2017 Award Winners

Best News Story

Sponsored by VFF

Commended: Ballarat Christian Brothers ‘mislead police’ over abuse, Charlotte King, ABC News Online

Judge’s comments: King successfully locates an original, disturbing and significant news angle buried not only deep in time, but in a mountain of documents released by the Child Sexual Abuse Royal Commission. She didn’t follow the media pack, but instead sought to find a story that would both serve her local audience and help shape the national discussion.

Highly Commended: Barnaby Joyce on receiving end of SA minister’s tirade, Natalie Kotsios, The Weekly Times

Judge’s comments: Kotsios’ exclusive report ignited a political firestorm. It’s an example of a journalist working sources to confirm minor-though shocking- details of a significant private meeting. In this case, a politician’s use of profane language against political friends and foes alike while negotiating the management of the Murray Darling Basin. The story details (such as the Ministers’ ice cream consumption) that help create an engrossing image of the event.

Winner: MedsASSIST Loopholes, Bridget Judd, ABC South West Victoria

Judges comments: Judd invested a large amount of time researching the illegal proliferation of over-the-counter drugs and earning the trust of an addict, ultimately convincing them to tell their personal story. This effort paid off in an engaging piece, which used a hyper-local lens to explore an issue of national significance. The lengthy report is held together by a strong narrative structure, sharp writing, an assured delivery and the exceptional use of natural sound and music.

Best Feature Story – Broadcast

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: Naloxone barriers, Bridget Judd, ABC South West Victoria

Judge’s comments: Bridget’s radio feature addressed opioid addiction in Victoria and investigated the use of Naloxone, an opioid overdose ‘antidote’, using local and global experiences. It was a well-crafted, thoughtful piece of journalism.

Highly Commended: Global efforts to eradicate hunger, Brett Worthington, ABC RN Country Breakfast

Judge’s comments: Brett’s feature shed a new light on a worthy topic, through the use of remarkable face-to-face actuality from cattle herders in South Sudan, agripoliticians in the US and researchers in Australia. It took us from the poorest of farming countries to one of the richest, and looked at the challenges for ensuring food security for all.

Winner: Pipis and prejudice, Fiona Pepper, ABC RN Off Track

Judge’s comments: Fiona’s feature on pipi harvesting in Venus Bay, and the resentment of the townspeople towards crowds of Asian families coming from Melbourne to take their resource, was a beautifully crafted, intelligent and entertaining radio feature. The use of natural sound and descriptive language transports the listener to Venus Bay, and the selection of articulate interview talent to flesh out the angels in the story and offer humour and frank insights was testament to the reporter’s skill.

Best Feature Story – non daily newspapers

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: Lest We Forget, Natalie MacGregor, The Spectator

Judge’s comments: Almost 50 years after fighting in the Vietnam War, Hamilton man Anthony Wright made the return trip with wife Erin. MacGregor’s story captured the essence of the relationship between this couple, and the scars that Vietnam caused so many. Tightly written MacGregor still ensured the emotion of the event was understood by the reader.

Highly Commended: Not awarded

Winner: Beyond Silence, Tara Fry, Hamilton The Spectator

Judge’s comments: With this piece Fry takes us into the world of a father and daughter, both suffering from bipolar. She demonstrates an attribute of all good journalists in the writing of this story: the ability to build rapport. It’s a tough story to write, and one she clearly took care with.

Best Feature Story – daily and state based newspapers

Sponsored by Coles

Commended: Sold down the river, Christopher Testa, Sunraysia Daily

Judge’s comments: Testa charts the challenges (BAHK-uhn-jee) Paakantji man Graham Clarke’s Mungo National Park tour business faced, when he was priced out of the competition by the New South Wales government. He could have quite easily just got carried away with the story opportunity and made it an all guns blazing rant but he kept it controlled and balanced which I think in the end was a strength of the feature.

Highly Commended: The final days of Glenn Sanders, Matt Neal, The Warrnambool Standard

Judge’s comments: Neal spent a week in the coronial inquest into the death of Derrinallum man Glenn Sanders, who died in an explosion during a stand-off with police in 2014. Neal did a great job of summing up five days of coronial inquest, with a writing style that transcends the day-to-day approach to court reporting.

Winner: James McLure’s Journey, Greg Dundas, Geelong Advertiser

Judge’s comments: Feature writing is about bringing out the character and personality of the person while telling their story and Dundas achieved that with his piece on James McClure. The story charts the gifted sportsman’s near-20-year battle with mental health issues , most notably depression and schizophrenia. The feature also has the added benefit of helping individuals and families who read it – showing them there is hope if they get help.

Best Feature Series – non-daily newspapers

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: Tyrendarra’s centenary of celebration, Benjamin Fraser, Portland Observer and Guardian

Judge’s comments: The series of articles leading up to and then reporting on the 100th Tyrendarra show rekindle memories of when shows were the centrepiece of local communities. The articles succeeded in showing how one small rural community had defied the odds to maintain and grow its show. The series has a happy ending with 4000 visitors to the event revealing that some old-time symbols of local community success are still in force.

Highly commended: Wimmera Young Farmers, Erin Witmitz, Wimmera Farmer

Judge’s comments: Farming is the cornerstone of the economy in the Wimmera. Often the image of farmers is of a weather-beaten older men but this feature highlights the next crop of farmers. By using personal profile stories, presented in a simple but effective manner, the series connects well with the local farming community, and gives those who aren’t working in agriculture an appreciation of why those that do enjoy the lifestyle and the challenge.

Winner: Hazelwood Through the Years, Stephanie Charalambous, Jarrod Whittaker, Paul Grant, Bryce Eishold and Farrah Plummer, Latrobe Valley Express

Judge’s comments: The changing importance and differing community attitudes towards the Hazelwood power station is nicely captured in this well written, illustrated and designed historic liftout. A timeline of events recognises the important milestones, but the photos and personal stories really tell the story. Not only does the series reflect the importance of the station, it successfully captures the changing times of the region.

Best Feature Series – daily and state based newspapers

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: What becomes of the broken hearted, Nigel McNay, Border Mail

Judge’s comments: The newspaper and author must be congratulated on taking up this issue. It is a fine example of a newspaper’s responsibility to be the voice of those unable to speak out. These series of articles are well written and well researched with the writer giving us a view from every angle. A comprehensive and excellent coverage of this important social topic. The outcomes should be another feature in the making.

Highly commended: Fraud on the Menu, Alexandra Sampson, The Weekly Times

Judge’s comments: The author introduces us to this serious issue with a hard news piece then provides us with a captivating insight into series fraud on restaurant and cafe menus. The headline writer and layout designer have enhanced the impact with their creativity. But it is great writing, with the author’s ability to weave in different threads of information, that must be congratulated.

Winner: Murray Darling Revolution, Natalie Kotsios, The Weekly Times

Judge’s comments: An extremely well written, well researched and captivating feature series. The Murray Darling Basin is the lifeblood of the nation and this excellent feature series gives us a fascinating insight into the initial formation of the plan, combined with a balanced view of responses from those who depend on the system for their livelihood. Kotsios’ comprehensive research is commendable but it is her ability to transform this into a great piece of writing that makes it a standout.

Best Campaign

Sponsored by TAC

Commended: Australian Wool Industry, Annabelle Cleeland, Farmonline

Judge’s comments: Annabelle Cleeland’s series of hard hitting articles on Australian Wool Innovation shone a light on how the corporation spends its funds and helped drive a national campaign to ensure greater scrutiny and accountability of the group’s investments and executive payouts. As a result, the AW1 is now being held to closer account to ensure it delivers genuine progress on research and development in the wool industry.

Highly commended: Pride, Tara Fry, Hamilton Spectator

Judge’s comments: Through its positive and prominent stories in support of Hamilton’s Pride and Inclusion Day, The Spectator sent a powerful message to the community: Being gay is okay. The paper’s front page articles featuring personal stories from the local LGBTI community, demonstrating a firm commitment to promoting inclusiveness and equality. The Spectator’s leading role in the campaign resulted in businesses across the town joining in to show their support by decorating shopfronts in a sea of rainbow colours.

Winner: #Homesafe, Andrew Eales, Australian Community Media

Judge’s comments: Hashtag homesafe turned the traditional and somewhat tired road safety message into an engaging, innovative, multi-masthead, multi-platform campaign. It told raw stories from victims, families, emergency services and medical specialists using digital storytelling tools to combine words, images and video. Victims’ stories were also detailed in an interactive online map created to put a face and a name to road fatality statistics.

Best Multi-Media

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: Not awarded

Highly commended: Mass of memory: music heals battle scars, Mark Kearney, The Bendigo Advertiser

Judge’s comments: A beautiful and moving piece of work that powerfully uses audio, in the form of requiem music, and video interviews, to convey the depth of grief borne as a result of the WWII battle of Iwo Jimo. Well researched, with historical facts supported by photos and videos from that era. Excellent use of graphics to support the text and video elements. Great work.

Winner: Central Victoria floods, Bendigo Advertiser, The Bendigo Advertiser

Judge’s comments: The Bendigo public should be proud to be served by this news outlet. Its outstanding coverage of the 2016 floods demonstrably impacted the community for the better. The entry demonstrated the integration of print and online coverage, using high-quality traditional news writing and photography, plus real-time blogging, video reports, Facebook and Twitter. The entry also draw on the data reporting available from social platforms to demonstrate the reach and impact of their coverage within the community. Exceptional work.

Best on Farm Story

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: A cut above, James Wagstaff, The Weekly Times

Judge’s comments: The largest non-corporate Wagyu operation in Australia is a story in itself, and this article pursed many angles of the Mayura business which breeds, fattens, kills and then markets its own beef, and even has its own tasting room. The story is full of figures and information about the impressive business, and the story was so intriguing it was picked up by CNN Hong Kong, which ran a piece on Mayura the following week, as well as Forbes magazine.

Highly commended: Geddes growing gains, Annabelle Cleeland, Farm Online

Judge’s comments: How farmers change their enterprises to be more profitable always provides a good read and this story is no exception. The Geddes have totally reassessed their operation and now even breed their own rams as it makes dollars – and sense. The story covered many aspects of a complex operation but offered several take home messages which could be of use.

Winner: Calf rearing choices reap rewards, Carlene Dowie, The Australian Dairyfarmer

Judge’s comments: This is a fascinating story of how one dairy farming couple recognised they had a problem, sought advice and made changes. It is full of detail and costings, and presents a how to manual for other farmers to tackle the same challenges. The story was well written and followed a logical path. This is the kind of story that will evoke changes in the industry

Best Agribusiness Story

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: Share farmer, Peter Hemphill, The Weekly Times

Judge’s comments: Hemphill sets out to answer the question: ‘Would a farmer be better off toiling away on a farm all their life or putting their money into a share portfolio?” This piece demonstrated strong analysis – approaching the topic from a long-term angle. A lot of work went into it.

Highly commended: Dairy’s big bust, Brett Worthington, ABC Rural

Judge’s comments: This online feature provides in-depth analysis of the dairy industry at a time when it was sorely needed. It expands on the issue of opening milk prices, clawback mechanisms and dollar-litre milk macroeconomics, and the prospect of big business in dairy.

Winner: Fonterra’s trump card, Simone Smith, The Weekly Times

Judge’s comments: Smith’s analysis of Fonterra’s opening milk price, in an era of enormous change in the dairy industry, was timely, thorough, and captivating analysis. This strong article shows Smith’s superior knowledge and understanding of the industry. A provocative piece that elicited a strong response from the audience. This article provided economic analysis and shed light on a confusing and emotional situation. It said what many were thinking, but few dared to say.

Best Sports Story

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: GVFL Hall of Fame, Andrew Mole, Riverine Herald

Judge’s comments: Excellent depictions of three who received the Goulburn Valley league’s highest honour. You get a real sense, especially, of John Haw’s personality, and what life was like as a country footballer.

Highly commended: The club that said “I do” to marriage equality, Mark Kearney, Bendigo Advertiser

Judge’s comments: The story has a superb opening, with Matt Keane’s recollection about the day he quit footy. Kearney did an excellent job of prompting the reader to consider the social changes in football in recent years. And he was clearly respectful in reporting a sensitive issue.

Winner: Geelong’s A-League bid, Ryan Reynolds, Geelong Advertiser

Judge’s comments: Reynolds did well to break the story, given that the consortium would have gained more purchase if its plans had been reported in the metro media. It was this story that more than any other among the final entries that informed readers of something they did not know, and it would have sparked much discussion around water coolers in Geelong and beyond.

Best Sports Photography

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: Flying Reed, Jay Town, Geelong Advertiser

Judge’s comments: A classic photograph, nicely achieved with all the elements in place. You don’t get much time photographing cricket, especially when it’s a fast bowler!

Highly commended: Slippery contest, Tammy Brown, Colac Herald

Judge’s comments: What a mess! A sports photograph becomes a news picture when like this it highlights a matter warranting urgent community attention. (The need to upgrade the playing surface of the Birregurra Recreation Reserve)

Winner: All or nothing, Kate Healy, The Courier

Judge’s comments: I love sports photography when it turns into ballet. This picture is that rare beast when action and symmetry combine to make a satisfying image of a decisive moment.

Best News Photography

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: Hazelwood closure 2016-17, Hayley Mills, Latrobe Valley Express

Judge’s comments: A very simple but powerful photograph. Simplicity to my mind is the essence of a good, strong newspaper picture.

Highly commended: Honey, I flooded the car, Jay Town, Geelong Advertiser

Judge’s comments: An extraordinary picture of a remarkable event. It has great impact because it is a dramatic, totally unexpected sight. It invites you to write your own back-story- how did the car get into the water?

Winner: Worker relief, Josh Nash, Portland Observer

Judge’s comments: A stand out winner, embraces everything a good press photograph should be. It has impact and tells a story. Love the fact that it looks like a real slice of life and not a staged picture. No on is looking at the the camera and the emotion of the moment is so very obvious. It even has the Prime Minister in the photo joining in wholeheartedly. Photography is all about capturing the “decisive moment” as famously said by one of the greatest photographers Henri Cartier Bresson. And this picture achieves that.

Best General Interest Photography

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: Casper, Jay Town, Geelong Advertiser

Judge’s comments: A simple, beautiful evocative photograph. I liked this picture very much.

Highly commended: Goodbye Norma Jean, Glenn Daniels, Bendigo Advertiser

Judge’s comments: A nice bit of fun. Sometimes the job of the photographer is to be patient and wait for that special moment, as Glenn has achieved here.

Winner: Boxing Day Best, Billy-jay Easson, Hamilton Spectator

Judge’s comments: Billy-jay has really got that peak moment. Thankfully it’s impossible to stage a photograph like this. The press photographers job is to be award and ready to capture that split second. A wonderful joyful photograph! A classic “1000” words” photograph.

Ray Frawley Young Journalist of the Year

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended: Tara Fry, Hamilton Spectator

Judge’s comments: Tara was skilful in seeking out local stories to illustrate two issues that are front page in the national dailies – mental illness and same sex marriage. She told the stories of people in her district compassionately but without drama, in a way that would have prompted local discussion and left a powerful impression.

Highly commended: Christopher Testa, Sunraysia Daily

Judge’s comments: Chris’s work is first rate, with an obvious commitment to accuracy, research and balance. He lets the facts stand for themselves but has a clear grasp of local issues and their implications on a state and national level. His work on the closure of a regional training college was well constructed, his coverage of discrimination on the basis of hair style showed a mature approach, and his coverage of a complex local planning issue simplified it for the readers. A valuable reporter for any outlet.

Winner: Bridget Judd, ABC South West Victoria

Judge’s comments: Bridget delivered three very mature examples on subject matter that maintained a local flavour but had an impact far wider. Listeners were drawn in by her skill in developing the story and using radio craft to maintain interest and ensure the flow of the interviews. The subject matter of opioid addiction and suicide is very challenging and emotive. For Bridget to gain confidence of her interviewees to divulge intimate details of the effects on their lives was great work. She has the touch and the talent to go a long way in journalism.

Photographer of the Year

Sponsored by RPCV

Commended; Glenn Daniels, Bendigo Advertiser

Judge’s comments: Glen is obviously very close to the local community and it shows in his 3 photographs of events and situations that are a big part of the challenge of rural life.

Highly commended: Dale Webster, The Weekly Times

Judge’s comments: 3 uncomplicated photographs with no distracting elements. Showing a variety of emotions in a clear unambiguous way. Always makes for a good press photograph.

Winner: Jay Town, Geelong Advertiser

Judge’s comments: A very hard decision to make. A press photographers’ job is to portray the essence of a situation so that it can be grasped immediately by the reader. Jay produced a consistently good range of photographs.

Journalist of the Year

Sponsored by RACV

Commended: Adam Holmes, Bendigo Advertiser

Judge’s comments: Holmes has tackled challenging stories; from access to abortion to family violence. He has earned the trust of his informers, and delicately told intimate stories. Journalists are charged with sharing experiences their audiences would otherwise struggle to comprehend. Holmes has executed this task.

Highly commended: Greg Dundas, Geelong Advertiser

Judge’s comments: Dundas’ 20 years of experience working in regional newspapers comes through in his writing. Articulate and concise writing, his stories hold audiences from opening par to conclusion. His writing is a guide for developing writers, and judges encourage those wanting to improve their writing, to check out his alternative approach to print.

Winner: Simone Smith, The Weekly Times

Judge’s comments: Dairy has been one of the biggest talking points in the last year – so it makes sense for the top gong to go to such a respected dairy reporter. The judges value how accessible Smith’s agricultural journalism is to the wider audience. Smith has worked her industry contacts for these stories and then always valued added by getting a human perspective to support the hard news. Smith’s dairy reporting in an unprecedented year has been ahead of the pack, accessible and resulted in processors being held to account.

Media Outlet of the Year

Sponsored by CFA

Commended: Latrobe Valley Express

Judge’s comments: Where would the Latrobe Valley community be without the Express? In the dark. The paper that always punches above its weight continues to ask the questions of a State Government that the community wants answered. It has never been afraid to ask tough questions, but it has also shown a variety in its reporting style to keep coverage fresh. This includes highlighting positive changes in a district where good news is always welcome.

Commended: ABC Gippsland

Judge’s comments: All journalists working in Gippsland have had a tough year reporting on a series of economic body blows to the region. The coverage by local ABC team ‘broke’ many of the major news streams picked up by the state and national media, providing an excellent case-study not only of persistence, but also of the effective use of multi-media and multi-platform delivery.

Highly commended: Sunraysia Daily

Judge’s comments: All regional media outlets are well embedded into their local communities, so it comes down to that ‘extra mile’. The effort put into a high quality entry mirrors this team’s pride in its professionalism and its news and feature capabilities. The ‘extra mile’ was a fantastic whole-of-staff effort to create a special Sunday edition to provide the Sunraysia district with a full and gripping coverage of a devastating storm last November.

Winner: Bendigo Advertiser

Judge’s comments: The Bendigo Advertiser is a fierce advocate for its community, but that doesn’t mean it won’t challenge its readers, and it will always stand behind its decisions some find controversial. The depth and quality of its journalism and the creativity in design is a feature of the printed paper and online. It has clearly worked hard to create not just a presence, but a relationship, with the Bendigo community, and has been rewarded by an increase in print readership and a surge in online traffic.