RMIT has taken out major awards for journalism investigations and innovations in this year’s national student journalism awards.
The annual Ossies awards are organised by the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA).
Graduating Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) student Rochelle Kirkham has been named the JERAA Australian Press Council Student of the Year for a body of journalistic work and academic excellence over her three years of study.
Kirkham, who will graduate with distinction this month, has now been employed by the Ballarat Courier.
She maintained a high distinction grade point average while working full-time hours between three jobs.
In her final semester, she drove two hours a day to work at a newspaper three days a week.
She has further won another award for the best piece of investigative work, with classmate Katie Coulthard.
Their story, On the Frontline was completed in November 2016 at the end of their second-year journalism course.
Kirkham and Coulthard said the creation of this story was an extensive process spanning six months, which allowed great opportunities for growth and learning.
“There are many reports about ice, but no detailed reports focusing on drug rehabilitation services in regional Victoria, and we saw this as a gap in reporting we wanted to fill,” they said.
“We encountered difficulty in researching the number of publicly funded drug rehabilitation beds in the state, as solid figures don’t exist.”
The pair conducted extensive research including contacting all levels of government, requesting statistics from existing rehabilitation services and speaking to not-for-profit organisations.
The entire second-year journalism class enrolled in the class Journalism Technologies (led by lecturers Tito Ambyo and Gordon Farrer) has won the innovation category for a project entitled Fact Check Your Mother.
This is the students' fourth journalism subject, and is the one where the emphasis is on extending their work into new technologies, digital technologies and, significantly for this project, fact checking.
Using the adage, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out”, the students were guided by academic staff through a process where instead of mere retelling, they had to fact check and improve the stories told by their families by adding forgotten, misplaced or inaccurate details with verified facts.
To do so, the students were trained in how to use digital tools and techniques to verify physical evidence such as photos, think deeply about paper trails (how records and documents lead to one another) and how to handle incomplete memories and records of an event in a story.
The project idea from Tito Ambyo built upon the strength of skills of RMIT’s resident academic fact checker, Gordon Farrer.
Two postgraduate students in the Graduate Diploma in Journalism, Tim Purdie and Eliza Beck, were highly commended for their video stories.
Purdie’s story in the “over 2 minute” category was about a kitchen program being run at Heathcote Primary School.
He shot and edited it while doing an internship with the ABC.
Beck’s story in the “under 2 minute” category was about Obikes and was the subject of her first television story for her Audio Visual Journalism subject.
She literally stumbled across this story on her way into the city one morning in July when thousands of yellow bikes had appeared on Melbourne’s footpaths overnight.
Her story on YouTube has already had 3,000 hits.
The awards were presented at the JERAA conference dinner in Newcastle, NSW, on Tuesday 5 December.
All the winners are listed on the JERAA website.
Story: Wendy Little