Meet Australia’s best young journalists

A glimpse into the future of journalism.

So often, we look to the youth for optimism. But maybe all we need is to consider, as young journalist Michael Safi writes, that journalism is “inherently an optimistic job.”

“Its premise is that telling stories is worthwhile, because stories can change the way people think — can make us more humane, better informed, wiser.”

Amen, brother. It’s one of many thoughtful ideas we gleaned from asking the 18 finalists for this year’s Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards about their hopes, fears, who they admire and what they’re learning. All together, the answers are like looking into a kaleidoscope trained on the future of Australian media. You see all these little shining bits of how they think, and what fine journalists they already are, and what they hope to become.

Their favourite moments: Wild horses showing up to a video shoot (Dave May, SBS Viceland); getting a mysterious tip in the middle of the night that turned out to be the phone number of an Australian who had been living with ISIS (Michael Safi, Guardian Australia); strapping a GoPro onto a guide-dog puppy (Tom Minear, Herald Sun). Why they love journalism: Making a difference. Telling yarns. Meeting the rich, fabulous, interesting and strange.

Their hopes for journalism’s future: “My hope for journalism is that it can survive and flourish through these difficult times,” writes Paul Farrell of Guardian Australia. “But my greatest fear is that it can’t. More fears: Primrose Riordan, Australian Financial Review: “Seeing people in their 30s and 40s leave the profession early due to pressures on media companies. Everything I know about finding stories and avoiding mistakes I’ve learnt from older and more experienced reporters.” And a wish from Nick Wray, BuzzFeed Australia: “For journalists to be nicer to each other on Twitter.”

Hallelujah.

Here are all their answers, organised by the category in which they are finalists: Public Service, Longform, Community/Regional, Visual, Shortform and Student. We’ve included links to their work where we can, too.


Category: Public Service Journalism

Category sponsor: News Corp

Rhian Deutrom, The Courier-Mail

Entry: Poisoned Lives, Defence Barrier, Toxic Level Shock

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
I spent time in Sri Lanka, working for several newspapers that had just come out the other side of the country’s brutal civil war. I worked at one paper, The Sunday Leader, a few months after its printing press was gutted by fire, and its editor was murdered with a cattle stun gun on his way to an editorial meeting. Lasantha Wickrematunge had been highlighting corruption within the Sri Lankan government and actually wrote an editorial predicting his own death at the hands of the government. It was published after he died. Perched on a plastic chair, with an 8-foot portrait of the late editor’s face staring across the newsroom, I quickly began to appreciate the importance of a free press and the role journalists play in holding those in power to account.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
I am a huge fan of justice systems around the world and regularly listen to true crime podcasts. The Australian’s crime reporter Dan Box produced a podcast series called Bowraville which explores the unsolved deaths of three Indigenous kids in the mid north coast of NSW. I devoured the entire series in a single day. Bowraville shifted how we view podcasts as an investigative tool in Australia, and resulted in an arrest in the case.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
At the beginning of my career, I packed up and moved from the city to a regional paper in North Queensland. I think a willingness to start out in a rural community, build genuine relationships and learn skills from the ground up is helpful for any young reporter starting out. Above all, I came in knowing that you have to start early, finish late, and slog your guts out in between. Newsrooms want people who want to be there and who truly believe that our industry has a future. I now work in Sydney as a crime reporter at The Australian and am really excited to develop my work in this round.

What made you choose print journalism?
I chose a career in print journalism because of the space it gives us to develop our stories. Seeing my work laid out on a page at the end of each day, knowing someone will pick up the paper and read it the following morning, still gives me goose bumps. When you see the pages of newspapers in museums and archives, it’s always a nice feeling to think that maybe one day, some of my pages could be in an archive somewhere.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
I love that journalism can have a direct impact on lives, from an urban city commuter to a single mum or a hard working farmer. I know there are those who have been pessimistic about the future of our industry lately, but I believe that as long as people need a voice, and those in power need someone to hold them accountable, there will always be a place for journalists.

Paul Farrell, Guardian Australia

Entry: The Nauru Files

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
Working on the Nauru Files has been one of the most challenging and interesting moments of my career so far. The investigation took months of painstaking work, reading through and compiling thousands of pages of incident reports from the Australian-run detention centre on Nauru. It was a fantastic collaborative experience working with a team of reporters and editors from Guardian Australia, and it was thrilling to work on a story that had such a profound and moving reaction in Australia and across the world.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
This piece from Mother Jones about a reporter, Shane Bauer, who went undercover as a prison guard for four months is a personal favourite. It combined excellent writing with meticulous analysis of the privatisation of the US prison system. It was vivid and gripping writing that put you there on the ground inside the prison in a way I’ve never seen before.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
I want to understand and learn more about the craft of writing. I’m dabbling with some fiction writing at the moment, because I think there’s so much to learn about journalism from fiction.

What made you choose written journalism?
I’ve always loved writing. When you read amazing news reporters who are also brilliant writers, there’s a connection you feel to their stories that just can’t be captured in any other way. It’s personal and profound and can move readers in all kinds of ways.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
I love being able to peer into the lives of strangers. It’s a privilege when people invite you into their homes to tell their stories. I’ve met some of the courageous people I know through journalism, and also some of the worst and most disingenuous people. Journalism shows you the world, in all its glory and all its misery.

My hope for journalism it can survive and flourish through these difficult times. But my greatest fear is that it can’t.

If you’re an aspiring (or current) young reporter, join us for Storyology this August and rub shoulders with some of the best journalists from across Australia and around the world. Tickets and full program: https://www.walkleys.com/storyology17/

Christopher Knaus, The Canberra Times

Entry: Catholic officials turned blind eye to abuse, Dark past: The church cover-up that sent know sex offenders to a Canberra school, Fresh claims of abuse at school

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
I travelled to the Solomon Islands in 2011 to cover Australia’s peacekeeping efforts, arriving at a time of deep instability. I was only there for four days or so, but it was my first experience of foreign reporting, and one that I’ll always remember.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
A recent BuzzFeed piece lifted my spirits about the future of investigative journalism. It was the investigation into the Russian assassination of a man on British soil. The story (again) showed the capacity of new media to produce in-depth, hard-hitting journalism. Welcome news in a world where traditional media outlets are losing investigative capacity.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
It’s been said a million times before, but developing sources is critical for success as a journalist. It’s something I concentrated on during my early years with The Canberra Times, and it’s paying dividends now. I’ve still got a lot to learn in a lot of different areas, but right now I’m concentrating most on improving my writing. I tend to have a clunky writing style, so I’m trying to pare it back slightly.

What made you choose print journalism?
I’ve always appreciated the depth that print journalism allows. Moving to an online-only publication, Guardian Australia, has only heightened that appreciation. It continues to allow for depth while favouring innovation in storytelling through the use of video, interactives, and podcasts, for example.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
It’s a cliché, but the ability to make a difference continues to bind me to an industry with bleak prospects and poor pay. My greatest fear for the industry is the loss of crucial local and state-based reporting roles. The rounds that are disappearing — courts, police, local politics — are all vital for the functioning of a healthy democracy. But it’s going to be hugely challenging for shrinking newsrooms to continue to sustain those roles.


Category: Longform

Category sponsor: Fairfax Media

Michael Safi, Guardian Australia

Entry: The takeover: how police ended up running a paedophile site

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
Getting contacted at 11pm one night by someone passing on a phone number and promising if I called it I’d find a good story. It ended up being an Australian who had been living — involuntarily, by his account — with ISIS in Syria. He was holed up in Turkey, preparing to surrender to authorities. I remember the sound of his voice echoing in the living room of my share house as he described the atrocities he had seen. ISIS’s nightmarish, unreal world suddenly didn’t feel so far away. It was unnerving, but also very compelling.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
A few months ago I visited the hometown of a hardline Hindu leader who had just been selected to run Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state. Yogi Adityanath had a history of inciting violence against religious minorities and many observers were astonished by his appointment. We spent three days crisscrossing the town meeting people, collecting stories, building a profile of the new chief minister. It was exciting because it felt like a hugely significant shift had taken place in Indian politics, that the spotlight had briefly swung to this small city, and I was lucky enough to be there, charging around on the back of a motorbike with a pen and notebook.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
Luck! Or rather, recognising the opportunities that luck throws up, and taking them. And genuinely investing in relationships with sources, no matter how insignificant their potential contribution might seem — I think that makes you luckier, somehow.

I have an overwhelming amount more to learn. I’d like to develop my writing, to say more with less, or at least less bluntly. And to learn how to isolate the signal from the noise in an extraordinarily noisy place like India.

What do you like best about your preferred medium of storytelling?
Many stories are just better suited to audio or video, but I enjoy the way that writing can be definitive and exhaustive without being boring, in the hands of my favourite writers. I think that’s possible with audio or video, but harder.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
I like that journalism is inherently an optimistic job. Its premise is that telling stories is worthwhile, because stories can change the way people think — can make us more humane, better informed, wiser. My fear, at least for print, is the obvious one: that it’s already impossible for anyone but a lucky or especially talented few to make a career out of journalism.

Carl Smith, Radio National ABC

Entry: Bionic Bodies, The Science Show

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
I found many of the interviews for Bionic Bodies truly astonishing. It was remarkable seeing how sophisticated some robotic body parts have become, and how seamlessly they can be integrated onto — or into — people. At the other end of the spectrum I had a pie thrown in my face for the first live show of our ethics podcast ‘Short & Curly’ last month (much to the delight of the kids watching).

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
I think Australia’s podcasting scene is one to watch over the next few years. We have plenty of very talented radio makers and podcasters who are catching the attention of global audiences. The creation of ABC’s Audio Studios is a big step forward for pods down under. I also think multimedia storytelling is finding its footing. Ella Rubeli’s 2014 Young Walkley-winning Crowded Desert (coauthored with Debra Jopson) remains one of the best examples I’ve seen in this space.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
Clever storytelling, creativity, solid research, and hard work will still take you a very long way in journalism today. Like many young journalists I’ve had to practice multiplatform storytelling from my first day in the office, and I’ve picked up shooting and editing on the fly. However, I’ve been lucky to spend time on programs dedicated almost exclusively to radio, TV, and podcasting — that’s helped me better understand the craft and audience for each medium. I think journalism has to be a process of constant learning, especially as the digital space evolves and matures. But right now I’m particularly interested in learning how to monitor and interpret audience engagement to help drive storytelling.

What do you like best about your preferred medium of storytelling?
I sit between TV and audio, and I think the two often cross-pollinate in really interesting ways. For example, bringing a TV aesthetic to an audio feature can really help you paint a picture in the listener’s mind. That process of leveraging off a listener’s imagination in an audio feature is something I find really exciting, and working on TV programs has helped me develop that skill.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
Despite all the changes in our industry, I think the future is bright for journalism. Young journalists are right at the front of the wave of digital change, and we’re learning new ways to access and captivate audiences. Journalism reaches into many important public spaces (like education, debate, accountability and storytelling), and it’s driven by audience engagement. So I can’t help but think journalism will remain relevant and important in Australian society.

Emily Verdouw, HuffPost Australia

Entry: Men are killing themselves to be real men

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
One of the most interesting career moments was filming interviews for one of my most recent stories on perpetrators of domestic violence. Those interviews have stayed with me because I’ve been stunned at the willingness of these men to invite audiences into their home and confront how they chose to behave. They both gave so much of themselves for that piece and I couldn’t quite comprehend it. Whenever I cover a difficult or taboo topic I am awed by the subjects — but in this case I knew the audience wasn’t going to react positively to them. They weren’t victims — they were perpetrators. But they wanted to own their actions and try and explain what was happening for them in the hope they’d encourage other men to change and seek help. Navigating that unique relationship between them and the audience was really challenging and interesting for me.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
There was a piece done by Foreign Correspondent last year, Freedom Riders. Not only was it great storytelling, but the way it was adapted from TV to online and the format they presented it in, allowing the audience to take detours through the story, it made me so excited about the potential of both online and video journalism.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
As a VJ you need to be able to shoot, produce and edit. So skills in research and reporting have been important to cultivate, but equally I’ve focused on developing my technical and creative skills behind the camera and in the edit room.

I’m determine to keep improving in all areas, but at the moment I’m really trying to focus on developing my shooting skills, and to think more creatively about how to present my stories.

What made you choose video journalism?
There’s something about being able to see someone’s face and the emotion in their eyes when they’re telling their story. Even after the moment they deliver their response, I find it’s important to linger on someone’s eyes because it can tell you so much more about what’s going on for them. The format of a short documentary can be so powerful because you’re able to bring together different elements — like the b-roll, music, grabs and analysis — to present the story in a powerful, compelling way.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
I absolutely love my job and feel so lucky to be a journalist. I love meeting new people and feel really privileged to be trusted with telling other people’s stories. Fears for the future of journalism? That the audience’s appetite for quality, long-form journalism will wane amongst the clickbait. But my hope is that the exact opposite will happen: that quality journalism will be more and more sought after, and that the resources to allow journalists to be on the ground and reporting on worthy and important stories will follow.


Category: Community/Regional

Category sponsor UNSW

Bridget Judd, ABC Local Radio Victoria

Entry: MedsASSIST Loopholes, Naloxone barriers, Let’s Talk

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
Moving over 2,000 kilometres from my hometown in Queensland to cut my teeth in country Victoria! It’s been an enormous change, but by far the best decision I’ve made.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
Walking in two worlds (Margaret Burin, ABC News). Photojournalism can tell a story in a way that no other medium can. It’s a really powerful format and is accessible to almost anyone.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
I’d like to think my curiosity has helped me to date. There’s a lot of great stories hidden in regional Australia. I’d love to learn photojournalism next.

What do you like best about your preferred medium of storytelling? / What made you choose (audio) journalism?
Probably the flexibility of the genre. Whether it’s a 15-second news grab, a 3-minute current affairs package or a 20-minute feature, there’s a lot of different ways you can tell a story.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
Being trusted to tell someone’s story. It’s a huge honour and something I’m grateful every day to be able to do. My biggest fear is job cuts, particularly in regional areas where newspapers are the cornerstone of the community. But journalism will always have a place in society and will find a way to meet the challenges. My biggest hope is for how journalism is adapting to the digital space. There’s a lot of exciting opportunities emerging.

Michael McGowan and Carrie Fellner, Newcastle Herald

Entry: The foam and the fury

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
Michael:
I’ve flown upside down in a stunt plane, dry-retched while holding an eel on a prawn trawler, and met Octagonal. It’s a pretty good job, really.

Carrie: Reporting in Lithgow, a regional town of about 20,000 people. We had a councillor escorted from a meeting by the police after he refused to apologise for calling another councillor a boofhead. Another day there was a statewide search for two lovestruck runaway teenagers from Sydney. A lady from advertising rang me to say she had found them on Main Street. Needless to say we got the scoop!

Share a piece of journalism you’re excited about, and tell us why.
Michael:
At a time when institutional memory in our domestics politics feels marginalised, any journalist who’s able to talk about policy in a broader context is exciting. Laura Tingle from the AFR and Katharine Murphy from the Guardian are two important writers for that reason. Overseas, the response of The Washington Post and The New York Times to the Trump administration is so impressive.

Carrie: I was a big fan of the Bowraville podcast by Dan Box. When the interview with Jay Hart finally came off I was spellbound. I admire journalists who take risks in the stories they pursue and the way they present them.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
Michael:
No matter how journalism changes, nothing will ever be more important than talking to people. I do my best stuff when I pick up the phone. I want to learn everything.

Carrie: Persistence and listening with genuine empathy. I think people can usually detect sincerity. There have been some brilliant longform online pieces this year and I’d like to learn the digital skills to produce something of that calibre.

What do you like best about your preferred medium?
Michael:
We live in an age of medium neutrality so I’m probably not supposed to have a preference. But I am an idiot, and when I try to speak into a camera I sound like one. Writing (hopefully, ideally, sometimes) gives you time to think.

Carrie: I moved from radio to print and there is definitely a certain clout to the written word. Print/online also allows you to drill down to a level of detail you don’t always get with the other mediums.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
Michael:
I can’t believe that I am going to crib George Orwell in something that will be read by journalists, but I like printing things that someone else does not want printed. I sometimes fear that we/I are/am losing the ability to concentrate, to think calmly and to not always react. I hope that I am wrong.

Carrie: Journalism is still a potent force for social change. A way to uncover abuses of power and hold those responsible to account, particularly when the institutions that are meant to do so fail. To be part of that process is a privilege. I worry about the consequences if news organisations no longer have the time or the resources to produce that kind of journalism.

Danny Tran, AM and ABC Radio News

Entry: “Ballarat Police under fire over new brutality allegations”, “Ballarat police officer ‘stomps’ on woman in cells because of knee-jerk reaction”, “Catholic Crush”

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
Covering the testimony of one of Australia’s most prolific paedophiles, Gerald Ridsdale, and the rest of the Royal Commission in Ballarat is the most interesting and confronting thing I’ve ever done. I think people truly underestimate how many paedophiles there were, the number of children who were preyed upon and the silence from their communities and their church — I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
Resilience and perseverance. At the moment I’m learning about how to tell longform stories, which is great, and I’m really interested in broadening my digital storytelling skills next.

What do you like best about your preferred medium of storytelling?
I used to have a preferred medium, but it’s only in the last year that I’ve realised I actually don’t have a preference — I just really like telling stories and I’ll tailor them to whatever I’m doing at the time. I started on newspapers, got a cadetship at the ABC and was lucky enough to be given a chance in radio current affairs.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
I love storytelling the most. It gives me a sense of satisfaction that nothing else ever has. I feel privileged that I can witness history being made, and ask questions on behalf of other people. I’m worried the old traditional craft skills will be lost with the exit of so many talented veteran journalists, and a change in how people want their news. I hope we’ll find a place for these skills, just in a different way.


Visual Storytelling

Category sponsor: Sky News

Kirsty Johansen, SBS World News

Entry: Somaliland — Famine, Hospital, School

Tell us one of the more interesting moments of your year so far?
One of the most interesting moments in my career so far would be my trip to Somaliland to cover the drought. I’ve never witnessed such poverty before and whilst heartbreaking, the people were so welcoming and genuine.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why?
I always get excited about breaking news. Covering decisions like Brexit during rolling news for the BBC will always be memorable.

What skills have gotten you to where you are — and what do you want to learn next?
I have the ability to connect with people and share their stories with clarity. My management skills and international experience also help me in my current role. The opportunity to learn something new every day is amazing. I think that’s one of the best parts of being a journalist.

What made you choose visual journalism?
I like visual journalism because you can take your audience on a journey through pictures. Everyone sees a picture differently and will form different opinions. I chose television because I like working out in the field and on different stories each day.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for the future?
I love journalism because I get to meet different people in the community and give them a voice. Journalism is constantly changing and the pressure to file for multiple platforms is increasing. I hope journalists are still given the time to investigate and uncover stories that matter in the future.

Dave May, SBS Viceland

Entry: Bullying’s Deadly Toll, Australia’s Only Town Against Same-Sex Marriage, Suburban Exorcists

Tell us one of the more interesting moments of your year so far?
One of the last stories I filmed for The Feed saw myself and producer Patrick Abboud travelling to remote NT to spend time in Utopia, an Indigenous community that had received a lot of attention over the last few years, a lot of it negative. On our last day of shooting we followed one of the community’s residents to a hidden watering hole and as we were filming our subject, Amelia, at the water’s edge, a group of wild horses emerged from the bush to drink at the river. To me the sequences we filmed with Amelia and the horses perfectly encapsulated the unique beauty of Utopia and have ended up being some of my favourite shots from my time at the The Feed.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why?
I was completely floored by S-Town earlier this year and I’m so excited by the boom in audio journalism and storytelling. It’s such an intimate medium that has this amazing ability to make people feel like they’re a part of this podcasting community where they are connected to the creators.

What skills have gotten you to where you are — and what do you want to learn next?
I try to make sure that each piece of work is better than the last and for me that’s meant embracing the fact that I’ll never really be done learning. I now really look forward to working with new producers or alongside other shooters and filmmakers as everyone brings something different to the table and I want to sponge up as much as I can. As far as what I’d love to keep developing my skill-set as a shooter/director by making a range of of content for all kinds of platforms.

What made you choose visual journalism?
I’ve always loved the power that video has to reach out and grab people. Knowing that the right shot can be the difference in someone engaging with a story or scrolling past on their newsfeed is incredibly motivating and I spend a lot of time on shoots trying to think of a new to get that shot or film that sequence.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for the future?
Sometimes the stories that make the biggest splash can come from the most unexpected places and I love that a simple profile piece on a local author or a musician now has just as many opportunities to reach audiences as a big budget production. I hope that as budgets get tighter and audiences become more fragmented, the investment in finding and telling these stories won’t disappear.

Nick Wray, BuzzFeed Australia

Entry: What is Privilege?, This 11-Year-Old Wants To Make Life Easier for Trans Kids, Sister Girls of the Tiwi Islands

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
The day that Donald Trump called BuzzFeed a failing pile of garbage was pretty exciting, mainly due to my Dad calling me to ask: “Is that who you work for?” And I’m like, “Yeah Dad … almost been here for three years now.”

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
For me the most exciting piece of journalism was a series of investigations by our former Indigenous Affairs reporter, Allan Clarke, looking into the death of aboriginal teenager Mark Haines in 1988. Through Allan’s reporting the family was able to get a cold case reopened. Watching an investigation unfold before our eyes was quite incredible.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
It’s not just about skill. I can shoot and edit, sure, but i think the most important thing is to be curious and collaborative. Do the internships, help friends out on shoots or projects, do as much as you can in media while you’re young and in school or university and learn from that. As vital as college and university is, in this field, the majority of skills are gained from being thrown in the deep end and learning on the go.

What do you like best about your preferred medium of storytelling? / What made you choose (written/visual/audio) journalism?
What I like best about visual storytelling is that a lot of people are opting to watch rather than read news at the moment, and if you’re publishing directly into social media — like we are to Facebook — it gives me an opportunity to reach a big and broad audience here in Australia, but also aboard. To me, visual storytelling is easily one of the most digestible forms of media. I like the challenge of having to think about how to convey a lot of information about, say, the marriage equality debate or the government’s higher education policy, really quickly in a way that educates and informs people but also entertains them, ’cause they want watch it if it’s boring.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
My hopes for the future are for journalists to be nicer to each other on Twitter. My fears, journalistic freedom being lost.


Category: Shortform

Category sponsor: ABC

Primrose Riordan, Australian Financial Review

Entry: Sam Dastyari pledges to support China on South China Sea beside Labor donor, China’s local emperor Huang Xiangmo says politics just like sport, Sam Dastyari-linked political donor resigns from Bob Carr institute after major review

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
I think AP’s Seafood from Slaves investigation, which won a Pulitzer Prize, was an incredible investigation. The reporting sparked a conversation in the west about slavery in supply chains — an issue now under examination in Australia — and really hit home for consumers. I was really impressed with the scope of the pieces. Reporters talked to numerous sources and got their hands on loads of documents to add credibility to their pieces.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
I would say it is more an attitude of persistence rather than a particular skill is behind getting me to where I am! I have definitely learnt to be a lot better at things like news writing, writing for online social media, etc., but I have a long way to go. I also would like to learn more about coding and multimedia.

I think the most important thing, however, is honing your news sense and finding a yarn, more than any defined “skill” — two things I hope to get better at.

What do you like best about your preferred medium of storytelling? / What made you choose (written/visual/audio) journalism?
I like working in print because you don’t have to mess around with audio or video editing! I have done some radio in the past, and the editing drove me a bit nuts.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
I still think it’s the best job in the world. You get the privilege of speaking to some of the most interesting and often delightfully odd people. I also love the thrill of finding out something new.

The biggest fear I have at the moment is from seeing people in their 30s and 40s leave the profession early due to pressures on media companies. Everything I know about finding stories and avoiding mistakes I’ve learnt from older and more experienced reporters. Having experienced reporters around is essential for quality journalism.

Tyla Harrington, Vivienne Duck, Rusty Woodger, Riverine Herald

Entry: Murder on the Murray

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
Tyla:
I have been lucky enough to get into two mentoring programs — one run by Melbourne Press Club and the other by the MEAA. As someone who has only worked on smaller country papers, a day at the Herald Sun was amazing — seeing the size of the operation, attending the main news conference and seeing how it all comes together on a daily basis.

Rusty: My work producing a couple of documentaries before I got my cadetship was a highlight but being part of a newsroom on a daily basis is a buzz all of its own. Even when you are not working on the big stories, you are still helping around the edges and watching it unfold. Then when we got to work on the biggest regional crime story of the year, all that observing paid off — and by working with journos from other organisations it was as much a fast-track learning curve as it was a dramatic and at times chilling assignment.

Vivienne: I have only been working as a journalist for seven months, so to be part of such a major story as this murder was not really something they can teach you at work experience or university. But fortunately I was part of a good team and we overlapped for three days — from the murder scene in Moama to the courthouse in Deniliquin and livestreaming police media briefings, we were at it for five days solid. They were long days but our coverage was the best of them all, and our work was being run by every major news website and paper.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
We have handled some big stories up here, from a double drug murder to deaths in the Southern 80, Australia’s biggest waterski competition. Most recently we had the appalling tragedy of a young mother who allegedly murdered one of her children and tried to kill the other. In all these stories our newspaper set the national agenda. As I was involved in the two waterski stories and the most recent murder as deputy editor, it was high-octane journalism that required us to remain objective and focused through 72 hours of the most terrible news and updates. But at the other end of the scale I was the founding editor of Bella magazine, a bi-monthly 80pp glossy women’s magazine inserted into the Riverine Herald and the feature stories the three of us write for that are entertaining, emotionally draining, funny and inspiring and we all love it — Tyla Harrington

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
Tyla:
I started as a first year cadet straight out of high school and learnt on the job, covering every aspect of media. But initially it was my digital work which prompted our group editor to offer me a role as digital editor at the Riverine Herald. From there I have been given a lot of opportunities and support to keep progressing. But I think what has served me best is my ability to listen, and to see how everyone else goes about their job. I am always looking to increase my digital skills.

Rusty: I think the work I did before I started in Echuca and the things I have been taught since I got there have been great. But I do think my general knowledge, my interest in all news and studying what all sorts of people do in their craft has been a big help. And listening a lot to the more experienced members of our team has kept my training going. I have done some work here with on camera news bulletins and that has a lot of appeal.

Vivienne: University gave me an introduction, but nothing like what I have been able to learn since I started work. I think my speed is an asset, I am well-organised and have no trouble matching priorities to deadlines. I currently cover two papers, have been learning layout and subbing and have already had discussions with the group editor about getting my own paper to run, which would be pretty cool.

What do you like best about your preferred medium of storytelling?
Tyla:
I love writing, especially features, doing series, the more words and the more space the better. I have always loved writing, and while digital has its appeal, nothing compares to seeing your work in black and white. I only ever wanted to work in newspapers.

Rusty: Newspapers are great as you get to tell the whole story, not some truncated version. But I would like to think in the next few years I will get to try a lot of different types of coverage before I make any long-term decisions about where I focus. And I came here because everyone told me a country paper was the best place to start. They were right.

Vivienne: I enjoy digital, but it doesn’t compare to seeing a front-page lead, a major feature or a series in a magazine — and we get to do all of that here. Our magazines are award winners, so our many of our journalists and photographers and it’s all brilliant. I look forward to becoming good at page design and subbing as well as improving my writing. And I agree with Rusty about starting on a country paper.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
Tyla:
Our editor has been in the industry for more than 40 years and tries to make us believe he worked in the days of hot metal. But I love the history he has been able to share with us. And I love writing, the people you meet, the stories you hear and the access the industry offers as I am a professional sticky beak. Where we all will end up I don’t know but I think country papers have a fair bit left in them yet.

Rusty: I love the variety and I doubt there are many workplaces which are as crazy and as entertaining as a newsroom. Well ours is certainly crazy anyway. I think Tyla is right about country papers, and I believe there will always be an opening for good storytelling — and that I will be part of it.

Vivienne: I love this job and don’t want to get antsy about the future when I haven’t even finished my cadetship. Our newsroom is a hoot, everyone gets on really well and we have some serious characters. And I think the others are right, there will be a future for us — I just don’t know in what medium.

Tom Minear, Herald Sun

Entry: “Minister’s dog act”, “Gone to the dogs”, “Boned”

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
I spent a year as the Herald Sun’s animal reporter and convinced my picture editor to let me buy a GoPro harness to strap on a guide-dog puppy and film it playing with other dogs — that was pretty great. I couldn’t shake the round even when I started covering state politics, and will never forget when I got a minister to tell me about how cute his dogs were, before he admitted he got his taxpayer-funded driver to chauffeur them around.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
The Herald Sun’s 1am special edition after the deadly Brighton siege. Within just a few hours after the terrorist attack, the team produced five pages of comprehensive coverage which exclusively revealed the killer’s identity, his involvement in a previous terror plot and that he was on parole. Our coverage — which also continued constantly online — set the agenda and has already spurred major national reforms to bolster the fight against terror.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
I’ve always been good at finding nuggets in reports and documents and budgets, and I’ve worked hard at making sure my copy is clean, clear and gives readers context. Covering politics, the most important thing is developing strong contacts, so that’s an ongoing challenge working in the hyper-competitive Canberra gallery.

What do you like best about your preferred medium of storytelling?
I like the power of print to set the agenda with hard-hitting, well-researched journalism produced and curated by a team — reporters, editors, photographers, subs, designers. Even in 2017, I don’t think anything gets people talking more than a strong tabloid front page. I’ve always loved writing so it was natural to want to work in print and online, but in this day and age, it’s important to be capable across as many media as possible.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
Good journalism drives the conversations that dominate our lives. It makes you laugh and cry, holds the powerful to account, sparks debate and creates change. The media through which this is delivered are changing rapidly and it’s really hard seeing the industry lose so many talented professionals with years of experience and knowledge. But I reckon society will always need journalists to find and tell the stories that need to be told.


Category: Student

Category sponsor: Macleay College

Jessica Cortis, Nepali Times and personal blog

Entry: Healing Langtang, Forget Me Not, Trending: Australian education

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
Being shown around the Channel Seven studio by Mark Ferguson and visiting the Australian Embassy in Nepal to speak with the Australian Ambassador would have to be my highlights so far.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
I watched John Pilger’s documentary Utopia and knew from then that I had to be a journalist. He uncovers truths about government and Indigenous Australians and lives by the motto that journalists must seek to understand hidden agendas that are surrounded in messages. I think this documentary says a lot about how far Australia has really come in ‘bridging the gap’.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
I think my inquisitive nature and ability to connect with people has allowed me to uncover some interesting and serious stories. I want to work on playing with the structure of my stories so I can best communicate the experiences of my sources and do them justice.

What do you like best about your preferred medium of storytelling?
As I am a student, the main medium has been written journalism. However, I have experimented with video stories and warm to the idea of telling stories through audio and vision. I think this allows more emotion to be evoked. In the future, I hope to learn more about documentary production and explore new ways of telling stories.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
Someone once said to me that the soul of democracy is conversation and that conversation is journalism. This made me realise the crucial role that journalists have in informing and communicating important information. In a world where fake news and misinformation has threatened the integrity of journalism, my hope is that journalists continue to remain ethical, transparent, and most of all, use their words to spark change rather than just transmitting information.

Emily Smith, University of Technology Sydney and The Sydney Morning Herald

Entry: “Better Prisons?, Rheumatic Heart Disease in Australia, Good news for Azalyiah Sole as National Disability Insurance Scheme rolls out in NSW

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
I managed to talk my way into getting a media pass for the inauguration of the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, in 2015. He is an incredible celebrated and decisive figure in the country. It was interesting to see how the first indigenous leader of Bolivia was received by his supporters.

Share a piece of journalism you’re most excited about, and tell us why.
I am excited about the collaborative online interactive stories produced by Fairfax Media and Four Corners. Power and Influence (Nick McKenzie, Sashka Koloff and Anne Davies) has been an exciting example of the effective amalgamation of media and media outlets to tell a story crucial to Australia’s democracy. It’s exciting to see journalists collaborate to question the world’s most powerful political parties, and do so in an innovative way.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
For the past few years, I have worked to develop a range of skills across videography, photography, radio and writing. Video skills are particularly valued in the industry at the moment. My ability to use a camera and edit using both Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro have opened many doors.

What do you like best about your preferred medium of storytelling?
It’s very difficult to chose a preferred medium because I use all three across different workplaces. Though it’s probably the medium in which I’m the least proficient, I have a deep affection for photography. It’s a great challenge to communicate a story, perspective or emotion just through still images. It’s something I hope to improve.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
I love having the opportunity to discover and share new information, hidden truths and perspectives. Like most journos, I hope that the industry can find a way forward so that it remains valued and financially viable. But my greatest fear of all is discovering that after a killer interview, I didn’t press the “record” button. I hope is that I never do that (again).

Christiane Barro, Mojo News, Monash University

Entry: ‘I would have sat every day of those 20 years in jail’, It’s not our fault: Dole recipients say they’re not bludging the system, ‘It’s safer for everyone’: heroin addicts plead for a safe injecting room

Tell us about one of the most interesting moments in your career so far.
It has been speaking to people from all walks of life, hearing their stories and appreciating their perspective.

What skills have gotten you to where you are, and what do you want to learn next?
My ability to identify story opportunities, have initiative, build trust and get reluctant sources to speak has helped me advance in my career. I look forward to continuing to grow and develop these skills.

What made you choose written journalism?
Written journalism has allowed me to tell stories that might not be as visually appealing but serve the public interest.

What do you love about journalism? What are your hopes and fears for its future?
I love that as a journalist, I am able to hold people and institutions accountable for their words or actions and as cliché as it sounds, give voice to the voiceless. Despite the crisis facing journalism, I remain hopeful about its future.


Winners for the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards will be announced July 26, 2017, at the Walkleys’ Mid-Year Awards Celebration.


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