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ONA Awards Booklet
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Published by: The Hamilton Spectator on Aug 17, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Feature Writing (over25,000 circulation)


Sponsored by:Tim Hortons

Judge:Malcolm McNeil, Senior National Desk Editor, The Canadian Press


Ottawa Sun

A29-year-old who is HIVposi-
tive is held on charges of aggravated
sexual assault, accused of having
unprotected sex and not disclosing
his status as a carrier. Police think
the information should get to the
public and make his name and photo available. Should
media outlets take the same view and publish? The
mainstream media answered yes in May 2010 in the
case of a man police in Ottawa described as a sexual
predator. But the backlash from parts of the gay com-
munity to that decision caused the Ottawa Sun’s Aedan
Helmer to take a second look. The result was Courting
Confusion, an even-handed exposition of the arguments
for and against the decision to publish the news the
police wanted disseminated. Police said they did not
make the decision lightly but believed the release of the
photo was needed; that the public had to be notified as
the man was believed to have multiple, unwitting sex
partners. Activists said the publicity could have an
unwelcome result — men with high-risk behaviours
might become more reluctant to get tested, taking the
view: “Don’t get tested or you will get arrested.” And
they said a criminal aspect isn’t always clear in such
cases, but that it depends on circumstances. Helmer
stands aside and lets the activists and police have their
say. Courting Confusion educates readers on a question
many may find surprisingly complex and resistant to
easy answers.



Hamilton Spectator

The Spectator series, Code Red, Where You Live Affects Your Health, used exten-
sive original research and analysis to uncover stark inequalities among Hamilton
neighbourhoods. The finding that crystallizes its sobering picture is in reporter Steve
Buist’s opening paragraphs: “Two neighbourhoods, separated by just five kilometres
as the crow flies. They might as well be worlds apart. Between these Hamilton neigh-
bourhoods, representing two ends of the spectrum, there’s a difference of 21 years in
average age at death.” The neighbourhood on the losing end of that measure would
rank 165th in the world for life expectancy, tied with Nepal. The finding on age at
death is one of a list of neighbourhood disparities highlighted. Third World health outcomes as well as Third
World lifespans were found in some parts of the city with entrenched poverty. The gulf in average age at death
suggests limitations to what universal health care can accomplish and that society needs to look elsewhere for
answers to what can close the divides quantified by the Spectator’s research, which included accessing more than
400,000 pieces of hospital and death data. The picture of Hamilton presented by the series, which was years in the
making, did not go unnoticed by politicians, academics and others, and its influence will be felt for some time in
the city and beyond.


Hamilton Spectator

The narrative starts on
Father’s Day 2000 with police
interviewing a toddler who says
“Paint all over the walls. Mama’s
wall.” The toddler is Eugene and
his mother, Charlisa Clark, and her friend Pat Del
Sordo have been beaten to death in a Hamilton
apartment with a baseball bat. Eugene saw the after-
math. The videotaped police interview with the
three-year-old who had been found wandering the
streets in his diaper is the opening of Hamilton
Spectator reporter Jon Wells’s seven-part 23,000-
word story, Witness, a True Crime Story. It is the
story of three killings and one killer; the families of
the victims; the committed police work; the man
who led to the break in the case, and much more. It
is a strong narrative with details that only exhaus-
tive research — which included a prison interview
with the killer, Carl Hall — can produce. The fact
the story starts with a crime committed almost 10
years before publication allows Wells to tell about
some of the central figures over a long period of
time. Readers get to learn how young Eugene is far-
ing years after that horrible Father’s Day.

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