NEWSPAPERS, for good reason, should not go around blowing their own trumpets too often.
But on this occasion, we will, if only briefly, because the Walkley Awards carried home on Wednesday night by Newcastle Herald journalists Joanne McCarthy and Carrie Fellner were due recognition for the sort of investigative journalism that the Herald has been proud to present in this era of great change in the media landscape.
The Walkleys have run for 62 years and while our journalists have taken home the occasional award in earlier years – photographer Darren Pateman winning best news photography in 2003 for an iconic image of cricketers playing beside a bushfire is one example – in recent times the Herald has enjoyed an enormous run of success, even in categories where we are competing with much bigger, and better-resourced, capital-city news organisations.
Indeed, the Herald has carried home no fewer than nine Walkleys in the past five years, including the highest recognition in Australian journalism – the Gold Walkley – won by McCarthy in 2013 for her fearless reporting of child abuse in the churches.
While still reporting on this issue, McCarthy has also turned her attention to the pelvic mesh controversy – virtually unheard of before her intervention – and it was this issue that saw her recognised on Wednesday night. Her reporting had already resulted in a Senate inquiry and on Wednesday the Therapeutic Goods Administration announced a nationwide ban on a range of these products, which have caused extraordinary problems for thousands of women.
Fellner, also a multiple Walkey winner, won further recognition for her dogged investigation of the Williamtown RAAF base fire-fighting foam scandal. Her uncovering of a potential cancer cluster along Cabbage Tree Road has helped force the authorities to the negotiating table, although much remains to be done.
As a champion of Hunter causes, the Herald has been serving its readers, in various formats, for almost 160 years. The mainstream media, like a lot of established industries and institutions, is in the midst of what some have called “the great disruption”. The Herald is not immune to these pressures, but we are determined, more than ever, to champion the issues that matter to our readers. Because that’s what our style of campaigning, “community-first” journalism is all about.