Writing with impact

Maclean’s was first to uncover the chronic weaknesses in the sex offender registry

This week the federal government proposed sweeping changes to the national sex offender registry. This entails automatic inclusion of all convicted sex offenders, mandatory DNA sampling, provisions to allow police to use the registry in a preventative manner, and significantly enhanced reporting requirements. All of which were long overdue.

Of course, Maclean’s readers need no introduction to the necessity of these changes. They’ve been following the scandal of Canada’s failed sex offender registry for the past year and a half.

In January 2008, Senior Writer Michael Friscolanti tackled the inadequacies of Ottawa’s system for tracking convicted sex offenders. He faced numerous roadblocks from government officials unwilling or unable to admit to problems, but in the best investigative journalism tradition, he persevered. His exhaustive eight-page investigation, “A national embarrassment,” included interviews with police, lawyers, victims’ families and even convicted sex offenders, as well as a wide variety of confidential memos and statistics obtained through access to information requests. The result was a shocking tale of government failure—much of it made public for the first time.

If his investigation was unwelcome at the highest levels, it nonetheless had the desired effect. By last summer, the federal government was promising changes. Internal RCMP memos actually credited Maclean’s with getting the debate started. And this past April, the House of Commons standing committee on public safety and national security held two days of hearings on the issue. Again, Maclean’s was the only media organization mentioned.

Now, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has finally introduced the long-awaited changes. We are pleased to have played a significant role in this process.

And as rewarding as it is to see our efforts have an impact on public policy, it is equally gratifying to be acknowledged for our efforts by our peers. Friscolanti’s important work on the sex offender registry is one of 20 nominations Maclean’s staffers have received for this year’s National Magazine Awards.

Along with Friscolanti (who has a second nomination for his investigation into food safety), our writers dominate several key categories. Three Maclean’s columnists—Andrew Coyne, Mark Steyn and Paul Wells—are up for a best columns award. No other publication has as many nominations in this category. We are equally honoured to have three nominations in politics and public interest, plus another three in investigative health issues. We also earned notice for our work in arts, business, and photography, as well as our annual Newsmakers package. All winners will be announced on Friday, June 5.

As the world becomes more complicated, readers inevitably seek out reliable sources of news, context and opinion. These are the strengths of a weekly newsmagazine and this is where Maclean’s has made its biggest investments, in print and at The obvious concentration of nominations in politics, investigative reporting and column writing shows this commitment has paid off. And readers are noticing.

When Time shut its doors in Canada at the end of December, Maclean’s picked up an additional 75,000 subscribers who wanted a national newsmagazine with real impact. It’s what we do best.

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