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The Goodwin's Award for Excellence in Alternative Journalism

The Goodwin's Award recognizes that in a democracy there is a real need for thoughtful written dissent, and that in this country the alternative press is the main forum for it.

In a democracy there is a real need for thoughtful written dissent that challenges mainstream thinking. Goodwin's Foundation President Ron Verzuh, and others, believe that in this country the alternative press is the main forum for it. That belief gave rise to the Goodwin's Award for excellence in alternative journalism three years ago. The $400 cash award is open to any journalist, but the work must have appeared in the alternative press. That's defined as any publication of quarterly frequency or more that has as its primary goal the promotion of progressive social change.

This year's crop of 53 submissions from 14 publications is testament to the importance of such journalism. Many of the winning themes received little or no attention in the mainstream media, or were covered only after the alternative press brought the issue to light. According to Verzuh, what the best of this year's submissions displayed was a strong committment to uncovering injustice, a sense of purpose and compassion and, perhaps surprisingly, a sense of humour. Much of what follows is taken from an article Verzuh wrote for content magazine

This year's Goodwin's Award winner is Chief Moses Okimaw for "Gods River and the Manitoba Government" in Canadian Dimension. Published not long before the NDP ceded power to the Tories in Manitoba, it is a story of government inaction and ineptitude in which native peoples are the victims. Declaring his bias as a member of the Indian band in question, Okimaw recounts the fruitless efforts of his band to become economically self-sufficient in a struggle against local exploiters.

The McDonald Citation, named after the late Dick McDonald, founding editor of content magazine, is given in recognition of either the most improved alternative or for consistently high quality coverage of a single issue. This year the Citation went to Monday Magazine of Victoria B.C. for its extensive coverage of environmental issues and, particularly, for Cameron Young's superbly crafted articles. As one judge put it, "Monday Magazine has been consistently concerned with the over-arching life-and-death environmental crisis. Time and again they suggest what individuals can do."

Each judge named one runner-up for the Goodwin's Award. First was Paul McKay for "Adding Fuel to the Fire" in Toronto's This Magazine. The judges noted that "without the massive resources of the big media, McKay unearths a lot of investigative nuggets, something the mainstream seems to have discouraged." Second runner-up was singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn for his article "Mars over Mozambique" in Toronto's Now, an insightful look at South Africa's continuing war on that country. Third was David Coon for "Energy Options: Taking Care of Business" in Toronto's Probe Post in which he examines Canada's recent attempts to develop a coherent energy policy and concludes that the alarming ecological problems we face cannot be addressed in the context of an industrial strategy that masquerades as energy policy.

Nora D.Randall was honourably mentioned for her column "Beans" in Vancouver's Kinesis, in which she personalizes political issues with wit and delivers some powerful human reflections on issues such as aging, racism and sexism. Erin Goodman got a mention for "The Trials of Eric Smith" a look into the life of the Nova Scotia teacher who was ostracized from his community because he's gay and has AIDS. This damning portrait of east-coast fundamentalism appeared in Halifax's New Maritimes. Lorraine Begley, also writing in New Maritimes was cited for her work in "Flipping Land for Fun and Profit" about the buy-out of prime Prince Edward Island land by exclusive housing developers. The story did not hit the mainstream media until months later. Lanny Beckman, who writes for both New Directions and Canadian Dimension also received honourable mention for "U.S. Risk Takers Save B.C.'s Ozone Layer", a funny and irreverant critique of the System. Stan Persky was also mentioned for "Watershed Down", his on-the-spot report in This Magazine on the battle to save British Columbia's Stein Valley from environmental catastrophe at the hands of the forest industry. Writers Howard Goldenthal, Glenda Hersh and Nick Fillmore win a further mention for This Magazine for "Right Winging It", an investigation of the anti-communist crusade in Canada. Finally, Toronto's anarchist quarterly, Kick It Over, gets credit for scooping the mainstream media with an interview on the Green River, Seattle, murders.

This year's Goodwin's Awards were judged by Katie FitzRandolph, a former Ottawa Citizen staffer now president of the Canadian Association of Labour Media, Barrie Zwicker, media critic and publisher of Sources, and Ron Verzuh.

This article originally appeared in Sources, 24th edition, Summer 1989.

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