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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford leaves his City Hall office on April 3, 2014. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford leaves his City Hall office on April 3, 2014. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Toronto Star wins public-service journalism award for Ford investigation Add to ...

The Toronto Star has won the 2013 Michener Award for its work uncovering Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s substance-abuse problems. The prestigious prize is given annually to celebrate excellence in public-service journalism.

The Star was one of six news organizations nominated for the award, along with The Globe and Mail, The Canadian Press, CTV News, The Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald, and The Windsor Star. The finalists received Michener Citations of Merit at a ceremony and dinner hosted by Governor General David Johnston, held at Rideau Hall on Wednesday.

The Star secured the prize with its efforts to reveal Mr. Ford’s struggles with drugs and alcohol, including the revelation that he had smoked crack cocaine in the company of drug dealers while in office. The mayor was ultimately stripped of most of his powers after a series of stories chronicling his problems.

“The best journalism painstakingly pursues tips no matter how fantastic they may seem, verifies each bit of information every step of the way, and refuses to give up even in the face of intimidation and an organized campaign trying to undermine the credibility of the reporting,” the Michener Awards Foundation noted ‎in a citation.

The Globe was a finalist for its extensive investigation into last summer’s deadly explosion when a train carrying crude oil derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Que., killing 47 people. A series of stories exposed the way oil-by-rail shipments have proliferated across North America, enabled by lax government oversight, industry complacency and a failure to create new safety standards that would protect communities bordering the tracks.

The Globe’s reporting prompted the federal government to introduce new emergency regulations for oil shipments, designating oil as highly dangerous.

The Michener Award was founded in 1970 by the late Roland Michener, then the Governor General, and is judged primarily on the measure of public benefit the stories generate. A panel of five judges, all former journalists, chose the 2013 winner.

Late last month, the Michener Awards Foundation named the 2014 Michener-Deacon Fellows: experienced CBC journalist Rita Celli received the Fellowship for investigative journalism, and Montreal-based journalist Francine Pelletier for journalism education.

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