Data from the last ten years shows that men still overwhelmingly winning NNAs.

By H.G. Watson, Managing Editor

It wasn’t until the ninth award of the evening was announced that a woman got to stand up and accept a 2016 National Newspaper Award.

On May 5, 2017, during the annual ceremony honouring the best in newspaper reporting, Globe and Mail reporter Karen Howlett won for explanatory work alongside her colleague Grant Robertson. She was just one of five women singled out for NNAs that night.

J-Source has found a trend among NNA award winners in the last ten years—there is a striking lack of diversity among the winners, who are mostly white men.

We looked at data posted on the NNA website that stretches back, in some cases, to the 1940s. We did not include wins where the outlet was cited over the reporters. We also limited our data to the last ten years to look at recent changes. (Some awards were established more recently than others, for instance.)

What became clear is that it is men who are still consistently awarded for their journalism.

Of the 74 women who have won NNAs since 2007, 43 — about 18 per cent of overall winners — won with a solo byline on a story. Among those solo winners are women who won multiple times for same award. For example, La Presse’s Michèle Ouimet has won awards in multiple years in multiple categories.

Female winners did outnumber male winners in 2013, but that year appears to be an outlier. Men consistently record winning numbers in the double digits, while women have swung between a high of 15 winners, in 2012, to a low of four winners in 2008.

Men are overrepresented in several categories. In the last ten years, no woman has won the award for news photo, editorial cartooning or news feature photo. In fact, no woman has ever won an award for editorial cartooning since the award was established in 1949.

Only one woman has won a sports reporting award in the last ten years—Postmedia’s Vicki Hall, who won with John Kryk and Scott Stinson. She was the first woman to win the sports reporting award since 1996.

Women did dominate in one category—beat reporting. In the last ten years, eight woman have taken home that award. That does raise questions about whether women are getting challenging opportunities beyond beat reporting, in, for example, investigative reporting or editorial writing.

We also compiled a photo grid of the winners of the 2016 NNA awards. It demonstrates the lack of diversity among the winners. (Note again that we did not include team wins where the outlet was credited rather than the reporters.)

Winners of 2016 NNA awards

Our findings reflect what has been reported by us, Canadaland, the Ryerson Review of Journalism and others for some time now—Canadian media as a whole is not inclusive. As such, the results of the NNAs are a symptom of a larger and longstanding issue — newsrooms don’t reflect the country’s diversity.

Sylvia Stead, chair of the NNA Board of Governors, explained that outside of project of the year, which has to be entered as a newsroom, most people enter the NNAs themselves.

Entries are also not judged blind. They were for a time, said Stead, but digital presentations have made it difficult to strip out identifying information. NNA staff try to ensure diversity in age, gender, region, race and ethnicity among judges. They also have to be fully bilingual in French and English. This year 32 men and 30 women acted as judges.

“If you look at it almost from a scientific point of view, what can you control?” Stead said. “You can’t really control what entries are coming in because that is determined by the entrants themselves. So the only thing you can control is the face of judging.”

“If you see more people with diverse backgrounds winning, it encourages others,” Stead did note.

H.G. Watson was J-Source's managing editor from 2015 to 2018. She is a journalist based in Toronto. You can learn more about her at