Debra Jopson wins the 2014 Walkley Best Freelance Journalist of the Year Award, presented by Newzulu

Sydney-based freelance journalist Debra Jopson was tonight honoured as the best freelance journalist in Australia for 2014 for her “significant and sensitive” stories published across a range of media publications and platforms.


Debra Jopson has worked as a journalist in Melbourne, Hong Kong, London and Sydney, specialising in indigenous affairs, health and rural affairs as well as major investigations.

After working as a journalist for “mainstream” outlets, Jopson said over the past 18 months she had committed herself to producing in-depth pieces as a freelancer, mainly for start-ups that “pay contributors properly”.

She said her four stories, published in print and online, represented a body of work requiring “an amount of time and which effort most media outlets will no longer support”.

Jopson’s award-winning work covered diverse topics including ASIO, Tennant Creek’s indigenous housing crisis, misuse of housing funds, and the loss of indigenous rock art, and appeared in:

Jopson was awarded $3000 cash as well as tickets to the 2014 Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism (December 4) and Storyology (December 1 to 4).

Judges Narelle Hooper, Andrew Meares and Fran Molloy said Jopson’s entry displayed a diversity of significant and sensitive stories in a range of publications and made use of multimedia platforms.

“Her experience shines through in her sympathetic reporting of indigenous and political issues from an independent stance, and her courageous exposure of injustice without compromising the dignity of her subjects,” they said.

Freelance journalists Philip Dorling and Claire Stewart were named finalists in the award.

“Using a combination of confidential sources and careful analysis of masses of publicly available information, Phil has risked criminal penalties through his reporting on national security issues,” judges said.

“(Claire’s) journalism was powerful for its strength, diversity and humanity and its impact was maximised through collaboration with travelling companion photographer Andrew Quilty.”

The judges said work submitted for the awards by a strong and diverse field of entrants ranged from travel stories, to in-depth personal and community profiles, political exposes and heart-warming stories across visual, print, online and broadcast media.

“The quality of entries was very high, and gave real insights into the breadth of work covered by the freelancers who are responsible for an increasing amount of published journalism in this country,” they said.

“Freelance journalists often work solo, with little support from their publishers, often no guarantee of publication or remuneration and with few resources at their disposal, making the quality of these submissions even more remarkable.

“The entries for this award showed that our freelance journalists play an increasingly essential role in today’s fast-changing media landscape.”

Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) federal secretary Christopher Warren said the more than 40 entries in this year’s awards indicated the very high standards of freelance journalism in Australia.

“Freelancers continue to conduct ground-breaking investigations and break major news stories that enrich our communities, ensure the powerful are held to account and help inform debate,” Warren said.

“Debra’s work is clearly a standout in a very talented field that shows the wealth and depth of high-quality freelance journalism.”