Advocate reporter Susan Zielinski has won provincial recognition for her sensitive, humane coverage of issues surrounding domestic violence.
Zielinski was nominated by Ian Wheeliker, executive director of the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Centre, for the 2013 Lynda Steele Media Award through the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.
When she received notice that she won the journalistic excellence award for raising awareness about violence against women, Zielinski was busy working on a health-related story. She assumed from a quick read of the email that the award was for someone else, and that she would have to write about it.
It was only when she was able to re-read the message that she realized she was the recipient.
“I was very surprised,” said Zielinski. Her further response echoes the sentiments expressed by countless other award winners she has written about: “People always say they are shocked and very humbled, and that’s exactly how you feel.”
The Lynda Steele Media Award recognizes reporters who “show courage, originality and creativity in reporting of violence against women,” and use media presence to counter misinformation and stereotypes and influence and shape community attitudes.
Wheeliker praised Zielinski for her willingness to delve into social issues and share sometimes difficult stories with the public, such as follows on the Fekete murder-suicide. Red Deer resident Josif Fekete used a sawed-off shotgun to kill his estranged wife, Blagica, their toddler, Alex, and then himself on Sept. 28, 2003, after returning the child from a court ordered access visit.
“Her stories raise public awareness and education, and are very informative, fair and well balanced,” added Wheeliker.
The 48-year-old Zielinski, who has worked for 12 years at the Advocate, has held the social issues beat for the past eight years because these stories most interest her. She believes it’s important to share them with the community. “When these stories come to the paper, it’s almost like you’re the last resort for people in need, so you want to help them and help these organizations.”
Zielinski added that she could not have accomplished this without the whole Advocate team, including editors and photographers. “It’s always a group effort.”
Managing editor John Stewart said: “We are very proud of the work Susan has done in examining the issues around family violence, and in explaining the role that the local shelter plays in addressing those issues.
“Susan has always been careful to report in ways that put a human face on the initiatives and institutions in our community. By doing so, she allows the reader to clearly understand that the issues are important to the well-being of our community.”
She will receive the award for an assortment of stories she has written on women’s shelters and domestic violence at the Red Deer Golf and Country Club on Thursday morning.
Michele McDougall from Breakfast TV in Edmonton is also an award winner.