Toronto Star investigative reporters and editors win Journalism Integrity Award

Update — the original version of this story incorrectly named the Star’s “investigative team” as the winners

The Toronto Star investigative reporters and editors’ “stubborn emphasis on substance” — particularly for their quality
and quantity of investigative journalism — helped them secure J-Source’s second annual Journalism Integrity Award for its contributions to quality journalism.

The Journalism Integrity Award was established in 2009 to honour journalists or organizations that demonstrate a positive impact on the quality of journalism in Canada. The inaugural winners were the employees of the CHEK-TV newsroom in Victoria, BC, who bought the station and operated it as a local, independent news station dedicated to improving the quality and quantity of local news. The jury selects the winner from nominations submitted by J-Source readers and contributors.

The Toronto Star was nominated for putting “Its money … where its reporters are: digging compelling, provocative, and yes, socially important (remember that concept?) stories out of data, out of abuses and injustices, out of the rubble of post-earthquake Haiti, and out of surprising places like sports.

“Readers of the Star are growing accustomed to old-fashioned ‘Star Investigation’ or ‘Star Exclusive’ slugs on stories on the front page and throughout the paper, but those slugs are real investments in reporting, not cheap in any sense,” the nomination said.

The nomination pointed out while there are many news organizations investing in investigative work, the Toronto Star‘s work in 2010 was “an exemplar.”

The nominator suggested the volume and quality of investigative reporting may be due to “all the competitors in Toronto’s wondrous newspaper war, for forcing one another to pull out the stops but the Star has responded with a stubborn emphasis on substance, not form.”

“Or the credit could go to single individuals at the Star, such as Torstar chair John Honderich’s commitment to good old reporting, or publisher John Cruickshank’s undying support of hard news, or editor Michael Cooke’s unapologetic love of making waves, or Kevin Donovan for his aggressive leadership of the paper’s core investigative team, or reporter Moira Welsh as an example of week-after-week investigative productivity. All these individuals do indeed deserve great credit. But I think what has been achieved this year is the result of decades of building of a newsroom that is deeply connected to its city and staffed with people who see public-issues reporting as an honourable vocation and gritty craft.”

Since 2007, J-Source and ProjetJ have been helping Canadians passionate about journalism stay on top of the profession. We’ve been monitoring trends, spreading news about innovations and examining ethical issues and shifting economic models during this time of revolutionary change.

We strive to recognize and celebrate the efforts of journalists, journalism educators, activists and citizens who believe that journalism can make a difference in a functioning democracy.

Some examples of the exemplary journalism the Toronto Star produced in 2010:

24 Dec 2010 – Mitch Potter
Did the Karzais steal Kandahar?
Death threats drove one of Kandahar’s leading businessmen to flee the country. But it wasn’t the Taliban he feared. It was the president’s brothers

14 Nov 2010 – Mary Orms
Tales of abuse link clerics again – after 47 years The secret connection between one of the country’s most powerful bishops and the priest alleged to be one of its most notorious pedophiles

28 October 2010 – David Bruser & Michele Henry
Are these cops above the law?: Different standard of justice for police officers begins with toothless watchdog that rarely lays charges

27 Oct 2010 – Kevin Donovan
Hookers and Booze: Your tax dollars at work; How over $4 million in small business loans doled out through Industry Canada program was partied away Millions of dollars in federal small business loan money was blown on prostitutes, booze, partying and fast cars. A Toronto Star investigation shows the department managing the program – Industry Canada – allows banks to loan money with lax or no controls.

1 Oct 2010 – Dale Brazao & Moira Welsh
Seven sad days; Like discarded people, residents were left in soiled diapers, poorly fed and generally neglected by overworked, underpaid staff Toronto Star reporter Dale Brazao went undercover last month as one of 19 residents of the In Touch retirement home in Toronto. Brazao discovered profound neglect – residents left in diapers for hours or on the floor where they fell. Half the residents should be in a nursing home. Food was substandard. Staff were few, and those in the home typically had no credentials and were paid below minimum wage. Names of the residents have been changed to protect their privacy. Here is his account of seven daysinside.

4 September 2010 – Robert Cribb
Who decides when you die?
Stunning allegations that Sunnybrook physicians watched a patient die as his daughter pleaded for help raise a difficult question

28 May 2010 – Moira Welsh & David Bruser
Staff say watchdog’s office plagued by ‘culture of fear’
‘Absurd,’ counters ombudsman André Marin, who acknowledges he’s tough – ‘many aspire and few attain’ – but denies allegations that he and his managers are petty tyrants who single out minority employees for tough evaluations Star investigation

24 April 2010 – Robert Cribb
Donor dollars eaten up by costs; Lavish dinners, administration costs consuming sports charity donation cash, investigation finds More than half the money raised in the name of charity by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment was spent on fundraising and administration last year. And the story is much the same at many professional sports foundations across Canada, a Star investigation has found.

17 April 2010 – Moira Welsh
$15,000 ‘gypsy’ slur
Coffee shop confrontation among countless tales of rampant racism, work discrimination. DiscriminationOntario’s newly streamlined human rights watchdog is swamped with allegations of sex, race and disability discrimination, the Star has found.

8 Apr 2010 – Kevin Donovan
‘Mr. Jaffer has opened up the Prime Minister’s office to us’; Escorts, booze, fancy dining and cocaine . . . the inside story of the night it all went wrong for the former Tory MP The booze was flowing on the back patio at Harbour 60 Steakhouse in downtown Toronto. Nazim Gillani of International Strategic Investments, four business associates and three busty hookers dined in style last Sept. 10. Former MP Rahim Jaffer, a self-described peddler of government grants, credits and loans, was in fine form, chatting up prospective clients. Early the next morning, Gillani would greet the day with a colourful email to the night’s guests: “Mr. Jaffer has opened up the Prime Minister’s office to us,” he boasted, unaware at the time of how Jaffer’s night had ended.

8 Feb 2010 – Moria Welsh
Elite police squad looks for trouble
Created in ‘year of the gun,’ TAVIS teams stop and question thousands

And finally, the following is a list of the headlines only of the 2,000-word-plus stories about Haiti that the Star did since the January earthquake. The bare list speaks of a different attitude to news in a time when disasters often are considered stale a week after the event. It also speaks of the newsroom’s awareness of their city, so many of whose citizens come from far away.

1. Earth’s revenge; The planet unleashed a year of chaos and disaster, but bestowed the occasional miracle along the way
The Toronto Star, 31 December 2010

2.Return to AC950 Buried in rubble, ‘brothers for life’; They flew from Montreal to ‘the end of the world’ – and lived. Now, the survivors of the last Canadian flight to Haiti before the earthquake reflect on a year of pain and redemption.
The Toronto Star, 26 December 2010.

3. A little girl saved, a world changed; Ever since she was rescued after the earthquake, Lovely has been touching the lives of people from all…
The Toronto Star, 26 December 2010

4. Once a sun destination, can tourists save Haiti?
The Toronto Star, 19 December 2010.

5. Death and decay in Haiti’s hospitals; There are grand plans to rebuild the country’s health-care system, one that remains out of reach for many…
The Toronto Star, 12 December 2010

6. Lovely’s aunt needs cash to improve her small business. But will microcredit be helpful or hellish?
The Toronto Star, 5 December 2010

7. Why Haiti doesn’t work; The country has long been considered a failed state, its officials and departments incompetent or corrupt.
The Toronto Star, 4 December 2010

8. Haiti’s knockout punch; Earthquake and hurricane are obvious horrors. Now an invisible threat terrorizes the island: Cholera
The Toronto Star, 27 November 2010

9. A dam for the people, and a people damned; The Peligre power project was meant to light up Haiti. Instead, it brought floods and darkness
The Toronto Star, 21 November 2010

10. An election looms: Will it be bloody? A combination of greed and misery threatens next weekend’s vote
The Toronto Star,20 November 2010

11. Forgotten FRUIT; The Haitian mango has all but disappeared from North American markets. The reasons why say much about the troubled country
The Toronto Star,14 November 2010

12. Can igloos save Haiti’s homeless? Among the hundreds of solutions for the earthquake-stricken country’s housing woes is a novel one from Canada. But there’s one big problem: nothing is being built
The Toronto Star, 7 November 2010,

14. Cholera’s grim march through Haiti; As the body count increases, relatives of the stricken wail, doctors treat thousands and Lovely’s family waits. Will the disease find them?
The Toronto Star,31 October 2010,

15. Afghans, living on the knife’s edge in Pakistan; With flood waters gone, refugees here remain among world’s most vulnerable, neglected
The Toronto Star, 24 October 2010,

16. Sins of the soil; Ignorance and short-sightedness have ruined Haitian agriculture. But the country’s future may lie in the farms so many families have fled, writes Kenneth Kidd
The Toronto Star, 23 October 2010

17. Can a t-shirt save a country? A crucial part of the plan for rebuilding Haiti is expanding its garment-assembly business.
The Toronto Star, 17 October 2010

18. How you made a difference; Star readers, moved by reports from Haiti, sent thousands of dollars in aid
The Toronto Star, 17 October 2010

19. Saving Lovely, Saving Haiti; Where to begin tackling Haiti’s multitude of problems? How about starting by fixing just one . .
The Toronto Star, 16 October 2010

20.  Catherine Porter spent $281 to put Lovely in this classroom chair. Haiti wants to spend $4.3 billion to keep her there.
The Toronto Star, 16 October 2010

22. The Fire this time; With its new album and summer tour, Arcade Fire finally joins the rock ‘n’ roll elite. How are they handling the pressure? With good grace and puffer fish…
The Toronto Star, 7 August 2010

23. Princes of Bel Air; In the past, despair morphed into terrifying violence as gang leaders jockeyed for power over one of Port-au-Prince’s meanest neighbourhoods. Will the hopelessness left by the Jan. 12 earthquake push the men of Bel Air back to the brink?
The Toronto Star 7 March 2010

25. Last flight to Haiti; One hundred and ninety-five people boarded Air Canada Flight 950 in Montreal on the morning of Jan. 12, bound for Port…
The Toronto Star, 13 February 2010

26. A place of healing rises from the rubble; Like its many patients, the largest hospital in Port-au-Prince is trying to recover
The Toronto Star, 31 January 2010

27. What a 9 year old thinks; Story by Mary Ormsby and Leslie Scrivener
The Toronto Star, 31 January 2010

28. ‘It was one of their favourite places’; Frantic relatives and friends try calling, emailing to get word on missing loved ones
The Toronto Star, 17 January 2010

29. ‘We continue to believe he is alive’; Missing Canadians’ families wait for news, hoping for the best, even as they fear the worst
The Toronto Star, 16 January 2010