FrontLine publisher and editor Chris MacLean last week received the Ross Munro Media Award at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute's 2016 Conference on Security and Defence in Ottawa. Ms. MacLean received the award in recognition of her "significant and extraordinary contribution to increasing public understanding of Canadian security and defence matters."
Here is the full text of her acceptance speech:
Chris MacLean Acceptance Speech, Ross Munro Media Award
18 February 2016
I feel extremely honoured to have been chosen as the 2015 recipient of the Ross Munro Award and at the same time somewhat surprised to have been considered, based on the amazing past winners such as Murray Brewster, Matthew Fisher, Christie Blatchford and Bruce Campion-Smith – all prolific, dedicated journalists who have been crafting informative articles on all manner of subjects for decades. I took a fast-tracked route right to the position of publisher before tackling the challenging journalistic role so, I was astonished to find out that the Canadian Infantry Association had chosen to nominate me, and that Major-General Walt Holmes and Lieutenant-General Peter Devlin wrote supporting letters on my behalf. I humbly offer my gratitude to them and to the judging committee for recognizing my efforts with this prestigious award.
To be mentioned in the same breath as one of the great war correspondents, is overwhelming. Ross Munro’s journalistic career spanned, as you know, so many important events – among them, the raid on Dieppe, the Italian campaign, D-Day, and the Korean War. There is no doubt he spent a good deal of that time knee-deep in mud.
But times have changed, and are rapidly changing still, especially in regards to the field of journalism... I have never been in the mud, in fact, during my only media junket, to the Canadian bases in Bosnia, we were directed not to stray from the "hard pack".
As you might expect, this great honour has caused me to reflect on my publishing career. It started off in the production trenches in the late 70s, but the exciting part really began 19 years ago, managing the Vanguard magazine and then, after the death of publisher Hawley Black six years later, remustering to establish FrontLine in 2004. I was then on my own, without Dr. Black’s military network, but even as a civilian, I recognized the need to keep these topics in front of politicians, the government and decision-influencers – to inform, provide context and, optimistically, to make a difference.
I began to attend the conferences, most importantly this one, and reached out to many of you. My goal was to convince government, defence industry, and military insiders to write about what was important to them… but that became more and more difficult as, to government and then to industry, communication became a synonym for controlling the message. The risk of being penalized for speaking out had a smothering effect for most people.
So, after having gained your trust by providing a balanced forum for important messages, I began to address the topics you share with me, and to hire other FrontLine journalists such as Ken Pole, Tim Dunne, Richard Bray, Robbin Laird, and others to provide a wide-ranging compendium of researched and thought-provoking defence and security-sector content.
The principles of freedom and independence of the press, and its inherent duty to inform and challenge are the foundation of journalism, but integrity is just as important.
As Washington Post editor Martin Baron suggested to an audience at Carleton University earlier this year – people want journalists to tell the truth, to tell it forthrightly, and to work honourably. Those are the tenets I have tried to bring to the workplace, and the principles to which I hold myself and my FrontLine writers accountable. That holds true whether we are writing about the Fighter Replacement Project, the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, Canada’s role in the fight against terror, the Ukraine, the upcoming federal Defence Review, cyber security, or Bill C-51 and public safety, writ large.
I believe FrontLine has earned the confidence of our readers because of that professional commitment to honesty, depth and balance in our work. So I despair a bit when I consider the direction the print media profession appears to be moving. The printed word is under attack. In addition to mounting financial pressures being felt throughout the industry, traditional channels are increasingly overshadowed by rapid-fire Twitter feeds – true, they comment on events in real time, but are unhindered by any editorial process. Where accuracy was once the priority, speed is now becoming paramount. The question is, will there continue to be room for balanced, thoughtful journalism?
In recent issues of FrontLine, we explored the progress of government and industry on recapitalization of the Royal Canadian Navy’s fleet though the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, and in particular on the progress of the Surface Combatant procurement. Try doing that in 140 characters or less.
But I digress. Let me say, before I overstay my welcome, that my time as a publisher/editor/writer has been an incredible journey – at times frustrating and even heartbreaking – however, you, my audience has a knack for contacting me at just the right time, to commend a FrontLine article and encourage us to keep at it, and this is like getting a system reboot, and rekindling my drive to make a difference.
Yes, it has been an incredible journey – one my family has patiently supported – despite the crazy hours and my single-mindedness when I’m on deadline. Every one of them has had a hand in getting these magazines to you over the years. I could not have continued without their help and love, and I thank them for all their support… they are all out delivering magazines right now.
Have I said it has been an incredible journey? I have learned so much, and would like to publicly recognize all who have inspired me by patiently explaining the complexities of procurement, government process, military protocol and industry imperatives, but to do so, I would have to ask virtually the entire room to stand to be recognized. I also thank all those who have bent my ear with tales of their own frustrations at not being able to hold anyone’s feet to the fire – that’s what I’m here for.
I have been treated with the utmost respect in a sector dominated by professionals with powerful responsibilities, and to receive this kind of validation for my work is truly encouraging. Thank you all so much… and please join me in commending the Conference of Defence Associations Institute and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, for recognizing and supporting, in this very public display, the value of journalism in the defence and security sector.
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