2010 winner - JB Fairfax Award for Rural Journalism
First year journalism came down to that old expression – sinking or swimming. We were all stripped from our arm floaties and our life jackets and thrown into the deep end. The course was very practical from day one. Our first assignment was to write a real news story from the area in which we were living. I was a total foreigner (all the way from Wagga Wagga) and the waters surrounding me were fairly unfamiliar. Moreover, I was trying to balance college with uni. In all the excitement I had left myself one day to complete that first assignment and on that last day I was too sick to get out of bed. I ended up writing a story about the increase of rural students entering Sydney colleges (without moving from my room). I thought I would fail but surprisingly my mark was on the other end of the scale.
After semester one I did some work experience at The Daily Advertiser in Wagga. It was such a fantastic experience to put all the skills I had learnt at uni into practice. And because the UTS course was so practical I was confident about covering stories around the Riverina by myself from day one. I began to see the positive impact a local paper can have on a small community, and my passion for reporting on rural affairs grew.
In semester two I tried to report on rural issues whenever I received an assignment. I went to Newcastle, Eccleston, Dungog, Yass and Morpeth (where I saw the most exquisite teapot festival). Towards the end of the semester I was attempting to organise my uni inbox when I came across the email for the J.B. Fairfax Award for Rural Journalism. I had around 200 un-read emails at this point in time so this one got the same treatment as the others - straight to the world I call ‘Delete’. But the email re-appeared in my inbox, this time it had been sent by my older brother. By this time I had interviewed a boundary rider named John Steel and thought I would apply.
The scholarship required students to submit a feature article that explored a contemporary issue, trend or activity that would be of interest to rural and regional communities. I really enjoyed writing my feature article – as I mentioned earlier rural affairs are something that I have always been passionate about. I was absolutely thrilled when I found out that I had been shortlisted. I then had to travel to Sydney for an interview in front of a selection panel comprised of Mr. J.B. Fairfax, representatives of Rural Press Agricultural Publishing and the Royal Agricultural Society Foundation. It was an amazing experience to share my thoughts and ideas about rural journalism.
I was shocked when I was told that I had won the scholarship (opens an external site). I couldn’t believe that a first year journalism student, who came from Wagga Wagga could win such a prestigious award. The prize has given me a huge confidence boost. I am also more focussed on my dream to cover rural affairs. The $10,000 prize will help my ever-growing hecs debt and the work experience that I have been offered will be invaluable. Even so, I know that when I begin second year I will probably still have some of the same doubts and worries. But at least I know now that I am doing something right. In my half-sinking, half-flailing, half-swimming kind of way I am getting closer to the shallow end.