Media reforms would enhance democracy
Ottawa – Canada's democracy would be enhanced if media organizations reformed some of their most basic practices and approaches, according to the winners of the 2009 Dalton Camp Awards.
To honour the memory of the late political columnist Dalton Camp, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting has presented the Dalton Camp Award to up to two writers of original essays on the links between democracy and the media annually since 2003.
The 2009 Award winners are:
Mariam Sheibani is a graduate of the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs and Policy Management at Carleton University. In the fall she will begin her master's degree in Legal Studies at Carleton University on a SSHRC Canadian Graduate Scholarship.
Heather Stilwell is a native Nova Scotian and graduate of Dalhousie University, currently residing in Montreal where she will begin graduate studies in journalism at Concordia University.
Writing about reliance of some media organizations and journalists on anonymous sources later proven to be on a mission to discredit and damage Maher Arar's reputation, Sheibani takes them to task:
"...a vigilant and independent media is necessary to serve as the government's 'watchdog', not its obsequious 'lapdog'. Sadly, by recurrently printing and broadcasting untested information provided by officials who always spoke on condition of anonymity, the media resembled the latter more than the former in their coverage of Maher Arar's troubling story."
When media sources intentionally lie to keep an innocent person imprisoned and to prevent the truth from emerging, the promise of anonymity must be abrogated, according to Sheibani.
Heather Stilwell writes that new communications technologies herald a future in which citizens no longer passively consume media served up to them, a future where citizens are empowered to shape, transform and inject their own ideas into the media. This should be embraced by traditional media organizations, not feared, according to Stilwell.
"We are no doubt still in the midst of an exciting revolution in the way our communication system is shaped. However, what is most promising about the present state of affairs is that we, now more than ever, have a powerful medium to give more citizens a voice within that system; one in which we need not speak apocalyptically of "the death" of traditional media, but where we instead look towards the future to a newer, freer media. A future where we no longer remain passive recipients of news and culture – the content of which was chosen and framed for us by a concentration of media companies whose interests may lie less with encouraging democratic freedom of expression, and more with their own financial success. A future where we are no longer told what to think, but where we are inspired to contribute to the discussion. A future that is no longer 'read-only.'"
Each Award consists of a cash prize of $5,000 as well as a bronze cast medal bearing a likeness of Dalton Camp by late Canadian sculptress Dora de Pédèry-Hunt.
The Dalton Camp Award Selection Committee is chaired by Jim Byrd; the other members are Pauline Couture and Maggie Siggins.
FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting is an independent, Canada-wide, non-ßpartisan voluntary organization supported by 100,000 Canadians whose mission is to defend and enhance the quality and quantity of Canadian programming in Canada's audio-visual system. FRIENDS is not affiliated with any broadcaster.
For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592