CBC Radio One’s The Current won the 2012 Canadian Journalism Foundation Excellence in Journalism Award in the large media category, and The Vancouver Observer took home the Excellence in Journalism Award in the small/local media category last night at the CJF 15th annual awards gala.

CBC Radio One’s The Current won the 2012 Canadian Journalism Foundation Excellence in Journalism Award in the large media category, and The Vancouver Observer took home the Excellence in Journalism Award in the small/local media category last night at the CJF 15th annual awards gala.

The awards ­– as the title appropriately depicts – seek to recognize and celebrate news organizations that embrace the ideals of journalistic excellence in accuracy, independence, accountability, courage and originality.

The award in the large media category was given to The Current due in part to its focus on the journalistic process.

“Through a system designed to hone and pitch story ideas among their team, The Current encourages a less hierarchical and more egalitarian approach among their staff to ensure that stories are original, courageous and innovative,” said CJF Excellence jury member Minelle Mahtani, a geography and journalism professor at the University of Toronto.

Michael Benedict, chair of the CJF Excellence Jury, said of The Current: "The program maximizes staff resources to provide fresh, in-depth analysis to the day's headlines while maintaining an admirable engagement with its audience."

The Current host Anna Maria Tremonti and executive producer Pam Bertrand accepted the Excellence Award. “If there is a wider message in our success tonight it's that … we can all take our journalism back,” Tremonti said.  

“Nobody can make you stand in front of a camera and say nothing about nothing. No one can make you write a column about just yourself,” Tremonti said in her acceptance speech. “Nobody can make you report a story about nothing – only you can do that.”

Addressing “the young journalists in the room – and the not-so-young,” Tremonti gave a piece of advice: “Next time a boss tells you … to do a story you don’t want to do, come up with three others you do, and fight for it.

“Take your journalism back.”

She encouraged everyone in the room to keep mining for great stories and to take The Current’s win as “an affirmation for all of us that hard-edged journalism – edgy, provocative journalistic efforts – will never be a liability in this country.”

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The CJF Excellence committee had narrowed down the nominations to five finalists, including The Current, The Canadian Press-Ottawa Bureau, Huffington Post Canada, The Winnipeg Free Press and the Toronto Star, who had won the award in the two years previous.

Benedict said in a release that this was one of the strongest fields in years. "Despite severe financial pressures, some media at least continue to strive vigorously for excellence."

The Vancouver Observer’s founder, publisher and editor-in-chief Linda Solomon accepted the Excellence Award on behalf of her organization from Bob Lewis, chair of the CJF.

“Receiving this great honour from The Canadian Journalism Foundation makes me extremely proud of the truly effervescent team that brings the Vancouver Observer to life,” said Solomon, who leads the online daily’s team of “kick-ass women – and a few great guys,” in her acceptance speech.

"Excellent journalism is fearless, unfettered … with love for humanity and a continuing commitment to democracy," Soloman said in a short video that was also shown at the gala.

CTV National News correspondent Seamus O’Regan hosted the gala, which was held at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto.

"The future of journalism is being figured out day to day, one development at a time,” O’Regan said in his opening statements. “But one thing that has not and will not change is this: Stories must be told. And that is what we do."

Check out the videos of Tremonti and Solomon accepting their respective awards: