Monday, June 05, 2006

The Independent and Michener Awards

I was recently reminded through a series of fairly inconsequential emails with an avid reader of my blog (keep those cards and letters coming) of the The Independent's claim to fame to being recognized with a Michener Award Citation of Merit for their "exposee" on the costs of Confederation to the province.

I've already made my point of view on that series of low-rent pseudo-analytical claptrap over here.

Now I had to wonder if I was mistaken in my beliefs. So I went back and reviewed the piece and checked out the award citation. The citation reads:

The Independent (Newfoundland and Labrador): A cost-benefit analysis of Confederation published over a period of six weeks required a significant commitment of resources by a relatively small weekly newspaper. The analysis indicated that the rest of Canada has benefited much more than Newfoundland from the province's decision to join Canada in 1949. The Independent's work was widely reported in other media across the country. While some economists have disputed the results, the newspaper's work was a significant contribution to the debate about equalization and Newfoundland and Labrador's place in Canada.
And then as I read each sentence of this delicately worded award citation I understood the basis under which they were recognized. Let's deconstruct this citation sentence by sentence.
  1. That it was a small paper that poured lots of effort into the project may be admirable, perhaps, but that only recognizes inputs and not the quality of the output. Considering they almost went under not too long later suggests a misallocation of resources;
  2. " ... Indicated that the rest of Canada has benefited much more ..." is not any kind of endorsement - it's only a description;
  3. "Widely reported" acknowledges it was controversial, not that it was accurate. Of course it was controversial - it was ridiculous;
  4. "Some economists have disputed the results" slyly leaves open the implication that maybe the work was, in fact, questionable - no economists were noted to support it either - but again they only acknowledge that people talked about it.

Overall I'd have to say that the award was really given to the mouse that let out an enormous squeak. That pretty well defines the Independent and their quality investigative team, particularly their lead researcher.

My sincere apologies for having doubted.

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