Journalism is changing — so the Walkley Awards are, too.
Think evolution, not revolution. Entries open July 1-Aug. 31.
Co-authored by Kate McClymont, Chair of the Walkley Advisory Board 2014–2016 and Angelos Frangopoulos, current Chair, Walkley Advisory Board.
As the Walkley Advisory Board, we are the custodians of the Walkley Awards and select each year’s winners. We also work with the Foundation to review the awards. Our main focus is to make sure the Walkley Awards reflect the way Australian journalists work, and showcase the very best work being done.
This is a time of a changing of the guard, as one of us (Kate) completes three years as chair of the Board, and another (Angelos) takes the reins.
In 2017 we face an industry that looks very different to the last Walkley review in 2013. We know more journalists than ever before are working across multiple platforms. Lots of brilliant work is being done digital-first; but a lot of brilliant and even innovative reporting is done in print, on radio or television. We know that complex stories can now have many moving parts, and that there is an army of people working behind the scenes to bring great journalism to life. We’ve tried to find ways to make the Walkleys more accessible to this important sector of our industry.
The conundrum at the centre of this review is that journalists’ skillsets are expanding beyond one medium and new ways of storytelling keep popping up, but categories cannot be constantly added to take this into account. The awards cannot become unwieldy and the quality of journalism required to win a Walkley award cannot be diluted.
Consolidating categories is even harder than cutting down a story that’s over length — you’re always killing someone’s darling. But with industry advice, we’ve refocused, merged and tweaked some categories, and dropped a couple.
It means we introduce some new categories and bid farewell to Interview, International Journalism, Artwork and Journalism Leadership. But as you’ll see there are still options for you to enter this kind of work in other categories.
[Read more about why we dropped the International category, which is partly about how well international stories have done in other categories]
The changes we’ve made are evolutionary, not revolutionary. We know our industry is in a period of flux and will continue to change. And all these decisions are based on research and discussion. Over six months, Walkleys staff and board members met with key journalists, media organisations and partners in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Award-winning freelance journalist Debra Jopson was engaged to lead the research and draft a report. We surveyed past judges (33 responded), and welcomed working journalists, editor and managers to three lively roundtable discussions. And the Foundation received many more comments and submissions by email, phone and in person. We thank everyone who gave their time and thoughts.
One thing that is not changing: the two-tiered award judging process. Adapted from the Pulitzer model, we convene a panel of three senior journalists to read all the entries and hash out three finalists. The winner is then chosen by the dozen-plus senior journalists on the Walkley Advisory Board. This process is fundamental to how we ensure the integrity of the awards.
Medium is the message?
After our review of the Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards led to a shift away from medium-based entries, we thought a lot about how the Walkley Awards can adapt to the way journalists work today. There are still plenty of media makers working in print, radio and television, so we’ve stuck with many of the categories based on medium: Print/Text, Radio/Audio and TV/Video.
But many journalists are now working exclusively online. The Walkleys have been open to digital entries for years now, but that message doesn’t seem to have registered throughout the industry. So we’re getting our virtual megaphone out — and please help us spread the word — that our friends making digital journalism can enter any category in the Walkleys! That includes medium-based categories as well as, of course, the All Media categories.
What else has changed?
We’ve expanded the Headline category to recognise more of the work that vitally drives readers and viewers to journalism, and the talented producers and editors who do that work. Still an all media category, it’s now Headline, Caption or Hook — which means that we now welcome short form work like Instagram posts, tweets and teasers that hook people into a story.
We also introduce the new Walkley Award for Production. We hope both of these categories will unlock the Walkleys to a lot of new entrants. We wanted to recognise the often unsung heroes of newsrooms — the people in production and presentation who work to make stories sing. This may include artwork, visualisations and layouts. But it also includes producers who are packaging journalism from reporting, user-generated content, photos and videos of a live event. Designers, backbenchers and subs producing outstanding an outstanding page one and its digital companion. Or TV producers’ election night package of graphics, stories and live updates.
TV/video categories change from daily and weekly current affairs to Short Current Affairs Features and Long Current Affairs Features (20 minutes is the tipping point). Interviews — no longer their own category — are welcome as entries here. Online videos are also welcome. Camerawork, which was an All Media category, moves back under the TV/Video platform.
For Radio News and Current Affairs or Audio Feature, we’ve tweaked the category descriptions to make it clear that podcasts can be entered. Interviews are welcome here too!
We heard through the review process that breaking news is a big part of reporting, especially for commercial television and radio networks. We’ve expanded the category description for Major News to emphasise this vital work.
In photography, we have converted the Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year from a Walkley Award category to a Nikon prize — these are administered by the Walkleys and announced at the gala. This standout image, chosen from all entries to other categories, will continue to be recognised as the hero shot of the annual photojournalism exhibition. We’re excited to celebrate great visual stories from our own backyard with a new Nikon prize for Australian Daily Life photography. A note on fees: the photography entry fee applies only once, no matter how many photography categories you enter.
Now that we’re a little ways into the digital revolution, it’s time we reframe how we recognise innovative work. The last time we reviewed our awards, much of the innovation we saw involved the use of mixed media. So we created a Multimedia category. Now that multimedia is woven throughout journalism, across platforms, we are axing that category. You can enter your multimedia stories in other categories.
At the same time we have created a new Innovation award. It is structured differently than our other awards, for which the basic unit of an entry is a story. It is broadly defined to include such entries as apps, tools, products and newsgathering techniques. So much is happening there that it deserves a post all its own — read Walkley CEO Jacqui Park’s piece on what we’re looking for in this category.
Social Equity was another category entrants didn’t seem to understand. We heard anecdotal reports that people were entering Social Equity because they thought they had a good chance there since no one knew what it was. Unfortunately for them, Social Equity has always been one of the most popular categories. This year we’ve renamed the category and refocused the description to clarify the kind of work we celebrate here: Public Service Journalism. It’s the kind of reporting your idealist 21-year-old self got into the game for: journalism that aims to make a difference, with tangible public benefit to the community.
Finally, you can still nominate someone for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism, but we have cut the Journalistic Leadership Award; the two awards had become rather blurred over the years.
How entries will change
Entry statements will be published for finalists. This is new. Inspired by other award programs like that of Investigative Reporters and Editors, we’re hoping these statements will not only help the judges understand your work and its impact, but also add a bit of transparency to the Walkleys and help other journalists follow in your footsteps.
The statement is a vital piece of your entry, so we encourage you to use it wisely. Think of it as a story you’re writing about your story. Remember to include information about the resources you had at your disposal — this is a criterion, and judges are being briefed to take this into account when assessing entries. Use your statement to demonstrate the story’s impact or reach, too.
And write it with the understanding that any facts, like claims of scoops or impact, may be seen by your colleagues and competitors.
An entry can only be entered into two different categories (in the past it was three). We want to make sure the winners and finalists demonstrate the range of our media landscape, and avoid single stories dominating the awards. So think carefully about the best fit for your story.
As always, Walkleys awards manager Lauren Dixon and administrative manager Barbara Blackman are available to answer your questions.
2017 Walkley categories, explained
In all cases, “report” refers to either a single report or a collection of reports covering an event, subject or issue, although entrants in most categories are limited to submitting no more than three pieces of work per category. See specific category descriptions for entry requirements.
Gold Walkley: The Gold Walkley is the pinnacle of journalistic achievement. The winner is chosen from the category winners, excluding “Leadership” and “Outstanding contribution to journalism” awards.
Outstanding Contribution to Journalism: Recognises the achievements of a person or group for outstanding or enduring commitment to the highest standards of journalism and is chosen by the Walkley Trustees.
Nikon-Walkley Press Photographer of the Year: Entrants must submit a body of work up to ten images showing the photographer’s range and self-editing skill. Body of work can encompass any genre.
Book: The Walkley Book Award celebrates the value and importance of journalism and acknowledges the proud line-up of Australian writers who have taken subjects of enduring topicality and consequence from news bulletins, eyewitness reporting, investigations and historical records and provided readers with expanded factual detail, revelation and greater clarity of analysis in book form.
Documentary: This award recognises excellence in documentary production that is grounded in the principles of journalism — accuracy, impact, public benefit, ethics, creativity, research and reporting — together with rigorous filmmaking. The award is open to a variety of documentary storytelling styles and the judges will be looking for courage and creativity in concept, approach and execution. Documentaries may encompass in-depth examination of issues of local, national or international importance or of contemporary or historic events and may include investigative, biographical and first person stories that reflect the emotion and drama of the human experience. Entries that have appeared within regularly scheduled television current affairs programs must be documentary in nature and execution.
These categories recognise journalism delivered primarily through the written word across print or digital media.
News Report: This category recognises excellence in news journalism created for text formats. It recognises the diverse skills of the news reporter/journalist — not just for breaking news but for all the other elements that make a great story under the pressure of deadlines — tenacity, writing ability, accuracy, ethics, research, impact and great storytelling. The emphasis of this award is on solid, gripping reporting and outstanding individual (or small team) efforts in covering a news story. Entries in this category may be a single news report or no more than three related reports on the same subject.
Feature Writing Short (under 4,000 words): Based on a single entry, this category recognises short form newspaper and magazine-style feature writing in print or digital. The focus of this award remains on quality writing. It celebrates excellence in the craft of feature writing and storytelling, with prime consideration given to the written word and research ability as well as originality, creativity, impact and technique. (This award is also open to multi-media packages where writing is the primary medium.)
Feature Writing Long (over 4,000 words): Primarily and critically, this award is judged on the quality of writing and narrative skill in written works over 4000 words. Based on a single entry, this award recognises long form journalism that shines a light, tells a compelling story or provides in-depth analysis and investigation. It also recognises reporting excellence, accuracy, storytelling, originality and high standards of ethics and research. (This award is also open to multi-media packages where writing is the primary medium.)
These categories recognise visual journalists producing still photography for any platform. Criteria include storytelling, courage, public impact, creativity, innovative use of technology, technical ability and resourcefulness and can include sound slides and photo film.
News Photography: Newsworthiness, impact, technical superiority, creativity and originality will be looked at in this category. News photography encompasses a range of news photography from an exclusive or spontaneous news moment or images depicting news values on the day. The images should represent a story or event not a series on a theme.
Sport Photography: This category will reward those who capture the emotion and drama of sport. Entries may show action and/or feature imagery in the sporting arena. Will be judged on up to five images. These do not have to be related and can represent a body of work.
Feature/Photographic Essay: Between 5 and 12 images of a feature story or essay, of which one photograph must have been published on any platform.
Nikon Photography Prizes
These are not Walkley Awards, but prizes administered by the Walkley Foundation on behalf of Nikon. These photos appear in the Nikon-Walkley Press Photography exhibition, which travels across Australia each year.
Photo of the Year: Recognises an outstanding “hero” image worthy of individual celebration and recognition. Judges will select a single image that defines the year from photographs submitted across all categories in the awards.
Portrait Prize: Recognising excellence in portraiture, photographers can enter a single image.
Community/Regional Prize: Celebrating the best work of photographers working in regional and community media, entries for this prize can comprise up to five images.
New! Contemporary Australian Daily Life Prize: A single picture or a series of up to 5 still images with an emphasis on stories of originality and human interest.
This platform recognises journalism produced primarily in an audio format, for radio or digital platforms.
News and Current Affairs: This category recognises excellence in news and current affairs journalism produced in audio formats, taking into consideration the immediacy and unique demands of the medium. This award acknowledges the special skills required to present content for radio and digital broadcast, including interviews and podcasts. In particular, the judges will reward work demonstrating the best elements of the platform — accuracy, immediacy, incisiveness, research and production skill, originality, public impact and a gripping story. Entries in this category may be a single news report or no more than three related reports on the same subject.
Audio Feature: Based on a single story this category recognises audio feature productions and journalistic research programs focusing on in-depth information, utilising the crafts of storytelling and/or investigative journalism. This award acknowledges the unique skills required to present content for radio and digital broadcast, including documentaries and podcasts. Judges will recognise excellence in long-form current affairs, highlighting research, impact, storytelling, investigation, analysis and public impact.
These categories recognise journalism primarily produced in video formats, for television, film and digital platforms.
News Reporting: This category recognises the skill of producing quality news journalism in television and video formats under deadline pressure. The emphasis of this award is on solid, gripping reporting, clarity of message and outstanding individual or team efforts in covering a news story. In particular, the judges will reward work demonstrating accuracy, immediacy, incisiveness, public impact and storytelling ability. Entries in this category may be a single news report or no more than three related reports on the same subject from any program, i.e. news, current affairs or online.
New! Current Affairs Short (less than 20 minutes): Recognising current affairs and analysis of unfolding news events and interviews in short formats. Reports will be judged on originality, newsworthiness, public benefit, courage and impact as well as production expertise and writing. Entries in this category may be a single story or no more than three related reports on the same subject.
New! Current Affairs Long (more than 20 minutes): This category will recognise excellence in long-form current affairs, including interviews, highlighting research, storytelling, investigative journalism and analysis as well as impact. Documentary programs are not eligible to enter the television current affairs category. Entries in this category must be a single story.
Camerawork: This award recognises excellence in camerawork in Australian news, current affairs and documentary as well as videography and photo films in digital formats, representing the highest standards of the craft. Entrants can choose to submit a single piece of footage or up to three pieces of work showcasing a body of work.
New! Innovation: This category recognises journalism that pushes the craft forward in innovative and creative ways, while also honouring the skills in getting and telling a great story. Entrants are encouraged to enter journalism which explores new techniques for news-gathering and distribution, new formats for consumption, new modes of audience interaction, experiments, technology or new products. “Innovation” could also involve clever use of more “traditional” news-gathering and storytelling techniques (eg successfully using FOI or data journalism in a new, creative way). Entrants can link to a single project and are encouraged to explain how their project is innovative in their entry statement. Read more about what we’re looking for in this category here.
Coverage of a Major News Event or Issue: Primarily, this is an award that recognises the valuable role of teamwork and organisational commitment as well as journalistic skill in coverage of an issue or event. Judges will take into consideration criteria such as impact, accuracy, immediacy, creativity and journalism that provides context and deeper understanding to a story, issue or area of public debate. Available resources, live broadcast considerations and the pressures of breaking news will also be factored in the judging process. Entries are open to all media and should be packaged to represent a showcase of the work. Each entry should include the initial story that led to the subsequent coverage over the course of days, weeks and months. For television and audio entries this means an initial story accompanied by up to 90mins of compiled footage. Print entries should include the initial story and up to five subsequent stories. Digital entries should include all relevant web links. Entry statements should include a summary of the story or issue, an outline of the response or planning and a timeline or rundown of events/reports.
Scoop of the Year: This award seeks to recognise the journalistic resourcefulness applied to breaking news through what is traditionally known as a ‘scoop’. A scoop is defined as an exclusive report which contains revelatory facts which inform and change public understanding or knowledge of an issue or event. The judges will be looking for a significant revelation, with public impact. It will display the skill of the journalist in getting the information and having it published or broadcast, and the degree of difficulty in so doing. Supporting documentation should include a chronology and must include and document the exact moment of broadcast or publication. Entries in this category may be a single story or no more than three related reports on the same subject.
Business Journalism: This award recognises excellence in business, economics and finance journalism. Judges will give special regard to newsworthiness, public benefit, storytelling, impact, incisiveness and research. Entries in this category may be a single story or no more than three related reports on the same subject.
Coverage of Community & Regional Affairs: This category is open only to journalists working in the suburban or regional media and recognises their role in reporting on and informing their local communities. Regional media shall be taken to include areas outside of Australian capital cities and the ACT, but does include Darwin. Entrants can choose to submit a single piece of work or three pieces of work showcasing a body of work.
Investigative Journalism: Recognising its valuable role, this category will reward well-researched and presented investigations. Works will be judged on accuracy, ethics, tenacity and public benefit. Entries in this category may be a single story or no more than three related reports on the same subject.
Coverage of Indigenous Affairs: This award recognises excellence in coverage of indigenous issues. Journalists and photographers working in both the indigenous and mainstream media are encouraged to enter. Entrants can choose to submit a single piece of work or three pieces of work showcasing a body of work.
Sports Journalism: This award recognises the diverse skills of the sports journalist and the elements that make a great sports story — tenacity, accuracy, ethics, research, great storytelling and the capacity to capture and share the emotion in sport. Entries in this category may be a single story or no more than three related reports on the same subject.
New! Public Service Journalism: This award aims to celebrate journalism’s role in informing citizens as part of our democratic system. It is about journalism that aims to make a difference, with tangible public benefit to the community. Journalism which this award encourages can include: Good civic journalism which gives a voice to the voiceless in our community; Journalism which starts a public debate on an important issue; Journalism which exposes incompetence or wrongdoing by those who should be working for the common good, especially in government or any institutions affecting the public; Journalism which points to solutions to important issues within the community or society which it serves. Entries in this category may be a single story or no more than three related reports on the same subject.
Commentary, Analysis, Opinion and Critique: This category is open to journalists involved in comment and analysis and includes leader writers, reviewers, opinion columnists and bloggers across the spectrum of discussion and debate, including arts, sports, business and politics. Entrants should submit three samples, not necessarily related, to be judged as indicative of their work.
New! Headline, Caption or Hook: This award recognises the art of witty and succinct journalism that grabs attention across all media. It is open to all journalists, sub-editors and digital content producers whose job it is to attract readers and viewers with short-form formats and clever use of language. Entrants will be judged on three samples of their work, which could include tweets, instagram captions, TV and radio promos.
New! Production: This category recognises the work of producers, artists and designers in bringing stories to life across all media. Entrants will be judged on imaginative and effective use of the medium, and their ability to curate and produce story elements to make information accessible and attractive to the audience. Entries could comprise artwork or graphics, a page or program, or the work of a production team. The elements involved could include audio, animation, illustrations, photos, graphics, video, virtual reality or other emerging media. The judges will be rewarding work that creates a rich experience for the audience. Entries in this category must be a single story, program or project.
Cartoon: Creativity, innovation, wit and style will ideally combine with newsworthiness and artistic technique for the winner of the best cartoon award. Based on a single cartoon entry.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Lauren Dixon, our awards manager (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Barbara Blackman, our administration manager (email@example.com).