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Tyee Wins Top Canadian Prize

Receives Excellence in Journalism Award, called a 'beacon' in difficult times.

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The Tyee has received the 2009 Excellence in Journalism Award -- the highest Canadian prize for a journalism organization of The Tyee's size and scope.

The award, created by the Canadian Journalism Foundation, was handed out last evening at a gala in Toronto attended by many of Canada's leading journalists, who heard remarks from Governor General Michaëlle Jean and iconic 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer.

"The Tyee is a beacon for those seeking new models in a media landscape that is undergoing seismic shifts," said John Macfarlane, chair of the Canadian Journalism Foundation, before giving the prize to Tyee editor David Beers. "It is gaining attention because while it employs new methodologies, it still adheres to time-honoured journalistic standards -- and always with the aim of achieving excellence."

The Tyee won in the Small, Medium or Local Market category. A second Excellence in Journalism Award, in the large or national media category, went to the Winnipeg Free Press, which, said Michael Benedict, chair of CJF's Excellence Award jury, "exceeded all our criteria for excellence. It is gratifying that in a time when so many papers are in survival mode, that the Free Press remains journalistically ambitious and strives to achieve even greater heights."

"It was a great night for independent journalism," said Tyee editor David Beers after the event. "The Winnipeg Free Press isn't part of a large chain yet produces great journalism. Like The Tyee, they are showing you don't need to be part of a big corporation to do top notch work that makes a big impact in your community."

In his remarks to the audience upon receiving the award, Beers drew applause noting that The Tyee's popularity shows "our craft's old-fashioned values shall endure: solid reporting, lively voices, courage and independence."

He added that in tumultuous times for Canadian journalism, The Tyee offers some hope because "thanks to the still (at least for now) wide open Internet, creatively swimming against the current is getting easier, more rewarding, and more fun all the time."

Beers described The Tyee as a news operation "whose survival depends on passion. The passion of journalists, and citizen readers, for the public conversation that is the lifeblood of our democracy." He thanked the foundation "for bestowing this great honour upon the many hundreds of people -- thousands of people actually -- who have contributed their talents, creativity and resources to building the Tyee."

The Excellence in Journalism Award, sponsored by the Jackman Foundation and The Canadian Journalism Foundation, is given to a news organization based on these criteria: originality, accuracy and fairness, social responsibility, accountability and accessibility, diversity, professional development, courage and independence.

The Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) describes itself as "a not-for-profit organization that promotes excellence in journalism by celebrating outstanding journalistic achievement through an annual awards program; by operating journalism websites, J-Source.ca (English) and ProjetJ.ca (French), in cooperation with the country's leading journalism schools; and by organizing events that facilitate dialogue among journalists, business people, politicians, government officials and academics about the role of the media in Canadian society."

Highlights of last night's event included a Lifetime Achievement Award given to Joe Schlesinger, who escaped the Iron Curtain in 1950 to immigrate to Canada, and edited the UBC student newspaper before going on to report for CBC television news from every hotspot in the world for more than four decades. Schlesinger, who in his 80s still files reports for the CBC, described himself as a "raging optimist" with "a lifetime of experience to back it up."...

Safer returned to his home town of Toronto to be feted for his six decades of work as a broadcast journalist, having started out as a foreign correspondent for the CBC before being picked up by CBS to cover Vietnam and then help launch 60 Minutes.

In a warm and funny speech, Safer made a plea for preserving the newspaper tradition, and declared "I would trust citizen journalists as much as I would a citizen surgeon."

More information about other prizes given out at the event, including the Atkinson Fellowship, can be found here, and the evening's video presentations, including one featuring The Tyee, can be viewed here.

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