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Judge: Kym Tilbrook

There were eight entries in this category, down from 10 last year. It was disappointing that each of the 14 member papers did not lodge an entry.

Of the eight entries, seven were from members and one from a non-member.

Excellence in journalism is something all papers should be striving for. It shows they care for their product and that their readers deserve nothing but the best.

There was a great diversity of stories, from drought to bushfire, domestic violence to homelessness, Aboriginal affairs to the future of a popular music festival.

The entries reflected the commitment by journalists and their papers to support their local communities. Quality journalism is a role that the community expects of its papers and this year’s entries showcased what good journalism is all about.

I commend the entrants on their high standard of reporting.

Because of the strength of the entries I gave two honourable mentions – Greg Mayfield of The Transcontinental and Sara Gilligan of The Bunyip.

Greg tackled the thorny and divisive unrest surrounding the Adnyamathana Tribal Lands Association. In a series of reports Greg investigated the confusion over the association’s annual general meetings and the decision of the Office of Registered Indigenous Corporations to “examine the association’s affairs”.

It was not an easy task. Greg relied on a leaked document to begin his investigation. As his investigation continued, he was ejected from a meeting after being accused of “detrimental” coverage of the issue. The meeting took a vote and he was thrown out on a 44-41 vote.

Greg has set the bar very high over a number of years with his investigative reporting and this was no exception.

Sara, who edits The Bunyip, prepared two special reports on domestic violence. She interviewed two local women who had been victims. The articles were headed Trapped in a ‘prison’ and Torn in two.

Both reports highlighted the local help available and used the experiences of the local women to urge others that may be suffering similar violence to get out and seek help.

Her interviews were emotive and delved into a major problem confronting the community.

First place

Sandra Morello, The Border Watch

Sandra is a previous winner of Excellence in Journalism. She reported on the deep concern in the local community that released prisoners from Mt Gambier Gaol were not forced to return to their place of origin.

She began her tenacious investigative campaign on July 26, 2019, and continued until mid-October. Sandra discovered that while the Labor State Government gave assurances six years ago that Mt Gambier would not become a prison town, this had clearly been on hollow promises.

She revealed the community had been blindsided with fresh revelations that many prisoners who were not originally from Mt Gambier were not forced to return home.

Once released, some prisoners had committed violent acts and crime sprees in Mt Gambier.

Sandra did not let the Liberal Government off the hook either. She said they were stonewalling and downplaying the issue.

Local concern was that prisoners who were not returned to their place of residence were fuelling crime in the community and placing significant pressure on police resources, the court system and community transitional services.

Her very determined campaign - which covered 12 stories – resulted in a number of changes including greater information sharing between the Correctional Services Department and Police regarding scheduled releases and new measures to ensure prisoners connected with bus services to their place of origin after release.

It was a sustained effort of excellent reporting.

Second

Mel Jaunay, The Leader

Mel is in the early days of her journalistic career, but if her entry is any guide, she has a bright future.

She tackled the growing issue of “Invisible Homelessness” in the Barossa Valley. From her report it is obvious Mel put a lot of time and effort into researching and understanding the issue. She sought out many local groups working to help solve the problem.

She also interviewed Geoff, a homeless man, who had struggled for 16 months. She wanted a homeless person because “it would be important to engage the reader with a real-life struggle of homelessness.”

Mel was able to weave Geoff’s story through the investigative report. This is not always an easy task, but she did it well.

Third

Jenny Oldland, YP Country Times

Jenny did a great job reporting on the Yorke Peninsula bushfires in late November. The bushfires were the peninsula’s worst ever disaster and wiped out several homes and large areas of prime cropping land.

At one stage the bushfire was heading straight for her home near Edithburgh and she had to evacuate to the town foreshore, not knowing if she would have a home to return to.

Like all good journalists covering a disaster, Jenny worked tirelessly to get information to concerned locals. She documented the path of the fire and its impact on the YP community.

Jenny also wrote a first-person piece about her experience. She noted: “I learned three things in the early hours of Thursday morning – never underestimate the ferocity of a fire, never think it won’t happen to you, and for heaven’s sake prepare a bushfire action plan.”

 

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