Hard Work Paying Off

She supports me every single day, and is therefore a massive part of everything you are about to read.

She supports me every single day, and is therefore a massive part of everything you are about to read.

Today is a good news day.

Not only did the City of Brampton drop it’s 348-page budget document for the public and media to consume, but I received some amazing news about a few of my past stories. I say that first part with only a hint of sarcasm.

Every year the Ontario Community Newspapers Association awards the best stories from the collection of community newspapers in Ontario while also awarding the year’s top reporter, photographer and many others.

I’ve been honoured to be considered by this organization in the past. I know it sounds cliche to say it, but I don’t do this work for me. Sure, I get pleasure from it knowing that I’m helping the community and advocating for issues that may not receive attention otherwise (this was a big one for me this year). In the long run though, journalists who place ego at the forefront, who are in the business for the next big scoop, seeing themselves on TV or in print, or for the awards, are in it for the wrong reason. You’re using the wrong fuel, and just like a gas-powered engine when diesel has been poured into the tank, things are going to give out eventually.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not super honoured and not incredibly happy. I mean slapping my hands together fist-pumping happy whenever my work gets recognized. Let’s be honest, a pat on the back feels good, especially when it comes from a group of your industry professionals.

In the past, I’ve received several honours from the OCNA. In 2015 I was named Reporter of the Year, and I was runner-up the year after. Stories I’ve written have won Best Feature Story and Best Education Story in the past, and I’ve received runner-up honours or third place honours for Best News Writing, Best Investigative Story, and Bests Sports and Recreation Story.

This year means a little more though.


As I’ve written about multiple times on my Facebook page, the issue of human trafficking has really pulled on something inside me. The investigation that I did for The Oshawa Express really changed my perceptions of the issue, more so than any other I’ve written in my career. For that reason, I’m beyond happy that the months and months of work that went into that series of stories has been nominated for Best Feature. You can find links to all four of those features, along with a brief synopsis of each one in my post on my top stories of 2018 right here.

On top of that, my investigation into the lawsuit surrounding a defunct ethanol plant in Oshawa has been nominated for the Environment Ontario award for environmental reporting. You can read that one right here.

A lot of work also went into that one, and while not as emotionally tolling as the feature on human trafficking, combing through pages and pages of legal documents and lawsuits takes a certain degree of patience. Mine was definitely tested during my research and reporting on this one. However, it all paid off in the end as it was one of The Express’s top investigations of the year and turned a lot of heads in the community.

And to finish off this bit of humble bragging, I’ll say that I was also pleased with my graphic design prowess (which is limited) for the cover art on the front page for that story.

So with that, a massive congratulations to everyone who was nominated! You can see a full list of the nominees on the OCNA website.

As always, thanks for reading!


Joel Wittnebel