By Roger Gillespie
Former Toronto Star radio roomer Jackson Hayes has won the Ontario Newspaper Award for novice reporting for his work at the Hamilton Spectator.
Hayes, 30, won the C.B. Schmidt Award for Novice Reporting (over 25,000 circulation) at the annual awards banquet May 1 in Waterloo.
"Jackson Hayes appears to have both a nose for news and a knack for tracking down hard-to-find sources. His submission included three examples of good initiative and followup."
Hayes was typically modest about his award.
"The award is validation for the all the effort it took to get there and a big honour knowing the recognition came from fellow journalists."
How does he account for the award?
"I think I won because the stories showed a range of writing skills. I also, more or less, pitched the idea for all three or staked my claim to the stories when they first broke. Finding great sources helped tremendously."
Hayes' three-story entry included an investigative piece about a young, mentally disabled man who police believe had been held captive and abused in a Hamilton apartment by three people.
Hayes worked on the story in his spare time for more than a month, contacting the young man's friends and family to help paint a picture of the victim's life.
The second entry was about car theft rings operating in Hamilton. Hayes uncovered two groups of young teens who steal cars and joyride for fun. He convinced them to talk about why they steal from strangers.
The final entry was a look at the local swinger movement in Hamilton. To write that story, he convinced the owners of a well-hidden club in Burlington to allow Hayes and his wife to attend a swingers' party. He also met the owners in their home for an informal discussion with swingers about living the "lifestyle."
Hayes is a graduate of the Humber College journalism program and worked in the Star radio room from September 2007 to September 2008.
His time at the Star helped him with important elements of journalism.
"What I learned working in the radio room helps with nearly every story I write. You learn quickly in "the box" to cut through the details. Aside from learning how to juggle my time and responsibilities, my time in the radio room helped hone my skills for finding the right voice at the right time. I also learned to deal with a lot of the negative aspects and emotions with which journalists have to deal. Being able to detach from the emotional end to tell a succinct and well-written story is journalism 101 - or just another shift in the box."
Hayes joined the Spectator in September 2008 and left in April 2009 and became managing editor of Oakville-based Canadian AutoWorld.
Photo: Jackson Hayes (left) with Spectator editor Rick Hughes.