The challenge of pitching and telling the investigative, enterprise or explanatory story will always remain and even intensify, despite what news managers say about being committed to original content. In the upcoming issue of Media magazine, editor David McKie sought to tell the story behind the 2012 award-winning stories, highlighting the challenges facing journalists in getting these important stories told.

The challenge of pitching and telling the investigative, enterprise or explanatory story will always remain and even intensify, despite what news managers say about being committed to original content. In the upcoming issue of Media magazine, editor David McKie sought to tell the story behind the 2012 award-winning stories, highlighting the challenges facing journalists in getting these important stories told.

 

The link between poverty and maternal health; the RCMP counterfeit raid that forced the Bank of Canada to change the material used to make bank notes; disabled people in B.C. forced out of their group homes; these were among the 2012 award-winning stories that graced the pages of newspapers and enriched our airwaves. And the stories behind them are those that will be told in the upcoming issue of Media magazine.

Without a doubt, this is my favourite edition of Media, which I plan to have posted on the Canadian Association of Journalism website by the end of the month.  It’s an inspiration and a joy to assemble, as the award-winners explained how they told the stories and offered tips to journalists trying to do similar work.

But unlike past editions, we’ve gone one step further, partially in an effort to underscore the Canadian Association of Journalists increasingly close relationship with the National Newspaper Association.

The CAJ has held joint conferences with the association in the past and plans to do so again in 2013 in Ottawa.  In light of this new reality, it only made sense that we include the write-ups of the NNA winners in this edition. As well, I have to declare a bias: I was a judge in the columns category, and was blown away by the quality of the submissions. That exposure also helped inform my decision to expand this edition of Media.

For good measure, I have also added Michener Award winner Lindsay Kines to the mix. After being a nominee for past efforts such as his coverage of B.C.’s missing women’s story, Lindsay finally won an award for which the most significant requirement is that the story led to change. In the case of the displaced disabled people I mentioned in the lead sentence, Lindsay’s stories with Victoria’s Times Colonist forced the province to make changes, and the minister responsible for that file to step down.

In all the award categories, there were also finalists. And although their write-ups are not featured in this edition, it’s worth taking a moment to salute their fine work.

Increasingly, many of the stories of the finalists and award-winners went beyond their natural medium, expanding to the Web and using the strength of cyberspace to encourage people to get involved. The online world continues to shape and change the way we do journalism and this will become a more pressing reality as publications like Newsweek go totally online, and newspapers like The Globe and Mail create firewalls that force people to pay for web content.  Media made the switch to online a few years back, allowing for a richer variety of interactive content.

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I predict that online, with its ability to get people involved and the proliferation of data visualization tools, will play a more vital role in investigations.

The new reality of shrinking newsrooms with less money to spend makes doing original work much harder. Pitching stories that strive to rise above the sound bites, choreographed outrage and staged events that comprise far too much of content these days, can be a tougher sell because of the requirements of time, money, and the uncertainty that the end result will deliver as advertised.  Assignment editors know that some sort of story will emerge from that news conference discussed during the morning story meeting. The same can’t be said for the enterprise or investigative story.

In this issue of Media, you’ll learn how at least one reporter had to juggle his investigative work with regular assignments. In another instance, a reporter put together a money-saving business plan that allowed her to travel abroad to tell a compelling story of survival, justice and hope.

The challenge of pitching and telling the investigative, enterprise or explanatory story will always remain and even intensify, despite what news managers say about being committed to original content. The reporter who accomplished an impressive juggling act has moved on to a larger paper with even more demands; the reporter who assembled the business plan aired her story on a CBC program that was a victim of budget cuts and is no longer on the air.

After reading their accounts, and talking to them about their stories, it’s hard to believe that these journalists will suddenly abandon their drive for excellence and originality. That's the good news.

In addition, to these stories, we also have our slate of columnists, and one new addition to the mix: The Globe and Mail’s Stuart A. Thomson—not to be confused with the Edmonton Journal’s Stuart Thomson—whose work is also featured in this edition.  Stuart A. works for the Globe’s online service, and will share his expertise in mapping and data visualization, areas that are becoming increasingly important as governments at all levels continue to post data online. His tutorial will walk you through using Google Fusion Tables, a great tool that helps readers see the story or trend, and then interact with it. With these columns complete with easy-to-follow tutorials, we strive to make the magazine the go-to place for learning new skills in a fast-changing media environment.

To date, this is the largest and most ambitious edition of Media magazine. I’m confident that you’ll find the content, inspirational, informative and relevant.

Happy reading. And as usual if you want to get a hold of me to suggest topics we should be pursuing, please feel free to contact me at david_mckie@cbc.ca