Toronto Star wins second consecutive CJF Excellence Award

Cited for its “dogged pursuit of issue-based stories,” the Toronto Star
won the Excellence in Journalism Award (large media category)
for the second year in a row at the Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF)
14th Annual Awards Gala on June 7. CBC Manitoba won the Excellence in Journalism
Award in the small/local media category.

“We received a record number of entries,” said Excellence Jury Chair Michael Benedict. “And we received a record number of high quality entries. It speaks to the positive state of Canadian journalism despite tough economic times in the industry.”

A sellout crowd of media and business luminaries from across the
country gathered at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel to celebrate overall
excellence in journalism, with the ceremony hosted by Global National
executive editor and anchor Dawna Friesen. Other honourees included
Lifetime Achievement Award winner Patrick Brown and Honorary Tribute
recipient Robert MacNeil.

“Good journalism starts with good reporters,” said Michael Cooke, editor of the Toronto Star, who accepted the Excellence Award from Rudyard Griffiths, co-anchor of the daily BNN current affairs show Squeeze Play.
“The truth is there’s not a lot in between. Good reporters are
everything. The bloggers come out there to pick the pockets of the dead,
but it’s the reporters that do the real journalism.”

For CBC Manitoba, it was the second time managing editor Cecil Rosner
accepted the Excellence Award on behalf of his organization – the CBC
Television program Canada Now in Winnipeg won in 1991. Bob
Lewis, incoming chair of the CJF, presented the award and congratulated
the broadcaster for consistently delivering “very useful, very practical
information that was of obvious value to its audience.”

“It’s really humbling to be in this room,” said Rosner, noting that
making a living as a journalist is rewarding in itself. “I count myself
lucky to be able to come to work every day.”

The Winnipeg Free Press and The Tyee received honourable mentions in the large/national and small/local media categories respectively.

Among the evenings other awards:

  • The Greg Clark Award, sponsored by CTV and the Toronto Star, went to Marion Warnica,
    a reporter with the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group in Lethbridge, Alta.
    Committed to serving her listeners in the southern Alberta area, Warnica
    proposed that she spend a week with experts at the Canadian Avalanche
    Centre in Revelstoke, B.C. to gain insight into a phenomenon that
    continues to mystify and terrify her community.  
  • The Canadian Journalism Fellowships for a year of post-secondary
    study at the University of Toronto are awarded annually by Massey
    College. This year’s six winners are:

    • Robert Cribb, an investigative journalist with the Toronto Star,who
      received the Kierans-Janigan Fellowship, funded through the generosity
      of former CJF chair Tom Kierans and his wife Mary Janigan in honour of
      one of Canada’s greatest arts journalists, the late Val Ross of the Globe and Mail;
    • Elizabeth Bowie, producer at CBC Radio, who received the CBC/Radio-Canada Fellowship;
    • Lee Pitts, an award-winning journalist with CBC
      Television & Radio news in St. John’s, N.L., who received the St.
      Clair Balfour Fellowship;
    • Ato Dadzie, one of Ghana’s best-known journalists
      and currently news editor at Joy FM in that country, who is the
      recipient of the Gordon N. Fisher/jhr Fellowship, awarded in partnership
      with Journalists for Human Rights and named after the late Gordon N.
      Fisher who, along with the late St. Clair Balfour of Southam Newspapers,
      created the fellowships in 1962;
    • Luis Horacio Nájera, an
      investigative reporter who fled to Canada from his native Mexico after
      receiving death threats and a 2010 recipient of the Canadian Journalists
      for Free Expression International Press Freedom Award, who received the
      Scotiabank/CJFE Fellowship;
    • Shawn Micallef, a senior editor and co-owner of Spacing magazine, who received the Webster/McConnell Fellowship, named after two Montreal-based foundations.
  • The Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy, worth up to $100,000, is sponsored by the Atkinson Charitable Foundation, the Toronto Star
    and the Honderich family. The grant provides for a Canadian journalist
    to undertake a year-long research project on a topical public policy
    issue. This year’s recipient is Neil Sandell, a senior
    producer at CBC Radio Toronto. For his fellowship, he will explore the
    struggles of young adults in the workforce through a series to be
    published in the Toronto Star at the conclusion of the fellowship.
  • The 21st Martin Wise Goodman Canadian Nieman Fellowship goes to David Skok,
    managing editor at This fellowship is funded by a
    publicly subscribed permanent endowment in memory of Martin Wise
    Goodman, late president of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. The
    fellowship carries a stipend for living expenses and payment of fees to
    Harvard University. While at Harvard, Skok will be studying how to
    sustain the distinct Canadian journalistic presence in a world of
    stateless news organizations.

The previously announced Lifetime Achievement Award to Patrick Brown
was presented by Peter Mansbridge, CBC senior news correspondent and
anchor of The National. Reporting for CBC and its
French-language network SRC from 1974 to 2008, Brown covered major
events in dozens of countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He is
the recipient of three Gemini awards and the author of the
autobiographical Butterfly Mind. Brown is now an independent documentary producer based in Beijing.

In accepting his award, Brown recognized the hard work by the unsung
heroes who’ve helped him and other foreign correspondents, often putting
their own lives at risk for the sake of a story. “TV is a team sport
… if there is an achievement there, it is not a one person game,” he
says. “Management and editors back here in Toronto are very concerned to
look after us, as employees and known faces, but these people are
important too and we need to remember when things happen not to forget

Robert MacNeil, award-winning television news anchor, author and journalist and co-creator of the MacNeil/Lehrer Report,
was acknowledged during a special CJF tribute for a journalism career
that has spanned nearly a half century. Now living in New York City,
MacNeil was born in Montreal and raised in Halifax but began his
journalism career with Reuters in London.

MacNeil says his Canadian-ness has kept him “something of an
outsider” when it comes to issues like the justification of the Iraq
war, and also the belief in the value of public broadcasting. “I thank
the Canadian spirit that shaped me when I was young,” says MacNeil.
“Today, when looking for my country, I find it in myself.”

Visit the CJF Gala page for more highlights from the gala, including videos, photos, live blog and more.