The Red Deer Advocate is a finalist in the National Newspaper Awards, the Pulitzer Prize of Canadian newspaper journalism.
Reporters Susan Zielinski and Myles Fish earned the nomination for a package of 15 stories on the Michener Centre that were published last March and April. The package, called Michener Centre: The Closing Doors, was illustrated by photographer Jeff Stokoe.
The Advocate is up against newspaper heavy-hitters the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald in the Projects of the Year category. The winner will be announced on May 22 at the gala awards ceremony in Toronto.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment for the editorial team,” said publisher Fred Gorman.
“What’s further amazing is the category is the big boys category. We’re up against the Globe, the Star and the Calgary Herald.
“Hopefully, Susan can go to Toronto and slay the giants and come back with the award.”
Gorman said the Michener story is an integral part of Red Deer’s history.
“It’s an important story and I think the editorial department did it justice.”
Fish left the Advocate last year to return to his home province of Saskatchewan.
When the Advocate embarked on the ambitious project, the province had announced closure of Michener Centre and had already dispatched some of its residents to community care. Five of those residents died within months of their transfer. There was a firestorm of public protest, court action and political infighting.
The Advocate stories chronicled the lives of the people who lived there, and described options for institutional and community care. Reporters spent weeks talking to family members, workers, and advocates for both institutional and community care.
Through dozens of interviews and hours of research, the reporters provided an unflinching look at the Michener Centre and a past that has been both uplifting and tragic.
Five months after the series of stories ran, the province reversed its decision, allowing Michener Centre to stay open for its remaining residents.
“When we began sketching out the framework of the Michener Centre project, we wanted to bring awareness to the community about the institution, and we wanted to make provincial leaders understand why it mattered — to the people who still lived there, and to all Albertans,” said managing editor John Stewart.
Zielinski said the nomination was still sinking in.
“All the time and effort on the project was worth it because residents’ stories needed to be told, and who better to tell them than the Red Deer Advocate?”
The entire package can be seen at http://bprda.wpengine.com/special_projects/michener/