Great reporters ask why and refuse to be stopped until they have the answers citizens need.

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Every year, for 10 years now, the Toronto Star has honoured one outstanding reporter whose work best exemplifies the formidable standards of great reporting set by the Star’s former longtime and legendary managing editor, Mary Deanne Shears.

This award goes to a “go-for it” reporter who consistently breaks stories and allows the Star to dominate coverage of important issues, the kind of reporting “Mary D.” expected from all who worked for her. (Full disclosure: In 1983, when she was the Star’s city editor — the first woman ever to hold that key job here — Mary D. gave me my “dream” reporting job at the Star. She has long been a role model for me and many other journalists.)

Past winners of this reporting award include Martin Knelman, Michelle Shephard, Rick Westhead, Doug Smith, Kevin Donovan, Robert Benzie, Laurie Monsebraaten, Robyn Doolittle and Diana Zlomislic.

The newsroom nominated nine reporters for the 2014 — and 10th annual — award in Shears’ honour. The winner, whose work you read on the Star’s front page many times in 2014, received more nominations from his newsroom colleagues than any other reporter.

Cue drumroll and applause for … San Grewal.

As the Star’s editor Michael Cooke said in presenting the award recently to the Star’s urban affairs reporter for his dogged work covering Brampton city council and the questionable spending of former mayor Susan Fennell and other councillors: “This reporter brought accountability to the 905. He got action in Canada’s ninth-largest city.”

Cooke said Grewal achieved this through “solid reporting and persistence. He did it by developing and probing sources, asking questions, mining thousands of pages of (freedom of information requests) and leaked court documents, pushing both councillors and city staff to act.”

Grewal’s work was indeed great reporting in the public interest. Let me tell you something about great reporting and why it matters.

Great reporting always demands curiosity, courage, integrity, intelligence, persistence, patience. Great reporters ask why and refuse to be stopped until they have answers citizens need. Great reporters have drive and determination — day after day, even in the face of opposition and obstacles. Great reporters get to the truth and make a difference in our democracy.

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