The Globe and Mail has won the Canadian Journalism Foundation's excellence in journalism award for its series detailing the physical, emotional and financial toll of thalidomide, coverage that provoked Ottawa to compensate – and publicly recognize – the survivors of a drug it once considered safe.
At a gala in Toronto on Wednesday evening, Globe reporter Ingrid Peritz accepted the award in the large media category, which honours an organization whose exemplary work affects the community. "This is what journalism should be: Telling stories that matter," Shauna Snow-Capparelli, a member of the award jury and chair of Mount Royal University's journalism program, said in a statement. "In gripping detail, The Globe painted a vivid picture of the lives affected and the terrible pain they face every day … This is why journalism matters."
The thalidomide series launched in November of last year and, by May, the federal government announced it would provide survivors with pensions of up to $100,000 each year for the remainder of their lives. The compensation program, which depends on the victim's disability level, hewed closely to the demands set out by the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada. It was also heralded as a historic moment in a long-fought battle for recognition.
The federal government approved the drug in the 1960s as a "safe" sedative for pregnant women suffering from nausea and insomnia. More than 100 babies were subsequently born in Canada with extreme disabilities, including missing limbs, internal organ damage, deafness and blindness.
"I'm deeply honoured by the award, which recognizes the critical importance that journalism can play in righting a wrong," Ms. Peritz said. "The articles in The Globe would never have been possible without the survivors themselves, who generously shared their stories with me and with all Canadians. Thanks to them, the country understood that it was time to make amends."
Other finalists in the large media category included L'actualite, Globalnews.ca, the Toronto Star and the Winnipeg Free Press. Halifax's The Coast won the award in the small media category for its series on two women who were relentlessly harassed and the failure of the justice system.
The Canadian Journalism Foundation, a 25-year-old organization that seeks to promote excellence in the field, also awarded several fellowships at Wednesday's event, including to The Globe's Elizabeth Renzetti, Postmedia News' Stephen Maher and the Toronto Star's Michelle Shephard.