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The Narwhal wins two National Newspaper Awards

The National Newspaper Awards celebrate some of the best journalism in Canada. This year, we won two awards and earned another citation

The Narwhal has earned its first wins at the National Newspaper Awards, sharing prizes with IndigiNews and the Toronto Star for journalism published in 2023.

A long feature on the rematriation of a stolen totem pole to the Nisg̱a’a Nation, reported by northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons, IndigiNews editor Cara McKenna and photojournalist Marty Clemens, was honoured with an award in the arts and entertainment category.

Emma McIntosh from The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau also won in the sustained news coverage category, sharing the award with the Toronto Star and journalists Brendan Kennedy, Noor Javed, Sheila Wang and Charlie Pinkerton for their stellar work uncovering the Greenbelt scandal.

“This marks The Narwhal’s first-ever wins at the National Newspaper Awards, one of the most prestigious honours in the Canadian news business,” said The Narwhal’s editor-in-chief Emma Gilchrist. “It also marks a sea change in the Canadian news industry, with several upstart, trailblazing news organizations winning awards this year.” 

“We are so proud to be part of a revolution in collaborative, reader-funded journalism – and these awards go to show just how much of an impact small organizations like ours can have, thanks to the support of our readers.”

For their feature on the Nisg̱a’a Nation, Matt, Cara and Marty told the story of how the return of the totem pole was offering a template for the return of Indigenous belongings.

In the course of the assignment, The Narwhal inadvertently breached a protocol as Clemens lost his balance on a step stool and touched the totem pole to stop his fall.

Matt had reflected on the incident in a separate piece about learning from reporting mistakes.

“I often tell my kids mistakes are gifts,” Matt wrote. “What comes after a mistake is made, the learning experience, is what matters most. At The Narwhal, we are deeply committed to decolonizing our work, minds and hearts, and this mistake is teaching us that it’s a journey, a process. Journeys are rarely linear and often they include moments of stumbling, faltering, making mistakes.”

IndigiNews editor Cara McKenna and The Narwhal's northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons celebrate after winning a National Newspaper Award in Toronto on April 26, 2024
IndigiNews and The Narwhal won their first National Newspaper Awards in 2024. IndigiNews editor Cara McKenna, The Narwhal’s northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons and photojournalist Marty Clemens won in the Arts and Entertainment category for a feature about the return of a totem pole. Photo: Emma McIntosh

The Narwhal and the Toronto Star’s Greenbelt reporting triggered a series of investigations by provincial watchdogs that eventually forced the Ontario government to backtrack on a decision to carve out portions of a protected area for new development projects.

Emma is now recounting the saga in a new podcast series featured on The Big Story, called “Paydirt.”

Emma and our colleagues at the Star first broke the story in the fall of 2022 about how the Ford government was removing protections on parcels of Greenbelt land that had recently been purchased by well-connected developers. It started when they dug into property records to identify the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s decision.

“Back then, we were working long into the night, figuring out how to best serve this critical information to the public – and to do it quickly, before the decision was final,” Emma said. “I never could have imagined where this reporting would take us.”

The Narwhal also earned a citation of merit in the presentation/design category for a portfolio of three pieces: 2023 photojournalism fellow Katherine Cheng’s photo essay on life along Ontario’s proposed Highway 413, freelance photojournalist Amber Bracken and Prairies reporter Drew Anderson’s dizzying bird’s-eye view of Alberta’s oilsands and what Ontario reporter Emma McIntosh had dreamed up to be a complete telling of the Greenbelt saga, brought to life with the help of freelance illustrator Jarett Sitter and Shawn Parkinson, The Narwhal’s art director.

Jeremy Agius from The Globe and Mail was the winner in the presentation/design category for a portfolio of work on migration routes, the electric vehicle battery business and Inuit survivors of tuberculosis.

The Narwhal was among five news outlets to win more than one award this year. The Globe and Mail led all publications with seven wins, followed by La Presse and the Toronto Star with three each. The Brandon Sun was the other publication to earn two awards.

The Climate Disaster Project, led by founding director Sean Holman from the University of Victoria, was also honoured with a special recognition citation. The project is led by faculty and students, involving nearly 200 journalists who work “with climate disaster survivors to share and investigate their stories.”

The Narwhal’s director of newsroom development, Francesca Fionda, was part of the team leading the project.

The National Newspaper Awards, established in 1949, are celebrated each year, honouring some of the best work in Canadian journalism. They are awarded based on a series of criteria, including subject matter, rigour of reporting, writing style, integrity and impact. 

The winners for this year’s awards were announced Friday evening in Toronto.

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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Our newsletter subscribers are the first to find out when we break a major investigation. Want in? Sign up for free to get the inside scoop on The Narwhal’s reporting on the natural world.
Hey, are you on our list?
An illustration, in yellow, of a computer, with an open envelope inside it with letter reading 'Breaking news.'