The Fairfax family’s Jibb Foundation has supported the Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards since 2017, helping the Walkley Foundation to lower the entry cost for the awards, provide a mentoring program for winners, and support the overall Young Journalist of the Year with a work experience trip to the US.

The John B Fairfax family has now pledged to support awards and professional development opportunities for young Australian journalists over the next 10 years with a $1million gift.

We spoke with John B Fairfax about the support the Jibb Foundation provides to young Australian journalists and the importance of encouraging excellence.

You have been supporting these awards since 2017. What was the impetus for deciding to support them for a further 10 years?
A pledge of this amount and longevity needs some degree of certainty. Supporting the award for the past four years and witnessing the quality of the recipients and their work, and working closely with the team at the Walkley Foundation, has given us the confidence to make this further commitment. My family and I want to support future talent in a craft that is evolving with a degree of complexity.

What does it mean to you to keep the Fairfax name going in this way?
This is a recognition that the Fairfax name has represented quality journalism for almost 180 years. I believe the community and journalists themselves respect the name and the heritage, and I consider it relevant that it be retained as part of my great, great grandfather’s legacy alongside this important award.

2017 Overall Young Journalist of the Year Paul Farrell with John B Fairfax AO

What kinds of stories have young journalists told in the years that you have been backing these awards that you found particularly powerful?
The stories told by the award winners have been brave exposures of important social issues, often where injustice has prevailed. Unfortunately, society can produce serious inequality and situations of exploitation. These stories have shone a light in some dark places, which is what we have been so impressed by. There is something to be said about the fearlessness and hunger of journalists to unearth some these stories. We have loved learning about them.

Do you have any thoughts about whether the stories young journalists pursue are different from the types of stories more seasoned journalists might pursue?
Young journalists with talent will endeavour to emulate their peers – especially those who have excelled both in breaking stories and doing important investigative work. Ultimately, there is no reason to believe that a young journalist should not be able to produce work equally as proficient and professional as a more mature journalist. Training and mentoring play an important part in anyone’s development. That said, young journalists have grown up with different tools and formats more readily at their fingertips, and this can lead to a different and interesting type of storytelling.

2018 Overall Young Journalist of the Year Laura Murphy-Oates in the US outside The New York Times

What do you see ahead for young Australian journalists?
The technology and development of social media has challenged quality and trusted journalism, but it remains an exciting and important career opportunity for young journalists working across different media outlets. Put to good use, these platforms can also be powerful communication tools and there is no reason why trusted, quality journalism cannot also flourish as part of them.

What do you see as the role of philanthropy in supporting Australian journalism?
Philanthropy can support journalism at a time when much of the traditional, commercial support has dissipated. An untied contribution to support journalism and maintain independence is important if we are to continue the “fourth estate” approach so essential within our democracy.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any observations you’d like to make about journalism and reporting in these times?
I am disappointed not to be directly involved with journalism and publishing. It served me well and I enjoyed it tremendously. I would like to think that those who own publishing assets do so for the benefit of society, acknowledging that rewards from good, accurate and trustworthy journalism are often greater than the profits that flow.

Read more about the Jibb Foundation’s extraordinary gift here.

Read about all the winners of the 2021 Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards here.