Spotlight on: Emily Baker

2022 John B Fairfax Family Young Australian Journalist of the Year

Emily Baker at the Mid-Year Celebration of Journalism in June 2022. Photo: Adam Hollingworth.

Emily Baker, the 2022 John B Fairfax Family Young Australian Journalist of the Year Award won the Public Service category and was also a finalist for Shortform Journalism for her reporting on former Tasmanian politician Adam Brooks. The judges praised her persistence, determination and dedication: ‘These stories may never have come to light otherwise’.

We caught up with Emily about how the story came about, the impact it’s had, and how she got her first taste of journalism at nine years old.

How did you find this story?

Tasmanian political observers were surprised when former MP Adam Brooks was preselected to run for the Liberal Party in the 2021 state election. Although he was popular, he had left the state parliament under a cloud in 2019, and frankly it seemed a desperate grab for his votes. Very early in the campaign different identity documents and dating profiles were floating around rumoured to belong to Adam Brooks but under different names, including Terry and Gav. It was difficult to find people who could verify they really did belong to Adam — he continues to deny any connection, and was backed by the former premier — but once our first story was published I was contacted by a number of women saying they had dated him believing he was a whole other person.

What did it take to get this story up?

This was happening in the middle of a state election, so I was working long days covering the campaign and spending many late nights trying to get to the bottom of this story. Interviewing the women on the record took cooperation between ABC newsrooms in a number of states, and there was a clear defamation risk so our legal team was closely involved in all reporting.

What impact did the story have?

Soon after Adam Brooks was elected, Queensland Police raided his Brisbane apartment and found ammunition, an unregistered hand gun and fake identity documents. He resigned from the state parliament before setting foot back in the chamber. My strong belief is that without these stories and the courage of the women involved that he would be an MP now.

What made you want to be a journalist?

I started doing book reviews at The Examiner newspaper in Launceston when I was in grade three, which was a great way for a nerdy nine-year-old to receive heaps of free books. I did work experience for the first time when I was 13 and started my cadetship at the same paper aged 19.

I was totally in awe of the knowledge of the senior journalists at the newspaper at the time — I so wanted to be Alison Andrews or Fran Voss when I grew up. I loved the warm way they told local stories and how they contributed to my community’s understanding of what was going on.

What are you most proud of about the stories you’ve told?

I feel incredibly fortunate to tell the stories of my beautiful island home, but I am particularly grateful to the people who have trusted me with their most vulnerable, personal moments as part of their effort to make change.

What’s your message to Australians about why quality journalism needs their support?

Good journalism can change lives. It’s as simple as that. Done well, it’s an important level of oversight with the interests of the public at its forefront. Supporting quality journalism sends a message to news organisations that people want to read it, which means more of those stories will be commissioned.

Has anything changed for you as a result of this story and/or this award?

I’m currently on secondment with ABC Investigations, working out of the Sydney office. I’m excited to learn more from some of the best in the business.

Have you thought about what you’ll do with your prize?

I’m still figuring that out! It’s an amazing opportunity and I want to make the most of it.

Anything else you’d like to add?

A big thanks to my amazing sources, colleagues and everyone who has helped me along the way.

Emily Baker is a reporter with the ABC in Hobart. She started her career at The Examiner in 2013 and has worked at The Canberra Times and the Mercury. Emily has been twice named Tasmanian Journalist of the Year and has received awards for health reporting, news and analysis.

Emily’s winning stories

The 2022 John B Fairfax Family Young Australian Journalist of the Year Award is supported by the Jibb Foundation.

The Public Service Journalism category is supported by News Corp Australia.

Note: Adam Brooks has denied that he incorrectly stored ammunition, and Tasmanian Liberal party advisers have also stated that Brooks denies various claims concerning identity documents and dating profiles.

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