Top prizes tell story of local journalism

Top prizes tell story of local journalism

Whether you consume your news in print, online, radio or TV, the WA Media Awards tell another important story – namely the value of local journalism.

Those in communications and PR could benefit from noting the award winners and the stories which were lauded by industry peers.

After all, there is value in knowing who is leading the news agenda, the stories that our audiences care about and how they may relate to our clients.

Take for example the story which started with an allegation of sexual assault at a WA mine, which forced the alarming incidence of rape and sexual harassment in the state’s mining industry into the spotlight.

Caitlyn Rintoul’s skill and tenacity in pursuing the story earned her the Best Print News Coverage gong for the series of stories, ‘Mining for change: Unearthing sex assault shame in WA’s resources sector’, published in The West Australian. 

But her ground-breaking coverage was more than just a news story – it prompted a parliamentary inquiry, which led to mining companies committing to lasting cultural change and the formation of an industry working group. 

Then there’s the powerful interview which award judges said, “brought matters of significant public interest to light and gave dignity to a grieving family failed in their hour of need”.

Gary Adshead and Kamin Gock of WAtoday and Nine News Perth won best television news report and best health story for their coverage of the tragic death of Aishwarya Aswath at Perth Children’s Hospital.

That story prompted a massive internal review and an independent inquiry into PCH’s emergency department with multiple recommendations including improvements to the triage process and a review of cultural awareness.

Rintoul, Adshead and Gock were among those honoured last Saturday night at the WA Media Awards, which is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated nights on a Perth journalist’s calendar.

Every year the awards celebrate stories told by local journalists who are dedicated to their craft and take the responsibility of impartiality, accuracy and public interest seriously.

This year’s gongs were won by journalists from 6PR, WAtoday, The West Australian, PerthNow Papers, 7NEWS and the ABC (in case you thought there was no media diversity left in Perth).

6PR’s Gareth Parker was crowned Journalist of the Year with the Daily News Centenary Prize in addition to other multiple awards, including The Beck Prize and The Matt Price Prize.

The judges were unanimous in their praise of Parker as “someone whose journalism is a shining example of the importance of journalists relentlessly – and fearlessly – digging, probing and challenging those in power”.

Another outstanding winner was Aja Styles from WAtoday, whose submission ‘Stink from the Corpse’ placed the WA higher education sector under the spotlight. She investigated the threats posed to academic freedom, quality education and WA’s research culture by COVID.

The West Australian’s Briana Fiore won the Eaves-Prior-Day Prize for Best New Journalist, and also picked up the award for Best Regional and Community Reporting for her investigation into the “toxic” and “destructive” work culture impacting patient care at Bunbury Hospital.

Victoria Rifici’s investigation into ‘Chaos at Western Suburbs Councils’ won Best Suburban Print Reporting for the series which appeared in the Western Suburbs Weekly as well as online at PerthNow and the West Australian.

There are too many to mention here. But while they may work for competing companies, these journalists are united in their dedication to amplifying voices, telling the stories of their communities, holding those in power to account and affecting necessary change.

Good local journalism often focuses on the three Cs – court, crime and council. But great local journalists will dig, follow leads, challenge authority and uncover the stories that someone somewhere doesn’t want told.

No, these journos won’t simply cut and paste a press release, but audiences trust them.

If they cover your story it is worth its weight in gold, especially when you compare the comparable cost of effective advertising for an equal reach in readers, viewers and listeners.

With so much time and energy invested in stakeholder and community engagement as well as media relations, Perth’s communications professionals need to know the journalists behind the big stories of the day, and how those stories are affecting our communities.

These journalists are leading the pack and the news agenda. It would do our clients a disservice not to follow.

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