Melbourne journalists from Fairfax Media’s The Age and News Corp Australia’s Herald Sun walked away from the prestigious Quill awards on Friday night with 18 awards between them, with the Gold Quill going to the joint Fairfax and ABC investigation into Chinese influence on Australian politics.
Fairfax was the biggest winner of the night, with a total of 11 awards, and News with seven.
The Age’s Nick McKenzie led the Gold Quill winning investigation into foreign interference in Australian politics. With the help of the ABC’s Four Corners, the team uncovered the extent to which both sides of government are influenced by Chinese political donations and unmasked the Australian politicians who aided such activity.
The judges commended the investigation for its thoroughness, and the ongoing results of its findings, including foreign agents’ registration legislation, new espionage laws and a ban on foreign donations.
“This powerful and forensic investigation by Fairfax Media and the ABC cut to the heart of one of the biggest issues of our time: the manipulation of Western democracies by totalitarian regimes. It exposed the alarming extent of clandestine Chinese government meddling in Australian politics – and laid bare the extent to which both the Coalition and Labor have been compromised at the highest levels by Chinese political donations,” the judges noted.
The follow-up investigation, “Chinese influence and Dastyari’s fall”, tied with The Age & ABC Four Corners story. Fairfax Media’s report, “The Crook, the Police and the Retirement Village” won The Grant Hattam Quill for Investigative Journalism.
Coverage of the Bourke Street Mall attack won awards for both companies, with The Age taking home the trophy for Breaking News Coverage and Radio News, while Herald Sun photographer Tony Gough’s now iconic picture of the alleged perpetrator of the attack near Flinders Street Station won the 2017 News Photograph Quill.
The award for Business Feature went to The Australian’s Damon Kitney, whose exclusive interview with James Packer gave readers a look at the private life of the billionaire businessman. Adele Ferguson and Sarah Danckert of The Age took out the Quill for Business News for their story “Crumbs”, an expose of Retail Food Group’s business model and governance issues.
The late Ron Tandberg won a Quill for his cartoon ‘The Big C’, published shortly before his death by Fairfax publications, which encapsulated his emotions as he fought against cancer. Jamie Brown won the 2017 Artwork Quill for “Generation Game”, published in The Sunday Age.
The Herald Sun’s Cassie Zervos was named the 2017 Young Journalist of the Year with her submission including the first interview with the mother of the Bourke Street attacker and an investigation into illegal tanning beds.
The Quill Awards evening has been an important event on the Melbourne media calendar since it was established by the Melbourne Press Club in 1995.