Walkley Awards boss Louisa Graham says it's been a horror year, but journalists have played a crucial role in society, writes Layton Holley.

Walkley Foundation: We’ll pick up training slack as media industry cuts back

Mentoring of young journalists will become an increasingly important role for the Walkley Foundation as the industry continues to cut back on internal training, its chief executive has told the Launceston Freelance Festival.

Louisa Graham, who oversees the country’s leading journalism awards The Walkleys, said the organisation was investing more in programmes to build skills.

“Mentoring has become a priority area for us as those informal channels of receiving experience on the job dry up,” she said.

“With the benefit of the Walkley Foundation’s expertise and established networks of award-winning senior journalists, we will ensure institutional knowledge is passed to the next generation.

“For aspiring freelancers who are looking to consolidate training or want mentoring, I would encourage you to consider applying for these opportunities.”

Kicking off the schedule for the second day of the festival Ms Graham emphasise the crucial role journalists continued to play in Australia, despite the contraction of the industry.

Walkley’s CEO Louisa Graham addresses delegates at the festival today.

“We have seen what could only be described as a horror year, with bushfires ravaging Australia, followed quickly by COVID and the closure of many community regional news outlets,” she said.

“But journalism has proven to be particularly important during this period, the immediate and accurate reporting from trusted journalists and publishers has been crucial to saving lives, keeping communities informed and countering disinformation.”

She said the Walkley Foundation offered many opportunities in terms of scholarships and mentoring for freelancers.

The June Walkley Awards have just been announced, and she said this showcased the quality and courage of journalists in the freelance market.

This year the winner of the Freelance Journalist of the Year Award went to Karishma Vyas for her stories with Al Jazeera: The War On Afghan Women, Afghanistan: The Healers and Afghanistan: Behind Enemy Lines.

“It’s a big risk for a freelancer to go into some of those areas like Afghanistan when you don’t have the backing of a major media organisation,” Ms Graham said. “We saw Peter Greste being jailed in Egypt when he did have the backing of Al Jazeera, so going in as a freelancer I think is… my hats off to anyone who does that.

“I think freelancers need a lot more courage and that’s what we want to recognise through the Walkleys is that courageous sort of journalism.”

The entries for the 2020 end of year awards are now open with an entry fee of $150. The awards ceremony will be held in Tamworth on the 20th of November.