ABC, The Guardian and SMH among the recipients of the first Judith Neilson Institute journalism grants

The inaugural winners of the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas grants have been announced with eight titles winning an undisclosed figure to help further quality journalism.

The initial round of grants cover a range of media organisations and activities from major international projects to small, local initiatives.

Judith Neilson launched the Institute in 2018
Credit: Janie Barrett

Mark Ryan, a director of the Institute, said he hopes the initial grants will lead to further important developments down the line.

“The Institute believes that the best way to champion quality journalism is to help journalists do more of it,” said Ryan.

“Most of the grants announced today will create new positions or new projects for journalists. We also expect some of these initial projects will expand into more substantial initiatives.”

The Institute looked at five key principles for the grants – whether new opportunities would be created for journalists to do more journalism, projects which would have the biggest impact, encouraging new investment in journalism, non-partisanship, and the respect for editorial independence.

“In addition to providing practical support for quality journalism, the first round of grants is also a learning process. It will help the Institute understand how to best support journalism. And for those in the profession, it will give a sense of the types of projects the Institute is keen to support,” said Ryan.

The ABC was awarded a grant to fund a media literacy program across remote communities in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

ABC managing director David Anderson said the grant would bolster the ABC’s media literacy initiative by allowing it to reach more remote communities.

“We already run a highly successful media literacy program for regional and rural schools. This grant will give us the opportunity to reach some of the most disadvantaged schools in some of the most remote parts of the country,” said Anderson.

“Our aim, with the help of the Judith Neilson Institute, is to empower these communities by providing education in media literacy by specialist experts.”

The Australian Financial Review received a grant to re-open a south-east Asian bureau in Jakarta, which will seek to provide deeper coverage of the major economic, trade, business and security issues in the region.

A grant also went to Nine’s The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age to employ an Indigenous journalist and Indigenous trainee photographer.

The Herald editor, Lisa Davies, and The Age editor, Alex Lavelle, said the grant would put Indigenous voices at the centre of the papers’ coverage of Indigenous issues.

“Indigenous voices have been barely heard in the media for far too long, and industry diversity has suffered as a result,” Davies said. “The Herald and Age want to change that – this project is only the beginning.”

The reporter and the photographer will initially be hired for a 12-month period for in-depth reporting and contextualisation of Indigenous life and culture, with the aim of employing them full-time thereafter.

“The journalist and visual journalist we are hiring will bring their unique perspective to their reporting, educating and engaging our readers with a diverse range of news, features and audio-visual content,” Davies said.

The Guardian received a grant which it will use to fund the appointment of a Pacific editor, establish a network of independent journalists, and to commission major investigations to expand reporting on Australia’s immediate neighbourhood.

Lenore Taylor, editor of Guardian Australia, said: “We’ve wanted to do more reporting in the Pacific for a long time and this grant will make it possible. The region receives relatively little sustained reporting even though there are globally significant security, environmental and social stories to be told. We know these topics are of strong interest to our readers in Australia and around the world.

“We’re excited to work with local journalists and we have plans to collaborate with SBS on some bigger investigations.”

News Corp’s The Australian will use its grant to fund a new series that will examine the complex implications of China’s transformation, both inside and outside the country.

Schwartz Media received a grant to fund a new features and field producer for its daily podcast 7 AM.

Ngaarda Media, a community radio station in Roebourne, Western Australia, also benefited with a grant to support news coverage, and The Terrier, a local news website in Warrnambool, Victoria, will get support to appoint an Indigenous cadet reporter, and to explore new funding models for the website.

The Institute was established in November 2018 by Judith Neilson with $100m pledged to celebrate and encourage quality journalism.

Three grants were also announced earlier this year, for the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) to support its online platform for student journalism, to the Kennedy Foundation to sponsor the Chris Watson Award and for the Walkley Foundation to support public interest journalism.

In May, the Institute held its first education project, a two-week intensive fellowship for 12 Australian journalists in Hong Kong in cooperation with the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at Hong Kong University.

From 31 August-1 September 2019, the Institute will partner with the Sydney Opera House to co-present Antidote: a Festival of Ideas, Action and Change. The Institute is co-curating three sessions of the festival looking at how journalists work in authoritarian environments, who gets to speak on society’s most controversial subjects, and how journalists cover climate change.


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