Our pod was already celebrating as the Canadian Journalism Foundation awards ceremony began in Toronto on Tuesday night: the foundation had announced a few winners in the spring, and we knew we were among them. But we didn’t expect to go home as the most decorated news organization in the country, taking home a total of three trophies — or, to be specific, big silver bowls — for some of our favourite stories of 2022.
The big surprise was the Climate Solutions Reporting prize for a series of stories on Indigenous-led conservation in B.C. There’s growing evidence that Indigenous Knowledge is crucial to mitigating climate change, and we dove deep to consider and document its effect. Edited by a team including B.C. bureau lead Lindsay Sample, the stories challenge stereotypes and shift narratives from problems to solutions — while art director Shawn Parkinson made sure the gorgeous images and video were shown off to their best advantage.
For one of the stories, B.C. reporter Steph Kwetásel’wet Wood travelled with photographer Taylor Roades to the remote territory of the Mamalilikulla First Nation to produce a feature that shows in visceral detail how a groundswell of Indigenous nations are declaring protected areas based on their own sovereignty — and are not waiting for colonial governments to do so.
Wood, together with photojournalist Jesse Winter, also looked inside the 50-year battle of the Squamish Nation to reconnect a fractured estuary and bring salmon back to the Squamish River.
“Both of those stories meant a lot to me, and it means a lot to see these stories of recovery and reclamation be recognized,” Wood said. “It’s so powerful to me to see these leaders be centred for their expertise.”
“To me, these stories show solutions journalism isn’t about pie-in-the-sky dreaming. Indigenous conservation has always been. It’s a tried and true solution. We will forever be hearing new stories about how it benefits community, health, culture, food security and the natural world. Western science supports it. Thousands of years of history prove it. These stories show the power in all these communities to be constantly pushing for better.”
Also in The Narwhal’s award-winning package of solutions stories was an immersive multimedia feature by freelancer Jimmy Thomson that used interactive maps, videos and photography to illuminate the impact of Indigenous Guardians, who carry out land and water patrols, natural resource management and landscape-level enforcement and monitoring.
As we found out a few weeks ago, Iqaluit-based journalist Dustin Patar took home the inaugural Edward Burtynsky Award for Climate Photojournalism for a photo in his heartbreakingly beautiful story on the Milne Ice Shelf in the High Arctic. Edited by senior editor Elaine Anselmi, the story combined images, aerial video and on-the-ground reporting to tell the story of a group of glaciologists that make an annual trip to one of the northernmost points on the planet to study Arctic ice. As Patar reported, the group spent its last trip figuring out what it means that 79 square kilometres of once land-fast ice collapsed into the ocean.
And I went up on stage with reporter Emma McIntosh to collect this year’s Meta Journalism Project Digital News Innovation Award, which recognized the work the two of us have done alongside reporter Fatima Syed since launching this bureau in September 2021. That night — and always! — we thanked The Narwhal’s 5,000-plus members for making non-profit investigative journalism in Canada a reality.
The Narwhal’s willingness to experiment and learn from failure is honestly what has allowed the bureau to innovate as it got off the ground. As I said Tuesday night, founders Emma Gilchrist and Carol Linnitt have created a newsroom that allows for risk-taking while being “fun, human and always striving for equity.” I added that managing editor Mike De Souza guides our team with a “steady, but spicy, hand.” Emma McIntosh followed up by listing all the behind-the-scenes pod members that help make The Narwhal a success, from audience team Arik Ligeti and Karan Saxena to finance director Don Gordon and membership manager Kathryn Juricic.
The Narwhal and the Toronto Star were also nominated for the Jackman Award for Excellence in Journalism for joint investigative coverage of the Ontario government’s decision to open up parts of the protected Greenbelt to development. The Globe and Mail took home the award in the large media category for its reporting on the Hockey Canada sexual assault scandal, while Eastern Graphic received the award in the small media category for its coverage of mental health and addiction services on Prince Edward Island.
The awards gala also recognized two icons of journalism. Former Toronto Star editor and columnist Haroon Siddiqui was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for his groundbreaking work as a Muslim journalist in Canada when few racialized people were in the country’s newsrooms.
Broadcast journalist Lisa LaFlamme was given the Tribute Award. Last year, LaFlamme launched a national conversation on misogyny and ageism in Canadian journalism and society at large after she was unceremoniously dropped as CTV’s national news anchor after a storied career reporting from war zones and prime ministers’ offices.
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