THE Newcastle Herald has scooped a Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism for the newspaper’s coverage of the RAAF Base Williamtown contamination scandal.
At a ceremony in Brisbane on Friday night, the judges of Australia’s most prestigious journalism awards recognised the reporting of Herald scribes Michael McGowan, Carrie Fellner, Donna Page, Michelle Harris, Gabriel Wingate-Pearse and Joanne McCarthy in the category of best community/regional affairs coverage.
The team’s thorough reporting – captured in The Foam and the Fury series – detailed the deepening crisis in Williamtown, revealing what authorities knew of the contamination and when they knew it, the toxicity of the groundwater around the RAAF base, the widely-panned response by the department of Defence and its fallout, and the human cost endured by the affected residents.
Herald editor Heath Harrison said the newspaper was “proud to have stood up for a community let down by those in authority”.
“It’s a great reward for a fantastic team in what is a local battle that has reverberated around the nation,” Harrison said.
“The Herald has published more than 150 stories on this issue in print and online in the past 12 months, and it’s a fight that goes on.”
Our Williamtown coverage continues in Saturday’s newspaper with a front-page story.