Excellence in Journalism
There were nine entries in this category, the same as last year. The calibre of entries was very high, with journalists showcasing their skills in day-to-day reporting and investigative reporting.
Criteria for the award states: “A local news or human-interest story – must be breaking news, delving into an issue in the entrant newspaper’s community.”
Once again, this year’s entries reveal that communities are well-served by their local newspapers. The hard issues, such as health, ambulance staff shortages, homelessness, suicide and the chaos of Covid were all put under the spotlight.
Stories were hard hitting, well-researched and with the community interest at heart.
Picking a winner was not easy. There was some excellent journalism and there could have been three winners…however, I could only pick one. It was so hard it took me two days to make my final decision.
Because of the strength of the entries, I gave two honourable mentions.
They were to:
Lechelle Earl of The SE Voice for coverage of a spate of suicides in the Mount Gambier area. Suicide is a difficult issue to report, but Lechelle did an excellent job. The interview with the wife of a suicide victim was well-written and heartbreaking.
Rhiannon Koch of the Yorke Peninsula Country Times for her series of stories over six months on the medical crisis facing the Yorke Peninsula towns of Minlaton and Maitland. Rhiannon was awarded third place in last year’s judging and she has continued her high standard of reporting. The articles were well-written and researched and shows how a newspaper can back its community.
I awarded first place to Stephanie Thompson of The Murray Pioneer for her excellent work to tell the story of rape victim Heather Wynands. Heather was raped when she was just 16 by a former local chiropractor Robert Linke in 1988. He was sentenced to five years jail in May last year.
It is very rare for a sexual assault victim to speak out in the media, and Stephanie worked hard over several months to gain Heather’s trust.
The story was headed: Justice 33 years in the making. It was a compelling, harrowing read that Heather hopes will inspire other victims of sexual assault to come forward and report the assault to police.
“Let’s stop protecting these predators,” she told Sophie. As a result of the article a version of it was done by ABC online and a national women’s magazine also followed it up. In addition, the story resulted in Heather being given a special Citizen of Courage Award by the local council.
Stephanie’s work certainly met all the criteria for the award.
Second – Elisa Rose, The Courier, for an excellent series on ambulance issues, including long wait times and ramping, in the Adelaide Hills. The series included two in-depth interviews with victims of lengthy wait times – the “human faces” of the crisis.
Elisa’s work is of a consistently high standard – she received an honourable mention in last year’s awards for a series on the devastating Cudlee Creek bushfires.
Over the last few months of last year, Elisa developed relationships and trust with local paramedics who had experience of the issues and were willing to share their stories. The result of developing good contacts, always a must for any journalist, was a hard-hitting series which will make sure the issue is on the political agenda for the State election in three weeks.
Third – Sara Gilligan, the Southern Argus. Through a four-part series, Sara shone a light on the region’s homelessness crisis, as demand for affordable housing and emergency accommodation rises.
Her features revealed a rise of people sleeping rough across the Fleurieu Peninsula, particularly in vehicles and tents.
The wide-ranging, informative and well-researched series unearthed a growing trend for locals seeking housing support and a need for more social housing in remote areas like Milang. It also examined the role of volunteers who offer referrals and the need for early intervention.
Sara also put a “human face” to what is a major issue when she interviewed a local widow on her experience facing homelessness.
Each article included valuable information for people seeking support.
Sara is passionate about reporting social issues and received an honourable mention in last year’s awards for a series of articles raising awareness about domestic violence.