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National Newspaper Awards


A TORONTO STAR REPORTER assigned to write a series of articles about cancer at a time when his mother was dying of the disease has won the 1979 National Newspaper Award for enterprise reporting.

Bill Dampier's editor was unaware the reporter's mother was terminally ill when he was given the assignment. Declining an offer to turn the story over to another writer, he produced a sensitive three-part series, one part of which recounted his mother's last days.

Dampier's stories, which appeared three weeks after his mother's death, examined the mysteries and prospects for cure of cancer.

"While Dampier did not hide the warmth and love he felt for his mother, he was able to produce an informative series ... a brilliant melding of personal and scientific reporting done with great sensitivity," the judges said.

The award for feature writing went to Val Sears, also of the Toronto Star.

Sears, a 52-year-old native of Vancouver, drew on his 19 years' experience in covering John Diefenbaker for a feature published the day after the former prime minister died in August.

"It was not like him to go quietly," was the way Sears began his affectionate, anecdoted piece on the Chief.

The Globe and Mail's Oakland Ross took the award for editorial writing.

Ross, 29, an assistant editor and member of the editorial board of the Globe, won the award for a series of articles that, in the judges' view, met the tests of excellence, clarity of style and sound reasoning.

One, criticizing legislation that would have barred publication of information on police searches until they become evidence at a trial, was described as "an outstanding example of clear thinking persuasive writing and impeccable reasoning."

A Canadian Press team of 11 reporters and editors won the spot news award for its coverage of the flaming derailment in Mississauga, Ont., in November of a freight train carrying propane and chlorine gas. The accident led to the evacuation of 225,000 residents.

"While The Canadian Press submitted two entries, as befits the wire service, covering both AM and PM papers, in the judges opinion all who contributed to either series deserve the 1979 award," the judges wrote.

"It is our view that the staff involved were super cool in the face of a hot story. The articles were produced without the kind of over-writing that is so tempting in these situations. The CP news reporters and editors met not only a few deadlines, they were on the spot for everybody's deadlines."

Members of the CP team were Jacqueline Boyle, Mike Brown, Jim Coyle, Dave Dutton, John Gordon, Gordon Grant, Gordon McIntosh, Dennis Passa, Joan Walters, Diana Wayda and Scott White.

Winner of the sportswriting award was The Globe and Mail's Allen Abel.

Abel, a 30-year-old native of Brooklyn N.Y., has been the Globe's sports columnnist since May, 1977. He won for a series of articles from Moscow on state-controlled selection of athletes.

"The author went behind the scenes in person to gather his material," the judges noted, adding that "the result was a revealing and captivating series on the secret of Soviet success in Olympic sports."

John Hofsess of the Calgary Albertan captured the prize for critical writing.

Hofsess, 41, a native of Hamilton who joined The Albertan as a theatre critic in October, 1978, was given the award for a selection of sometimes controversial articles.

"He is one of the freshest and frankest critics around," the judges wrote of his stories, one series of which detailed the fight against immigration department refusal to grant landed immigrant status to Peter Coe, British-born artistic director of the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton.

Bill Sandford, a reporter-photographer at The Toronto Sun for the last two years. won the spot news photography prize with a front-page color photo of the fire that followed the train derailment in Mississauga.

He was at the scene less than an hour after the derailment set propane tank cars afire and spent three days at the site, going 40 hours without sleep.

Bill Keay, a darkroom technician at The Vancouver Sun since 1975, earned the feature photo award with a carefully angled shot of six parachutists in a vertical line. Taken from a spot just outside the target circle, the photograph seemed to show the top five jumpers each standing on the top of the chute of the person below.

The Edmonton Journal's Edd Uluschak took the award in the cartooning category.

The award for cartooning was the second NNA won by Uluschak. His first was in 1969, a year after he joined the Journal.

Singled out for special commendation was a cartoon entitled "Just one more time, Pierre," depicting the Liberal Party inflating a rubber model of Pierre Trudeau, getting him to abandon retirement plans and lead the Liberals in the winter election campaign.

A merit citation for sports writing was awarded to Alison Gordon, a 37-year-old former radio, television and magazine writer, for a review of her first season as a baseball reporter, a year in which she had to overcome the sport's traditional male chauvinism.

She conceded that a background in satirical writing helped in covering the Toronto Blue Jays but added, "there's absolutely nothing funny about a locker room full of naked men."

The London Free Press won a citation for its fast, comprehensive coverage of the tornadoes that did widespread damage in the Woodstock area of Western Ontario.

The tornadoes struck at 6:30 p.m. and the paper had only three hours until deadline to assemble a team of reporters, pinpoint areas of major damage, get staff to the scene and put together a report of what happened.

Members of the reporting team were Mark Bourrie, Del Bell, Bill Eluchok. Mary Ferguson, John Matsui, Neil Morris and Randy Ray.


Published in SOURCES May-June 1980


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