Caroline Wilson, The Age, has won the Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year Award for her coverage of the drugs scandal involving the Essendon Football Club.
The award, announced on Friday at the Melbourne Press Club’s annual Quill awards, comes with $20,000 prize. It is the richest prize in Australian journalism and goes to a reporter from the previous calendar year that the judges deem to have produced work that is “consistently excellent and memorable”.
Ms Wilson, chief football writer at The Age, said in her acceptance speech that the Essendon drugs scandal was “a really difficult story to cover and cut-through”.
“I wish the Essendon story hadn’t happened, I really mean that even though I guess it’s one of the reasons I’m here now.”
“There was so much blood shed and so much heartbreak and grief for so many people in a sport I absolutely love, but it really was always about the welfare of those 40 young men who trusted their football club.”
Wilson’s coverage included pieces calling for Essendon coach James Hird to step down, scoops about Hird’s knowledge of the team’s peptides program and strong commentary pieces on how AFL administrators should respond. She wrote these articles amid what the judges – Laura Tingle (chair), Laurie Oakes and Jill Baker – called “some extraordinary personal abuse”.
Mr Oakes said, on behalf of the judges, that in deciding the winner, they “considered the clear-eyed way Ms Wilson both reported on the story of the Australian Football League drugs scandal, and analysed the impact of the events on those most directly affected by them: the players who had been injected with substances which might compromise their health and destroy their football careers”.
“Caroline Wilson found herself in the maelstrom of a controversy that, as can only really happen in Victoria, saw the community consumed by a crisis in its beloved football code, that produced intense and passionate views about who, and what, was right and wrong.”
Herald Sun reporter James Campbell, who was also nominated for the Perkin Award, took out the $5000 Monash University Gold Quill prize for his scoop and coverage of the Victorian state government secret tapes scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of Premier Ted Baillieu. The Gold Quill is given to a selected winner from one of the 27 award categories that are announced at the Quill Awards.
Ashlynne McGhee, a journalist at the ABC’s Melbourne bureau, was awarded the Young Journalist of the Year for a portfolio that included investigative reporting and live crosses.
To see a full list of winners and highly commended entries for the 2013 Quill Awards, click here.
For more news from The Newspaper Works, click here.