Why we’re retiring the International category from the Walkley Awards

Update: July 12, 2017

We’ve heard concerns from many journalists about the loss of the Walkley Award for international reporting in our recent suite of changes to the awards. If you shared your feedback, thank you. We know how important the Walkley Awards are to journalists and their careers, we share your respect for great foreign correspondence, and we understand your concerns. But the Walkley Advisory Board’s decision is final, and the review process is closed. We’re confident that just as in previous years (as we’ve detailed elsewhere), international reporting will be entered and honoured in other categories. That said, the board will keep an eye on the metrics and revisit if needed before the 2018 awards.

Good luck to all in the Walkleys — entries are open through Aug. 31.


 

Original post: July 3, 2017
Statement from Kate McClymont, Walkley Advisory Board chair 2014–2016, and Angelos Frangopoulos, current chair.

As the Walkley Advisory Board, we are the custodians of the awards. We select the winners, and we work with the Walkley Foundation to review the awards and ensure they reflect the way Australian journalists work today. Our recent review of the Walkley Awards included meetings with key journalists, media organisations and partners across Australia; a survey of past judges; three lively roundtable discussions with working journalists, editors and managers; and a callout for feedback across the industry.

As we said in our recent piece outlining the changes (“Journalism is changing — so the Walkley Awards are, too”): “The conundrum at the centre of this review is that journalists’ skillsets are expanding beyond one medium and new ways of storytelling keep popping up, but categories cannot be constantly added to take this into account. The awards cannot become unwieldy and the quality of journalism required to win a Walkley award cannot be diluted.”

The decision to cut the International Journalism category was not one made lightly, and should not be taken as a statement that we value international journalism less. These stories are critical to our understanding of the world. Foreign correspondents often risk their safety and Australia has a long and proud history of international journalism.

[Read more about how Walkley staff solicited feedback]

The decision has more to do with the fact that international journalism can be entered in any Walkley Award category — and these stories frequently win. Journalists producing international stories won at least 21 Walkleys plus the Gold in the past four years, not including the International category itself or Nikon photography prizes:

 

  • 2013: Investigative, Social Equity, Photographic Essay (and Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year)
  • 2014: Scoop, Radio/Audio News & Current Affairs, Coverage of a Major News Event or Issue, Print/Text Feature Writing Short, TV/AV Camerawork, TV/AV News Reporting (and Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year)
  • 2015: Print/Text Feature Writing Long, Social Equity, TV/AV Daily Current Affairs, TV/AV Weekly Current Affairs, Documentary
  • 2016: Radio/Audio News & Current Affairs, Photographic Essay, TV/AV Weekly Current Affairs, Camerawork, Sport Photography, Press Photographer of the Year, News Photography (won by Andrew Quilty, who also won the Gold Walkley and Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year)

[Read more: By the numbers: International stories win (all sorts of) Walkleys]

Furthermore, judges take into account the context of stories entered. From the Walkley Awards terms and conditions: Judges will consider the resources and time available in creating the work, the pressure and demand of reporting deadlines, and the location of the journalist, taking into consideration potential isolation or exposure to outside forces, danger or pressure in presenting a story. In other words, the circumstances under which international stories are written will continue to be recognised, as will the acute importance of these stories to Australia. We look forward to celebrating these stories and the journalists who report them.