RMIT journalism graduate Michael Walsh has been nominated for the Melbourne Press Club’s Student Journalist of the Year Award, for a powerful feature story on the ice epidemic.
Walsh is one of only four nominees shortlisted for the 2015 award.
The prestigious nod is for an article he first published in RMIT’s student magazine Catalyst, titled The Shardy Crew: The rise of ice in regional Victoria.
It explored Victoria’s growing crystal methamphetamine problem, specifically looking at users aged in their twenties.
The Melbourne Press Club judges described Walsh’s feature as a powerful insight into the ice epidemic from the inside story of users, their attempts to rationalise their problem and their battle against addiction.
The article was also used as an example in a journalism print production class.
Walsh, who completed his Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) in 2014, said he was very honoured to be shortlisted, especially considering the stellar quality of the other articles nominated.
“I chose to write the article after I moved to Geelong at the beginning of last year and saw a lot of ice going around,” he said.
“Until then it was something I’d really only heard about in media.
“I thought a first-hand perspective on what was going on in communities affected by ice would be valuable, so I organised to speak to some very brave former users who shared their experiences with me.
“The RMIT journalism program was great in terms of technical skills, but its focus on ethics was also extremely valuable.
“Drug abuse is quite sensitive subject matter, and the solid training in media ethics I’d received through the course made me very wary of exploiting the interview subjects, who were already going through a tough time.”
This is the second award nomination Mr Walsh has received for the piece.
He also won an JERAA Ossie award in 2014 for Best Feature Article (Print) by an Undergraduate or Postgraduate Student after RMIT Journalism lecturer Gordon Farrer submitted it for consideration.
Farrer said the feature article used a combination of first-person narrative and straight reportage to create a personal, real-life portrait of a group of ice users in regional Victoria.
“Walsh weaved in and out of conversations with the subjects, who spoke with jolting candour about their drug habit, and sprinkled hard statistics and comments from authorities and government agencies throughout,” he said.
“The result was a fluid, engaging piece about a growing plague that, at the time, had not yet been written about with such insight.”
The winner of the Student Journalist of the Year award will receive a $3000 prize as well as work experience and mentoring opportunities at major media outlets.
The judges for this year’s award were Fairfax Radio National News Director Rob Curtain, ABC Victoria News Editor Shane Castleman, Sunday Age editor Duska Sulicich and Nick Richardson of the Herald Sun.
The awards will be announced on Friday 20 March during the annual Quill Awards dinner at Crown Palladium in Melbourne.