Friday, June 14, 2013

News biz still a good gig at CJF Awards

Snappy CJF Awards host Amanda Lang
Have to thank publicist Nick Poirier and all at Global News for inviting me to join them at their table Thursday night at the 16th Annual Canadian Journalism Foundation Awards. The event was held at the Canadian Room at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.
As someone who has worked in newsrooms--albeit in the "toy" or entertainment department--it was cool for a change to be able to sit at the big kids table with real journalists.The room was filled with A-Listers in the news biz--Tom Clark, Andrew Coyne, Dawna Friesen, Chantal Hebert, Lisa LaFlamme, Peter Mansbridge, Wendy Mesley, Kevin Newman, Steve Paikin, Lloyd Robertson, Paul Wells and many others.
Amanda Lang hosted and what a little snappypants she was, goofing on the young winners too shy to make a speech before this intimidating crowd of elders. She even had the comedic audacity to dismiss the dead when it came to a salute to journalists who had passed in 20012-13. The in memoriam video would not load, so Lang more or less said who cares, on with the show. First time I ever felt sympathy for Kevin O'Leary.
Too bad Lang could not come up with a single name from those who passed. She could have mentioned Henry Champ, Laurier LaPierre, Max Ferguson, Johnny Esaw, Greg Quill and Peter Worthington for starters.
Among the highlights was a well-deserved salute to Michael Maclear. Presenter LaFlamme introduced the retired broadcast journalist as one of her true heroes for his courageous and uncompromising reports, especially from North Vietnam during the most dangerous war years of the late '60s. Maclear was the Canadian voice caught between two cultures and he wasn't shy about reporting how cornered he was, resented at times from the Americans as much as the Vietnamese.
Lifetime Achievement Award winner Michael Maclear
"I've come to realize a problem with journalism," Maclear told the room full of reporters. "It's addictive." He was also lauded via video from his old pal Morley Safer from 60 Minutes.
Past recipients of the award include Joe Schlesinger, Knowlton Nash, Mark Starowicz and Peter C. Newman.
The CJF honorary tribute went to The New York Times, still regarded as the gold standard in terms of journalistic integrity and reporting. Culture reporter David Carr, so glib as the on-screen voice during much of the documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times, charmed the CJF crowd.
"I feel like you guys are honouring a Stanley Cup champion and some third string goon is standing up here," he said. Carr, who has confessed to his own problems with cocaine, goofed briefly on Toronto's mayor ("I feel for the guy," he added) and apologised for having one arm in a sling, the result of "running for a story," he claimed.
He was impressed with how many women were both in the room and winning awards, giving a hats off to the gender balance in our newsrooms.
He felt, despite all the doom and gloom, it was an exciting time to be in journalism, even in print, pointing out that the business of putting "the white paper out and people are giving us green paper back" is still working.
That good feeling about print continued towards the end of the evening when the Excellence in Journalism award went to The Winnipeg Free Press. The regional, independent voice beat out such heavyweights as The Toronto Star, CBC News, CBC Radio and Postmedia for the night's big prize.
Editor Paul Samyn stressed how important it was for his paper to have local reporters covering certain beats. The Free Press's TV columnist was singled out as an example of why your local paper should have your guy bringing you that local angle. That's a nice pat on the back of Brad Oswald, an ol' TCA buddy who has survived many a newsroom purge and has somehow managed to keep trucking down to Los Angeles twice a year looking for Manitoba angles in American television.
Too bad, however, Friday's report on the award win in the Free Press is credited to "Staff Writer."
Presenting the award to The Times was none other than Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran sort of saluted in Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning film Argo. Do many people go up to him today and say, "Agofuckyerself?" A real reporter would have asked.
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