POLITICS

Canadian Press reporter Mike Blanchfield wins Travers Fellowship

03/20/2013 03:29 EDT | Updated 05/20/2013 05:12 EDT
OTTAWA - Canadian Press reporter Mike Blanchfield has won an international reporting grant that will allow him to probe the human cost of cluster bombs worldwide, a selection committee announced Wednesday.

Carleton University named Blanchfield the winner of the second annual R. James Travers Foreign Corresponding Fellowship, a $25,000 award designed to encourage Canadian journalists to report on key global stories.

Blanchfield, who currently covers international affairs for The Canadian Press in Ottawa, plans to use the fellowship to investigate the impact the so-called bomblets are having in dormant war zones.

He also plans to produce a multimedia package of stories assessing Canada's role in an international effort to have cluster bombs banned.

"This is a great honour for Mike and we are very proud of him," said Canadian Press Editor-In-Chief Scott White.

"He's a journalist who is committed to digging into complex and serious issues. The Travers Fellowship is a wonderful opportunity for Mike to do just that."

The fellowship was established in 2011 in honour of Jim Travers, a longtime reporter and columnist whose Parliament Hill coverage earned him plaudits from across Canada's political spectrum.

At the time of Travers' death at age 62, he was a columnist for the Toronto Star. He had previously served as a foreign correspondent with Southam News and editor-in-chief of the Ottawa Citizen.

Carleton University said the fellowship was established to "celebrate Travers' passion for smart reporting and excellent writing at home and abroad."

"I'm deeply honoured, but this is bittersweet too because our craft has been diminished by Jim's loss," said Blanchfield. "I will do everything I can to ensure that the work I do in the coming months is worthy of the high standard he set for us all."

Blanchfield has spent the bulk of his journalism career at the newspaper that Travers used to lead. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in journalism from Carleton in 1987, he joined the Ottawa Citizen's city desk as a court reporter.

During his 22 years with the newspaper, Blanchfield was on hand to document some of the most important international news events.

He reported on the NATO bombardment of Kosovo and the collapse of the Slobodan Milosevic regime in 1999, travelled to Afghanistan and neighbouring countries in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and covered the earliest days of the U.S.-led war in Iraq in 2003.

He also took a six-month, self-financed sabbatical in 1996 in order to do on-the-ground reporting from East Africa, Southeast Asia and the United States.

Since joining The Canadian Press in 2009, Blanchfield has travelled to Libya and Myanmar while reporting on Canadian foreign policy.

Blanchfield's research for his fellowship project will take him to Cambodia, Laos, Geneva and Washington, D.C.

In choosing Blanchfield for the award, the selection committee praised the scope and relevance of Blanchfield's planned stories.

"We think you have an excellent project, are very confident the results will be informative, engaging and by virtue of the quality and distribution of your work, will contribute substantively to the public policy debate around Canada's international obligations as it relates to cluster bomb munitions," the committee said in a letter informing Blanchfield of his win.

White agreed, saying Blanchfield's project would have the support of the award's namesake.

"I knew Jim Travers and the kind of journalism he believed in and I think he would be proud of Mike Blanchfield too," he said.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version gave the wrong year for Blanchfield's sabbatical.