Two students win Constructive Journalism fellowships



Two university journalism students have won international fellowships after competing in an Australasian student journalism project across 27 institutions.

The fellowship prize winners were among hundreds of students across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific who took part in the multimedia project, encompassing a three-day television broadcast, radio show and podcast series, as well as published work on The Junction.

The collaborative Constructive Journalism: Making a Difference 2020 project, is part of The Junction, a national journalism initiative that publishes the best student journalism from 27 universities and colleges across the region.

The fellowships were awarded to Jack Meehan of Swinburne University and Ben Bilua of the University of the South Pacific. Jack Meehan’s piece was about the implications of the Australian Government’s drive for increased gas production. The judges described it as an excellent backgrounder, based on extensive research and complemented by strong multimedia elements.

Ben Bilua’s piece focussed on how home gardens are supporting local economies in the Solomon Islands during the Covid-19 pandemic. The judges described it as a detailed story, which suggests solutions and provides a strong constructive approach.

The students will attend the Independent Center for Constructive Journalism in Aarhus, Denmark for one month when international borders open. The institute was set up by journalist and former broadcaster Ulrik Haagerup, as a response to the increasing tabloidization of news.

The editor of The Junction, Andrew Dodd, said “we were delighted with the quality and range of the work submitted by the next generation of emerging journalists. The Constructive Journalism project is a real showcase for their skills and ideas.”

Guided by academics – many of them seasoned journalists – to produce high quality pieces for their graduation portfolios, the project allowed students to gain valuable real-life reporting skills to produce job-ready graduates.

JERAA president Dr Alex Wake said the project was yet another example of how journalism programs within universities were meeting the current, and future, needs of industry.

“Constructive Journalism is a new way of looking at traditional journalism practice, one that builds greater trust with audiences and one that helps audiences engage with credible news sources. By engaging with this project, journalism academics teach the hands on skills that students require to be job-ready for the journalism industry as it is now, but also thinking about current practice and reflecting on ways to improve that practice. It’s a win-win for students and academics to be working together on such projects.”

Today also marks the project’s podcast series’ launch by the University of Canberra. The series, Making a Difference: A Junction Journalism Project, is now available and follows the three-day collaborative television broadcast, hosted by RMIT in Melbourne last month.

The subject of the project, constructive journalism, allowed students to explore new ways of approaching journalism. “I had the fortune to work with the next generation of journalists in Australia and my hopes for the future of journalism have been reignited,” said Constructive Institute CEO Ulrik Haagerup in Denmark.

“The students’ curiosity and passion for truth, their understanding of both the power and responsibility of storytelling and their commitment to work for common good by applying both critical and constructive reporting tools shows a clear path for democracy and news media of tomorrow. I look forward to welcoming two of the best young Aussie reporters to work with us at Constructive Institute in Denmark when borders open, to find new ways to make journalism great again.”

The Constructive Journalism: Making a Difference 2020 project was made possible with funding from the Judith Neilson Institute of Journalism and Ideas, established by philanthropist Judith Neilson in 2018 to support evidence-based journalism.

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