The Free Press was honoured Thursday night for bridge-building journalism that has helped Manitobans better understand the province's Muslim community.
Free Press diversity reporter Carol Sanders and faith writer Brenda Suderman received the Ansar and Ihsan Awards from the Islamic Social Services Association Inc.
Shahina Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association Inc., said at a time when media-bashing is in vogue, it was important to recognize journalists who are making positive contributions.
"They are bringing communities together, they are building a more inclusive Manitoba," she said.
Free Press editor Paul Samyn said the recognition from the local Islamic community means a great deal to the newspaper.
"What we want to do and what our readers need us to do is tell stories that help people's understanding of issues that can be complex, confusing and even lead to conflict," Samyn said.
"What Carol and Brenda have done with their reporting and columns is bridge the divide that all too frequently existed between Muslims and Manitobans. Carol's beat is not for the faint of heart. But she shoulders her duty to the people she writes about with professionalism and compassion. We wanted our faith coverage to be as diverse as possible, and Brenda's coverage of Manitoba's Muslims has achieved that."
Sanders used her speech to thank the Islamic community for their patience and understanding in the 104 stories she has written since 2004 that involved questions about their religion.
"Thanks for never calling me rude. And thanks for so kindly opening up to me so many times in sometimes difficult situations," she said.
"I know that opening up to a reporter takes a lot of courage. You're vulnerable. You're open to public scrutiny.
"But by letting people get to know you, they lose their fear of the unknown. You spread your courage around."
Suderman also had praise for Siddiqui and the Islamic community.
"Today, your organization is recognizing us as journalists for building bridges, but we can't do our jobs without people talking to us and metaphorically holding up the other end of the bridge," Suderman said. "Thank you again for this award."
Terry MacLeod of CBC Radio was also honoured.