Spot News Writing (over 25,000 circulation)
Winner: London Free Press team entry (Derek Ruttan, Randy Richmond, Dale Carruthers, Jonathan Juha, Dan Brown, Mike Hensen and Heather Rivers)
Despite numerous challenges the Free Press faced in covering the building collapse in London’s Westmount neighbourhood on Dec. 11, 2020, the reporting team put together a gripping account of one of the city’s worst construction disasters, constantly updating the rapidly developing story throughout the day. As more details were revealed later in the evening from official sources, the journalists had to walk the fine line of reporting the latest news without losing sight of the tales of chaos they gathered earlier — colour that put the reader at the devastating scene. Even though they had difficulty accessing the construction site, they were able to complement their coverage with shocking visuals that showed the collapse of the top floor, which killed two people and badly hurt five others. Contacting people during breaking news is difficult at the best of times, but the task was made that much tougher during the COVID-19 pandemic when the sources are working from home. The team’s persistence paid off as the Free Press was the first to identify who died to put a human face on this tragic story, and the early reporting laid the groundwork for more stories in the public’s interest.
Runner-up: Jon Wells, Hamilton Spectator
Wells crafted a beautifully written story of a drive-by parade birthday celebration for Charlie Paparo, a four-year-old boy dying of cancer during the springtime pandemic lockdown in Hamilton. As the letter that supported his nomination noted, Wells told the profoundly sad story without straying into the maudlin in his poignant and nuanced piece. Learning of the parade the morning that it was held, gathering detailed and sensitive information from Charlie’s mother and her best friend, Wells was able to file this heartbreaking and bittersweet story under deadline pressure by the end of the day.
Runners-up: Laura Booth and Anam Latif, Waterloo Region Record
Booth and Latif teamed up to put together this rapidly changing story of a vehicle explosion outside a courthouse in downtown Kitchener on an August day. Compelling witness accounts of the explosion painted a harrowing scene of an attempted heroic rescue. When the journalists learned that authorities suspected it was not an accident and that the driver was responsible, they pivoted to a story of a would-be bomber as police evacuated homes amid fears for public safety.
Go to list of winners