COVID-19 Feature Writing
Winner: Doug Schmidt, Windsor Star
After long-term care homes, COVID-19’s next big target was the farm sector and the thousands of temporary foreign workers employed in it — people whose precarious working conditions were exacerbated by the pandemic. In the three-part series “Growing Concern,” Doug Schmidt documented the plight of workers facing unsafe working conditions, gave moving portraits of young and previously healthy employees who died of COVID-19 and highlighted the challenges farmers faced trying to keep workers safe in an unprecedented situation. Schmidt negotiated a tour of the farm where a 31-year-old employee had died and convinced several workers to open up about their experiences for the stories. The result was a deep and unparalleled dive into the impact of COVID-19 on workers in the farm sector, backed up with strong research and political context.
Runner-up: Trevor Wilhelm, Windsor Star
Trevor Wilhelm of the Windsor Star went behind the scenes at a COVID-19 field hospital and an intensive care unit for his three-part series “Hot Zone,” which documented life for patients and front-line healthcare workers beyond the no-entry signs. The series offered readers a rare look into a place journalists have found nearly impossible to access during the pandemic. The stories were compelling, sharply written and deeply researched. The series struck a balanced tone, highlighting fear in an uncertain time, but also recording the meaningful and uplifting moments.
Runner-up: Katrina Clarke, Hamilton Spectator
One month into the pandemic, amid the crisis that erupted in Ontario’s long-term care homes, the Hamilton Spectator’s Katrina Clarke found a story that was fresh and poignant. The story of Jim and Norma Kirchin, a married couple who died days apart in the same nursing home — not with COVID-19, but because of it, their family believed — shone a light on the toll isolation and loneliness had taken on seniors. The story demonstrated the power of economy in writing, giving a vivid and intimate portrait of their lives, and their deaths, in only 1,200 words.
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