Walkley Young Australian Journalist Awards open — with changes

Australia’s most prestigious awards for young journalists are set to change this year, in line with the major shifts within the media industry.

The Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards, now in their 10th year, will place more emphasis on digital knowhow and creativity, while still encouraging and rewarding traditional skills, such as dogged research and nimble storytelling.

Award categories will no longer be based on the medium in which an entrant’s work has been published or broadcast — such as print, radio or TV. Each of the seven categories will be “all media” categories.

In an effort to broaden the awards’ appeal and to reflect current working conditions for young journalists, the age cap for entrants will now be raised from 26 and under to 28 and under.

To make the awards even more accessible and valuable to a diverse range of young reporters, a philanthropic grant from the Jibb Foundation will subsidise a drop in entry fee from $150 per entry to $50. (Entry remains free for MEAA union members and in the Student category.) The Jibb Foundation’s funding will also support a bumped-up prize for the overall Young Australian Journalist of the Year award winner, now to be a two-week trip to US newsrooms, and a mentorship program to further boost promising young careers.

“Recognising and encouraging the next generation of journalists is vital if we want to continue to have a vibrant and robust media industry,” award-winning journalist and Walkley Advisory Board chair Kate McClymont said.

“It’s also important for senior journalists to encourage young colleagues to enter these awards. They might be too shy or modest about their work, so offer your support. Identify what you think is their best work and help them to enter if they need it,” she said.

Entrants can now separately nominate themselves for the overall Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Award, while senior colleagues may also nominate suitable young journalists.

These reforms follow a four-month review in which numerous key media industry players, journalism educators and young journalists from every state and territory provided the Walkley Foundation with stunning insights into the current rate of change for media workers.

Since the previous review in 2013, the competitive pace of newsrooms has accelerated and online and digital work is now central to all journalism, the Foundation found.

The new categories are shortform journalism, longform feature or special, coverage of community and regional affairs, visual storytelling, public service journalism and student journalist of the year.

See full category descriptions and revised terms and conditions at the Walkley Young Journalist of the Year Awards page.

Key dates:

  • Entries open: March 13, 2017
  • Entries close: April 26, 2017
  • Finalists announced: 31 May
  • Winners announced at the Mid Year Awards Ceremony: Wednesday 26 July, Sydney

The Walkley Foundation also today opens entries for the Women’s Leadership in Media Award, the Freelancer of the Year Award and the Jacoby-Walkley Scholarship for aspiring young television journalists.

Media enquiries: Kate Golden, kate.golden@walkleys.com / 02 9333 0951
Awards questions: Lauren Dixon, lauren.dixon@walkleys.com / 02 9333 0913

Revised Categories

Shortform journalism: This award recognises the diverse skills of the journalist — not just for breaking news, but for all the other elements that make a great story under deadline pressure — tenacity, writing ability, accuracy, ethics, research, impact and great storytelling. The emphasis of this award is on solid, gripping reporting and outstanding individual (or small team) efforts in covering a news story. Entries involving scoops and/or a body of work covering one story showing tenacity will be viewed particularly well. Entries in this category may be a single news report or not more than three related reports on the same subject.

Longform feature or special: This award focuses on narrative and/or investigative journalism skills and covers longform print/text pieces totalling 2,000-4,000 words; video or television features and documentaries, radio/audio features and documentaries, including podcasts; and large multimedia projects, including those centred on data journalism. Other elements, such as social media, may form part of the project. Judges will particularly look for work which shines a light, tells a compelling story or provides in-depth analysis and investigation. Entries in this category may be a single report or a series of not more than three related reports.

Coverage of community & regional affairs: This category is open only to journalists working in the suburban or regional media and recognises their role in reporting on and informing their local communities. Regional media shall be taken to include all suburban outlets within major metro centres through to regional and remote outlets. This award is rewarding regional and community journalists so entrants must be based in the communities they are covering not just covering the story. The particular importance of stories to the community or region concerned will count as a judging criterion. Entrants can choose to submit a single piece of work or three pieces of work showcasing a body of work.

Visual storytelling: This award replaces the photography and television/video journalism categories and emphasises the use of camera or graphic skills (sometimes combined with audio) to tell a story. It includes still photography, TV and video journalism and camerawork – and can include sound slides and photo film. It also covers artwork, which includes illustrations, digital photo illustrations, cartoons, or information graphics displaying creativity, innovation and style, combined with artistic technique. Criteria include storytelling, courage, public impact, creativity, innovative use of technology, technical ability and resourcefulness. Entries can include mixed production teams. Entrants can submit a single piece of work, such as a photo-essay or slideshow, or up to three pieces showcasing a body of work.

Public service journalism: This award is similar to the Social Equity Journalism Award, which yearly attracts the most entries in the main Walkleys and aims to celebrate journalism’s role in informing citizens as part of our democratic system. It is about journalism that aims to make a difference, with tangible public benefit to the community.

Journalism which this award encourages can include:

  • Good civic journalism which gives a voice to the voiceless in our community.
  • Journalism which starts a public debate on an important issue.
  • Journalism which exposes incompetence or wrongdoing by those who should be working for the common good, especially in government or any institutions affecting the public.
  • Journalism which points to solutions to important issues within the community or society which it serves.

Entrants can submit a single piece of work or up to three pieces of related work.

Student journalist of the year: This award is open to undergraduate and postgraduate students. The entry does not have to have been previously published or broadcast, but must have been submitted for assessment. Entries that have been published or broadcast will also be accepted. Entrants who have previously worked as a professional journalist are not eligible to enter the award. The award winner and finalists are chosen on the basis of journalistic excellence, including newsworthiness, research, writing, production, incisiveness, impact, ethics, originality, innovation and creative flair. Entrants can choose to submit a single piece of work or three pieces of work showcasing a body of work.

The Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year Award recognises outstanding achievement by a young reporter aged 28 and under. The award winner will receive an amazing opportunity to intern with our media partners in the USA. As in previous years, all winners of other Young Australian Journalist Award categories will be considered for this overall prize. In addition, entrants can self-nominate or be nominated by a third party. Entrants must supply a body of work (up to three stories) and a 400-word statement or testimonial. If you’re nominating someone else, supply a 400-word testimonial and their body of work (up to 3 stories). The $50 entry fee is waived if the entrant has paid to enter another category in the Walkley Young Australian Journalist Awards, or is a MEAA member. If you are nominating someone else, you will have to pay the $50 entry fee unless you are a MEAA member.