Tasmanian Media Awards names Rhiana Whitson Journalist of the Year

• The winners of the 2020 Tasmanian Media Awards have been announced via an online event.

Best News Image supported by Media Super

Mitchell Woolnough, ABC, “Portfolio of Work”

The quality and techniques demonstrated throughout Mitchell’s work, displays an enormity of creativity in the execution – often during enduring circumstances. The imagery is well captured and the storytelling powerfully illustrated throughout. A worthy winner.

Comment & Analysis supported by Unions Tasmania

Simon Bevilacqua, The Mercury, “The magical lost art of the spiral punt”, “Shells and shacks; a reverie on the Tasmanian way of life”, “China syndrome: It’s time to talk about the dragon in the room”

Bevilacqua’s style of writing draws the reader into his mind. You can almost hear it churning over with every sentence consumed. He has a great ability to write about a broad range of topics and past times and with original storytelling that is easy to read, engaging and informative.

Arts Reporting supported by MEAA

Frances Vinall, The Examiner, “How Vicki Madden went from Brooks High to TV powerhouse”, “The grassroots movement of men fighting to be able to be vulnerable”, “How the true-blue Workers Club became Launceston’s hippest party space”

Frances’s work is deeply connected with her community, helping share the stories of proud, passionate and talented locals. It’s clear she has a natural talent for storytelling. Her writing is engaging and captures a growing confidence within Tasmania’s arts sector.

Science, Technology & Environment supported by Telstra

Alexandra Humphries, ABC, “Salmon industry panel ‘inherently compromised’, experts told the minister in leaked resignation letter”, “Long Bay Algae”, “Experts quit salmon farm approval panel after raising concerns, but reasons remain hidden”

The judges were extremely impressed with the high quality and breadth of the entries in this category – from wombats to digital futures to climate change and Huon Pines. However, the judges were unanimous in naming Alexandra Humphries from the ABC as the winner, for her body of work. She applied her investigative skills and contacts to obtain much-needed clarification to an FOI document about the Expert Salmon Panel. The inclusion of the voices of experts/scientists in the story was also excellent, and something often missing from news stories about scientific issues. The reporter also raised pertinent issues surrounding the FOI process, pointing to transparency questions which have dogged the government.

Sports Coverage supported by MEAA

Tom Johnson, 7 Tasmania, “The Resilience and Fragility of Regional Football in Tasmania’s North West”

Tom’s body of work presented an underlying theme, that is, the ‘silent death’ of local sport, in this case football.

Tom ventured into the small towns of the north west of Tasmania each with 100-year sporting records capturing the raw emotions of long-standing members faced with huge losses within the social fabric of their communities. These stories presented the best of localised journalism in the truest sense, with excellent and compelling reporting.

Health Reporting supported by MEAA

Linda Smith, The Mercury, “People Power”

Linda has shown a diverse range of extremely well written stories of the personal heartache affecting daily lives with sensitivity, empathy and awareness of suffering, combined with presenting the reader with a clear understanding of medical issues and conditions that affect Tasmanians, women in particular. Through engaging writing, the stories demonstrated a strong understanding with an absorbing delivery. Her win is well deserved.

Public Service Journalism supported by TasCOSS

Frances Vinall, The Examiner, “Reporting on lead contamination at Pioneer”

Frances Vinall’s series of stories on lead contamination in the water supply in the North-East Tasmanian town of Pioneer stood out because they had such a huge, positive impact on the local community. Frances’ stories not only led to significant improvements in the town’s supply of healthy drinking water but also subsequently to the residents’ health. Her stories were a great example of good, honest, civic journalism which has made a big difference to the lives and health of people who were not necessarily able to make their voices otherwise heard.

Excellence in Legal Reporting supported by Butler, McIntyre & Butler

Loretta Lohberger, The Mercury, “After the verdict”

A previous winner in this category, Loretta has shown growth and maturity, and continues to show strong compassion in her stories. Her coverage of the Neill-Fraser case injects a subtle tabloid style albeit, in parallel with excellent reporting of key facts, combined with elements of empathy, good sub-structure and a well-founded break-down of the components in the case. Loretta’s body of work also included the Otto murder trial, informative and well presented as a matter of high public interest and the Catholic Standard’s Apology to Cardinal Pell, this story in particular showed professional quality in research in obtaining a copy of the Standard before it was withdrawn. A worthy winner.

Feature, Documentary or Current Affairs supported by MEAA

Frances Vinall, The Examiner, “Forced adoption: stolen babies, family secrets, unsolved mysteries”

It was an incredibly strong field in the Feature, Documentary or Current Affairs category, the calibre of entries was wonderful to read. Frances’ piece on forced adoptions was ultimately chosen as the winner for the beautiful writing, the way she took you on a journey telling Carol’s story, but also the courage in publishing the piece for subscribers only online because of legal limitations. It was skilfully written, evocative in its telling. The level of trust Frances clearly gained from Carol as she recalls her trauma of forcibly giving her child up for adoption and then the discovery later on of Carol’s own beginnings.

Best News Story supported by Media Super

Sharon Webb, Meander Valley Gazette, “How Westbury became a site for a new prison”

This series of stories demonstrates the best in local reporting – understanding what is important to the community, political and community contacts, an ability to dig beneath the surface, persistence and relevance to a wider population. The story-telling is crisp and concise. As local news outlets disappear, this winner demonstrates what Tasmanian communities stand to lose.

Best New Journalist supported by The Mercury

Frances Vinall, The Examiner, “Forced adoption: stolen babies, family secrets, unsolved mysteries”, “Call for inquiry into Pioneer’s lead-contaminated drinking water”, “‘Go back to your country’: Why skilled migrants leave Launceston”, “The nine nuns living cut off from the world in West Launceston”

In her second year at The Examiner, Frances has demonstrated a passion beyond words on a page. Her original reporting style went further than facts and figures, by introducing readers to the human faces behind the stories. The judges would also like to commend Erin Cooper for her strong entry.

Journalist Of The Year supported by Tourism Industry Council Tasmania

Rhiana Whitson, ABC News, “Tasmania’s health crisis”

Rhiana was relentless in her pursuit of stories that highlighted widespread issues within the Tasmanian health system. Her reporting sought to put a human face to the toll taken by surgical delays, budget cuts and mismanagement. Using her extensive network of contacts, and a dogged approach to newsgathering, she broke a succession of stories that generated national interest, and helped put health firmly at the top of the local political agenda.

Keith Welsh Award For Outstanding Contribution To Journalism supported by Peter George

Peter Curtis

Peter Curtis has been one of the ABC and Australia’s most outstanding camera operators, working in Tasmania and around the world – Moscow, the Middle East, Washington included – for the past four decades. What makes Peter such a deserving Keith Welsh winner has been his collegiality with all colleagues, assisting journalists and camera operators to improve their craft and careers.

Top Picture: Rhiana Whitson

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