TORONTO, May 7, 2021 – Coverage of COVID-19, from first-person reporting and poignant photographs to in-depth investigations and bitingly satirical editorial cartoons, dominated as winners of the 2020 National Newspaper Awards were announced.
Nearly half of the 66 finalists were nominated for work that related in some way to the pandemic that dominated news coverage in 2020, and 10 of the 22 winning entries were for submissions entirely or mostly about COVID.
Entries dealing with the pandemic won in Beat Reporting, Business, Columns, Editorial Cartooning, Feature Photo, General News Photo, Long Feature, Project of the Year, Short Feature and the one new category this year, Sustained News Coverage.
Bucking the COVID-centric trend, Tom Cardoso of the Globe and Mail was named Journalist of the Year for an investigation that exposed systemic bias against Indigenous, Black and female prisoners in Canada’s corrections system.
Cardoso, who also won the George Brown Award for Investigations, was among 15 category winners considered for Journalist of the Year honours. He was selected by a panel comprising two former NNA winners and a former category judge, from among winning entries that had been submitted by one or two individuals.
Cardoso’s work was described by Journalist of the Year judges as resonating “like thunder” amid growing concerns about racial bias within the RCMP and other Canadian police forces. He obtained difficult-to-access data, created sophisticated programs to analyze it, and found compelling stories about the people reflected in the numbers.
Judges said Cardoso’s investigation proved beyond an iota of doubt that the standard evaluations used to determine the likelihood of prisoners being rehabilitated – and thus receiving access to useful programming and better conditions – are profoundly and systemically biased against individuals from racialized backgrounds. He also discovered that Corrections officials were aware of the situation, and had done nothing to rectify it.
Judges said his work revealed how Canada sometimes overlooks or condones injustice, and created an important foundation on which a correctional system that deals more constructively and equitably with those convicted of crime might be built.
Cardoso’s win in the Investigations category was one of 10 by the Globe and Mail. Other organizations winning multiple awards were La Presse and the Canadian Press with three each, and Le Devoir and the Toronto Star with two apiece. One of the Star’s two wins was shared with the Halifax Chronicle Herald (for Michael de Adder in the Editorial Cartooning category).
Geoffrey York of the Globe and Mail has his name on a winning entry for the fifth time in his career. York, who was a winner in two categories last year, was one of five Globe and Mail journalists who teamed up in 2020 to win the John Wesley Dafoe Award for Politics. Another member of that team, Paul Waldie, has now won four NNAs in his career.
Erin Anderssen of the Globe and Andrew Vaughan of the Canadian Press also won for the fourth time. Anderssen won the Bob Levin Award for Short Feature, and Vaughan won the Breaking News Photo category.
Leah Hennel of the Globe and Mail won her third NNA, this time in the Sports Photo category. Isabelle Hachey of La Presse (William Southam Award for Long Feature) won her second, as did Jacques Nadeau of Le Devoir (General News Photo) and André Picard of the Globe (Columns).
Several individuals took home top honours for the first time after being nominated previously. They include Michael de Adder (Editorial Cartooning), the Globe’s Johanna Schneller (Arts and Entertainment) and the Globe’s Nathan VanderKlippe (Norman Webster Award for International Reporting). Each came into this year’s competition having been a finalist four times previously. Ariane Lacoursière of La Presse, who won the E. Cora Hind Award for Beat Reporting, had been a finalist three previous times.
There were 66 finalists from 20 news organizations in 22 categories. Finalists and winners were selected by three-judge panels in each category from 926 entries submitted for work published in 2020.
This is the 72nd year for the awards program, and the 32nd under the current administrative structure. The awards were established by the Toronto Press Club in 1949 to encourage excellence and reward achievement in daily newspaper work in Canada. The competition is now open to newspapers, news agencies and online news sites approved for entry by the NNA Board of Governors.
Thanks to donations from sponsors, seven of the 22 category awards are named after important figures in the news industry. They are:
A complete list of winners and finalists:
Arts and Entertainment
Winner: Johanna Schneller, Globe and Mail, for columns tackling the subject of gender identity and gender politics in the arts world.
Finalists: Améli Pineda, Le Devoir, for an investigation into accusations by nine women about assault or sexual misconduct by comedian Julien Lacroix; Jean Siag, La Presse, for articles about sexual abuse and misconduct in the circus industry.
E. Cora Hind Award for Beat Reporting
Winner: Ariane Lacoursière, La Presse, for her work covering health and in particular COVID-19.
Finalists: Aaron Derfel, Montreal Gazette, for his work on the health and COVID-19 beat; Leah Gerber, Waterloo Region Record, for her work on the environment beat, with a focus on the Grand River watershed.
Winner: The Canadian Press for coverage of the shocking killing rampage that left 22 people dead in Nova Scotia.
Finalists: The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, both for coverage of the shooting down of a passenger jet in Iran that killed 176 people, including dozens of Canadians.
Breaking News Photo
Winner: Andrew Vaughan, Canadian Press, for a photo of the body of Gabriel Wortman, shot and killed by police at a gas station after he killed 22 people during a 13-hour rampage in Nova Scotia.
Finalists: Darryl Dyck, Canadian Press, for a photograph of two men clashing at a Black Lives Matter protest in Vancouver; Chris Young, Canadian Press, for a picture showing the anguish of a man as authorities broke up an encampment inhabited by homeless persons in downtown Toronto.
Winners: Kenyon Wallace, Marco Chown Oved, Ed Tubb and Brendan Kennedy, Toronto Star, for uncovering the fact that death rates from COVID-19 were higher in for-profit homes than in other types of long-term care residences.
Finalists: Tom Blackwell, National Post, for a report connecting the dots between the demise of Nortel and the rise of Huawei; Kathryn Blaze Baum, Tavia Grant and Carrie Tait, Globe and Mail, for shining a light on how the health and safety of some workers in Canada’s food-supply chain were compromised during the pandemic.
Winner: André Picard, Globe and Mail
Finalists: Isabelle Hachey, La Presse; Richard Warnica, National Post
Winner: Michael de Adder, Halifax Chronicle Herald/Toronto Star
Finalists: Graeme MacKay, Hamilton Spectator; Bruce MacKinnon, Halifax Chronicle Herald
Claude Ryan Award for Editorial Writing
Winner: Ryan Stelter, Kenora Miner and News
Finalists: François Cardinal, La Presse; Heather Persson, Saskatoon StarPhoenix/Regina Leader-Post
Winner: Tristan Péloquin, La Presse, for concretely explaining the risks and pitfalls associated with artificial intelligence technologies such as facial recognition.
Finalists: Kate Allen, Rachel Mendleson, Jennifer Yang and Andrew Bailey, Toronto Star, for using graphics, maps and enterprising analysis to upend assumptions about how COVID-19’s first wave spread through Toronto; Kathy Tomlinson and Grant Robertson, Globe and Mail, for mining public health documents to ask a critical question in the early days of COVID-19: “How well did the Canadian government follow its own plans”?
Winner: Nathan Denette, Canadian Press, for a photo of a woman hugging her mother through a plastic “hug glove” the woman created so the family could embrace despite COVID-19 restrictions.
Finalists: Steve Russell, Toronto Star, for an image of a couple dining on a restaurant patio despite heavy rainfall; Fred Thornhill, Canadian Press, for a picture of a paddleboarder out for an early-morning paddle on the Trent-Severn waterway.
General News Photo
Winner: Jacques Nadeau, Le Devoir, for a photograph of life in a Quebec long-term care facility during COVID-19, including a worker in a “hazmat” suit.
Finalists: Veronica Henri, Toronto Sun, for the poignant image of a mother in a long-term care facility reaching towards her daughter through a window during a separation caused by COVID-19; Carlos Osorio, Reuters, for a picture that cleverly demonstrated different approaches to COVID-19 in Canada and the U.S.: a Canadian tour boat at Niagara Falls was limited to just six passengers, while an American boat was packed.
Norman Webster Award for International Reporting
Winner: Nathan VanderKlippe, Globe and Mail, for coverage of repression in the Chinese region of Xianjiang.
Finalists: Tom Blackwell, National Post, for three stories that depicted Oregon’s unique role as an epicentre of human unrest and natural destruction during the U.S. election season; Mark MacKinnon, Globe and Mail, for reporting about how Vladimir Putin has changed Russia, eastern Europe and the entire world.
George Brown Award for Investigations
Winner: Tom Cardoso, Globe and Mail, for an investigation that uncovered systemic bias against Indigenous, Black and female prisoners in Canada’s corrections system.
Finalists: Rachel Mendleson and Wendy Gillis, Toronto Star, for delving deeply into how much physical force police officers use against Canadian citizens; Grant Robertson, Globe and Mail, for uncovering considerable evidence that the federal government was unprepared for COVID-19 because its Global Public Health Intelligence Network was no longer functional.
Winner: The Saskatoon StarPhoenix for “Abandoned Saskatchewan,” an effort to come to grips with the profound metamorphosis of a province that is proud of its rural roots, yet increasingly urban.
Finalists: Karla Meza, Le Devoir, for reports exploring how COVID-19 was especially troublesome for asylum seekers looking to build a new life in Canada; Terry Pender, Waterloo Region Record, for a detailed look at how a member of a Second World War Nazi death squad avoided deportation despite overwhelming evidence, much of it kept hidden from the public.
William Southam Award for Long Feature
Winner: Isabelle Hachey, La Presse, for “Cinq jours en zone rouge,” a first-person account of working in a COVID hospital ward.
Finalists: Roger Levesque, Edmonton Journal/Edmonton Sun, for a sombre meditation on receiving, and coming to accept, a diagnosis of inoperable cancer in a year when death seems to be all around; Jana G. Pruden, Globe and Mail, for an in-depth examination of how a case involving 13 counts of sexual assault played out in court, and what that said about how the justice system grapples with such cases.
John Wesley Dafoe Award for Politics
Winners: Bill Curry, Marieke Walsh, Paul Waldie, Geoffrey York and Jaren Kerr, Globe and Mail, for an in-depth look at the public policy questions raised by the WE scandal, and at the WE organization itself.
Finalists: Dan Fumano, Vancouver Sun, for reporting on troubling allegations of systemic racism in the Vancouver police force; Katia Gagnon, Kathleen Lévesque and Tristan Péloquin, La Presse, for a definitive portrait of “the man in shadows,” a businessman who is the Quebec Liberal party’s chief fundraiser and power broker.
Winners: Laura Blenkinsop, Jeremy Agius and Timothy Moore, Globe and Mail, for an interactive approach that helped bring readers close to the experience thousands of Mexican families have had searching for loved ones who disappeared since the start of Mexico’s “war on drugs” 15 years ago.
Finalists: Bob Bishop, Toronto Star, for a front-page design that cleverly used the 50 states of the U.S. to illustrate an election that was almost certainly not going to be decided by the time readers got their newspapers; A Globe and Mail team for an immersive experience showcasing photographs that document how Canada and its allies are bracing for an unknown future wrought by climate change in the Arctic.
Project of the Year
Winner: Le Devoir for its efforts to document and investigate how COVID-19 affected almost every facet of life in Quebec in 2020.
Finalists: Gabrielle Duchaine and Caroline Touzin, La Presse, for investigating the explosion of child pornography on the Internet, and discovering how predators exchanged advice online about using the pandemic to increase exploitation and abuse of minors; The Toronto Star for reinventing its newsroom to offer readers a lifeline of information and guidance to help them cope with the worst health disaster Canada has ever faced.
Bob Levin Award for Short Feature
Winner: Erin Anderssen, Globe and Mail, for her moving account of a long-term care worker who offered comfort to COVID-stricken residents so that they didn’t have to spend their last moments alone.
Finalists: Louise Dickson, Victoria Times Colonist, for a heartbreaking story about a mother’s unrelenting efforts to save her opioid-addicted son; Ben Waldman, Winnipeg Free Press, for turning a focus on one family’s attempt to salvage the hockey season into a look at efforts across the city and country to maintain touchstones in a world turned upside down by COVID-19.
Winner: Michael Doyle, Globe and Mail, for exposing sexual, psychological and physical abuse and manipulation of elite athletes by the most powerful person in Canadian track and field.
Finalists: Cathal Kelly, Globe and Mail, for columns about the Brier curling championship, soccer legend Maradona and the banality of athlete interviews; Melissa Martin, Winnipeg Free Press, for “First Nations Voices, Canada’s Game,” a behind-the-scenes look at APTN’s Hometown Hockey in Cree TV broadcast.
Winner: Leah Hennel, Globe and Mail, for a picture of an Olympic water polo athlete training in a makeshift pool made from hay bales and tarps.
Finalists: Jacques Boissinot, Canadian Press, for the image of a freestyle skier tumbling to earth after a jump went wrong; Frank Gunn, Canadian Press, for his photo of a collision between a Toronto Maple Leafs player and a Carolina Hurricanes goaltender.
Sustained News Coverage
Winner: The Globe and Mail for its coverage of the devastation inside Canada’s long-term care homes from the spread of COVID-19.
Finalsts: Aaron Beswick, Halifax Chronicle Herald, for providing context and analysis of the violence that unfolded on the water and on land in response to the Mi’kmaw’s push to pursue a fishery that would provide a moderate livelihood, as required by Supreme Court rulings; La Presse for its coverage of the crisis that emerged in Quebec’s long-term care accommodation centres from the spread of COVID-19.
Nominated entries can be viewed at the NNA website at www.nna-ccj.ca. The link to the nominated entries can be found on the right side of the home page, just below the photo of the 2019 Journalist of the Year (Randy Richmond of the London Free Press).
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National Newspaper Awards