Winner: The London Free Press newsroom (9 reporters, 2 photographers)
At a time when local journalism is under siege, it is inspiring to see the vigour the newsroom of the London Free Press brought to bear on this remarkable project. “Face It” sought to start a difficult conversation about three complex and interrelated issues — jobs, addiction and shelter — with which London has struggled. The series combined in-depth reporting on the issues and sensitive portraits of the people whom they most affect with a relentless focus on bringing the community together in search of solutions. In this the paper did not limit itself to traditional journalism; it convened panel discussions and an inclusive public forum, which it used to fuel further reporting in the quest for answers and accountability. The Free Press has committed to continue this project indefinitely, to keep pressing its community to confront these challenges. That this relentlessness is possible with a team of just nine news reporters and two staff photographers should give every larger news outlet in this country food for thought. This is public service journalism at its best.
Runners-up: Trevor Wilhelm, Windsor Star; Jennifer Bieman and Randy Richmond, London Free Press
Anchored by Trevor Wilhelm’s harrowing feature on Windsor police officer William Donnelly’s battle with PTSD — surely one of the most compelling pieces of writing published in Canada last year — this package seized its readers’ attention for an issue too often ignored.
Runners-up: Joanna Frketich, The Hamilton Spectator, and Grant LaFleche, The St. Catharines Standard
Ontario’s health-care system might be the most important and least scrutinized institution in the province. When the government undertook a sweeping overhaul of the system — offering the public little information about what impact the changes would have — Joanna Frketich and Grant LaFleche stepped into the breach. Their interrogation of these changes represent the media’s most substantial effort to understand decisions that could affect the lives of every Ontarian, and the most concerted effort to hold the government to account for those decisions.