1004, ext. 126, cell: (416) 524-8267, e-mail:
jpollock@abc-canada.org

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