FOCUS CONGRATULATES WRITER RUSS FRANCIS on his winning the 2021 Jack Webster Award for environmental reporting for his report “One in 7 deaths of Canadians are due to fossil fuel particles, which also help viruses invade our bodies.”
In the article, Francis reports on research about particulate matter in the air we breath—PM2.5s—and how those released from the burning of fossil fuels help the coronavirus slip past our bodies’ natural defence mechanisms to gain easy access to every cell in our bodies. In general PM2.5s can wreak havoc. They can cause “cancers, heart attacks, lung disease, strokes, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. They even increase the risk of permanent blindness,” writes Francis. Though there are many sources of PM2.5s, new research suggests that burning fossil fuels kill tens of thousands of Canadians every year. “[F]ossil fuel-generated PM2.5s kill 2.6 times as many adult people in just one year as the pandemic has killed in total,” writes Francis.
Francis has been a regular contributor to FOCUS for over four years. He previously held staff positions with Monday Magazine and several large dailies, including the Vancouver Sun. Starting with a short piece on animal rights in the December 1986 issue of Mother Jones, his stories have appeared in various publications worldwide. At Monday Magazine, in 2000, he won a Webster award of distinction, with T.K. Demmings and Ross Crockford, for a Victoria city hall story, and won wide praise for helping end a highly questionable city deal with a California developer, through his Arena Deathwatch column. In 2008, he enrolled in UVic’s Master of Public Administration program, subsequently working as a BC government analyst for 10 years in various ministries. He returned to reporting in 2018, concentrating on energy policy and the climate emergency for Focus.
The November 3rd Jack Webster Awards ceremony took place online this year. Named for influential reporter and commentator Jack Webster, who worked in print, radio and television, the awards are presented annually by the Webster Foundation whose mission is to foster and celebrate excellence in journalism to protect the public interest for British Columbians.
Other finalists in the environmental reporting category for the Websters this year were Jess Houty with Hakai Magazine and Marc Fawcett-Atkinson with Canada’s National Observer.
Other Victoria-area winners in other categories include Andrew MacLeod with the Tyee and Les Leyne (Commentator of the Year) with the Times-Colonist. See the list of award winners and finalists here. And read Russ Francis’ award-winning entry here.
Leslie Campbell is the editor of FOCUS—and pleased and proud to work with Russ and other excellent writers dedicated to investigating important regional issues.