The siege of the Lindt cafe in Sydney late last year showcased some of the best and worst aspects of journalism in Australia, with surely the top prize for poor taste going to our most powerful media man, Rupert Murdoch, for his tweet just hours after its tragic resolution:
Much already has been written about the coverage and focus by traditional and social media on the event, which resulted in the deaths of hostages Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson – and I’m mindful of a Tweet that flashed by during the events warning people not to attach their agendas too conveniently to something that has delivered deep and personal trauma to the hostages and their families, as well as others directly affected by the event. Helen Razer expands on the issue here.
So will limit links to these articles: ‘Mr Denmore‘ on the role of the media, and Randa Abdel-Fattah on the need for a new narrative. Here too is a brief compilation of tweets clipped during the day that point to issues for or about the media in such events, and this article about the gesture that sparked the remarkable #illridewithyou Twitter campaign.
This post, however, is to capture some of the best journalism in Australia last year – the winners of the recently awarded 2014 Walkley Awards. If, like me, you missed many of them at the time they were published or broadcast, you can revisit a selection via the links below.
- The 2014 Gold Walkley (TV) was won by Adele Ferguson, Deb Masters and Mario Christodoulou for the Fairfax/Four Corners investigation Banking Bad into unconscionable banking practices.
- Social Equity Journalism, won by Belinda Hawkins for her two-part Australian Story production, Searching for C11 on the search by donor-conceived children for their biological fathers.
- Multi-media storytelling: SBS Online for Cronulla riots – the day that shocked the nation – an interactive feature documentary about the 2005 riots that exposed deep divisions in Australian society.
- Coverage of Indigenous Affairs: Paul Daley at Guardian Australia for Why does the War Memorial ignore frontier war?, The bone collectors, and Indigenous Australians in wartime.
- Radio: Documentary, Feature, Podcast or Special: Radio National’s Background Briefing report The Salvos: a matter of trust into claims of child sexual abuse in one of Australia’s oldest charities.
- Print: Feature Writing Long: Paul Toohey’s Quarterly Essay That Sinking Feeling: Asylum seekers and the search for the Indonesian solution – here’s an extract.
- Print: Feature Writing Short: Ruth Pollard’s Fairfax feature If this had happened in Europe, the world would not be silent on a day spent at the morgue in Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
- Walkley Documentary Award: Dan Goldberg and Danny Ben-Moshe for Code of Silence. the story of a fight for an investigation into allegations of child sex abuse at an Orthodox Jewish boys’ school in Melbourne.
- International Journalism: Lindsay Murdoch’s Baby Gammy was left behind.
- Commentary: Waleed Aly for Brandis’ race hate laws are white than white, The logic of PNG policy is sanctioned horror, and Deciding which deaths matter and which don’t.
- Photographic Essay: Eddie Jim’s essay Hayden: the daily life of Hayden McLean, a 35-year-old man who is severely autistic and mildly intellectually disabled, published in The Sunday Age.
- Press Photographer of the Year award and Press Photo of the Year: Andrew Quilty. Here’s his story behind the photo:
She was lucky to be alive. For many Afghans, simply reaching urgent medical care can be dangerous. In Helmand Province, in the Taliban hotbed south of the country, rampant insurgent activity means that many families rarely leave their villages for fear of being caught up in crossfire between Taliban fighters and Afghan forces (and until recently, their British counterparts). Such risks have also proved horrendous for expecting mothers who often choose home birthing over a dangerous run to the nearest clinic. Another factor which comes into play in the winter months in Helmand is the poppy season which sees families neglecting health concerns in favour of cultivating and harvesting their crop.
- News Photography: Bondi biffo by Brendan Beirne. This public brawl between James Packer and David Gyngell was quite a scoop for the photographer but said much more than most reports of the incident bothered with. So am adding here important commentary from retiring Victoria Police Commissioner Ken Lay in one of his impressive speeches on the need to address appalling rates of family violence, including a culture “endorses violence as an acceptable way to resolve conflict”. Lay said:
And if anyone doubts that – think back to the headlines of a few weeks ago where two “mates”, James Packer and David Gyngell, had a brawl on the streets of Bondi. You couldn’t miss it – it was everywhere. It was widely reported in the Australian media and drew comment from a wide cross section of our community, including me. Newspapers across the country ran headlines like “Packer Packs a Punch”, “Billion Dollar Biffo” and “Packer Whacker”. But most inexplicably to me, Bob Katter, an experienced and long serving politician condoned the street fight as the “Australian way”. I find it astounding that such a comment from a senior politician like Katter would go unchallenged and pass largely without criticism from the Australian media. If Bob Katter can condone the street fight between James Packer and David Gyngell as “the Australian way for settling differences”, then perhaps we need to redefine ‘the Australian way’. This tolerance of male aggression goes to the heart of why some Australian men have an inability to deal with conflict, be it with a mate, a wife, a child or a parent, without reverting to violence.