Student reporters have capped off the 40th anniversary of Curtin’s journalism program with a strong showing at the Journalism Education Association of Australia’s Ossie Awards announced recently in Queensland.
Curtin students were recognised with two national awards and a highly commended citation.
The Just Causes documentary series took out the prestigious Dr Charles Stuart Prize for best student publication.
Curtin journalism lecturer Russell Bishop, who oversaw the project, said it was a big challenge to create 75 minutes of high quality content in 12 weeks.
“I like to think that our students are producing quality, substantial journalism that is regarded by their peers as being interesting and engaging work,” Mr Bishop said.
“It really is fantastic to win that award because the students had a really difficult semester and it required resilience to stay on track and create work that can be judged as the best work in Australia.”
Mr Bishop said the award reflected the amount of support students had received from staff at Curtin’s School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, particularly the Creative Production Support Unit.
The award was judged by Michelle Etheridge, News Editor, News Limited, assisted by journalist Chantelle Kroehn. Ms Etheridge and Ms Kroehn said it was clear from the footage that the students had “worked hard to secure interviews with a range of people on a diversity of subject areas”.
“The videos demonstrated that the students had dug deep to get to the bottom of each issue on which they were reporting,” the judges said.
“The result was a series of balanced, well-presented and interesting reports.”
Just Causes is a current affairs series focusing on activists, and was put together by 15 students in the first semester of 2013. The series examined the Wilderness Society, Manna Inc, Gay Dads Australia, Stop Live Exports, the National Union of Students and the National Tertiary Education Union.
Steph Matthews, who took on a production and reporter role, said she learned more about journalism during the production of Just Causes than in any other unit she’d previously completed.
Co-producer Nick Lovering said the project was “challenging but extremely rewarding”.
“It was as close as I imagine we could get to a real world situation,” Mr Lovering said.
“I think the award is validation of the integrity of the journalism course.”
Curtin’s journalism program, the oldest and largest in Western Australia, turned 40 this year and celebrated with several keynote lectures – including one from former Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes, and another from Curtin journalism graduate Steve Pennells, who in 2012 took out the nation’s top journalism prize.
Another Curtin journalism student, Jacqueline Byrde, took top prize in her own right in the Best Feature Article (Online) for her V8 family tree story.
The award was judged by bluestonemagazine.com.au editor Carol Altmann who said Jacqueline’s story was a “wonderful example of how to grab the reader from the first sentence and not let go until the final word”.
“Her terrific lead/intro set the scene for a very entertaining and informative read that was full of vibrant writing and numerous, highly visual scenes that placed the reader right at the racetrack,” Ms Altmann said.
“Her attention to detail – right down to the weight of the safety gear – and well-chosen quotes from multiple sources – made this a memorable story which is a significant achievement when writing for an online audience.”
Also recognised at the awards was Jessica Ibacache who was highly commended in the Best Photojournalism category for her photo essay Dance as protest.
The award was judged by Brenton Edwards, director of Stories Well Told, who said Ms Ibacache had “approached her protest story with pictures and audio, giving the audience a taste of the sights and sounds of peaceful protests followed by the police moving in”.
“It was very exciting to be highly commended,” said Ms Ibacache.
Curtin journalism lecturer Chris Thomson said the fact Ms Ibacache had been recognised nationally for a photojournalistic piece produced while undertaking a unit in online journalism demonstrated the ability of Curtin students to embrace convergence.
“Driving this point home is that Jacqueline Byrde was also singled out for mention in the awards’ photojournalism category for her online V8 Family Tree story,” Mr Thomson said.