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27 July, 2017


Jennifer Bieman, journalism's Greg Clark award winner.
I am always encouraged to see talented young people with solid investigative reporting and writing skills, breaking through in the field of newspaper journalism.  It augers well for an essential industry struggling to maintain credibility and profitability in an era of cheap online news, controversial social media sites and opinion writers ad nauseam.

It was interesting to learn that Jennifer Bieman, a former reporter with my old St. Thomas Times-Journal in St. Thomas, Ont., was chosen as this year's winner of the Greg Clark Award for early-career journalists. The Canadian Journalism Federation selected Jennifer for her proposal to explore how the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshall and its counterpart in Alberta, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, conduct investigations.

The Greg Clark Award, unique in Canadian journalism, offers working journalists a $5,000 stipend to spend a week gaining insight, gathering strategic information and meeting key decision makers on a specific issue or beat.  Jennifer is a graduate Lord Dorchester Secondary School in her hometown of Dorchester and also graduated from the Masters of School Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario. Previously, she worked briefly as a general assignment summer reporter at the London Free Press and news writer and editor at Sun News Network. She returned to the London Free Press earlier this month as a multi-media writer.

"Fires are an essential part of community coverage, and Jennifer Bieman provided a solid proposal that would explore an area that traditionally isn't given much attention," says Susan Harada, a jury
member and associate director of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication. "Bieman is right to note that coverage of fires often ends with the line, 'The Ontario Fire Marshal has been called in to investigate.' The project she proposes would provide insight into that process and a range of fire-safety issues. Her work will benefit any reporter, especially those with a regional beat."

With this opportunity, Jennifer plans to explore how these investigative agencies' findings shape legislation and how their recommendations impact fire-prevention strategies. She will also seek to understand the offices' role in emerging issues like fire prevention in First Nations communities or in homes of vulnerable populations such as low-income families, newcomers, seniors and adults with disabilities.

This award was created in memory of Greg Clark, one of Canada's celebrated journalists, a war correspondent, an avid outdoorsman, a humorist and a great reporter who excelled at storytelling.
Bieman was honoured by the CJF Awards at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, June 8.

Established in 1990, The Canadian Journalism Foundation promotes excellence in journalism by celebrating outstanding journalistic achievement. Signature events include an annual awards program featuring a must-attend industry gala where Canada's top newsmakers meet Canada's top news people. Through J-Talks, a popular speakers' series, the CJF facilitates dialogue among journalists, business people, academics and students about the role of the media in Canadian society and the ongoing challenges for media in the digital era. The foundation also fosters opportunities for journalism education, training and research.

The good news is that there are more Jennifer Biemans out there...The bad news is that with the closure of news rooms across Canada, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to find jobs -- and you cannot make a living on Twitter. 

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