West Australian media executive Chris Wharton and The Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan were recognised for their contributions to the industry in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday honours list.
Mr Wharton was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), while Mr Sheridan was appointed an officer in the general division of the Order of Australia (AO).
Mr Sheridan, who has been foreign editor at the national daily since 1992, was recognised “for distinguished service to print media as a journalist and political commentator on foreign affairs and national security, and to Australia’s bilateral relationships”.
Mr Wharton received his award for “significant service to the print and television media in Western Australia as a senior executive, and to the community”.
A veteran of more than 40 years in the industry, Mr Wharton is particularly proud of the fact the honour recognises the role The West Australian and Seven West Media’s other assets play within the community.
“It’s not just about me. It’s about what our business does for the community here in West Australia.”
“It’s not just about me. It’s about what our business does for the community here in West Australia,” he said.
“It’s a reflection on all our staff too and on our company and the ethos of our company. We’re an integral part of the community and the fabric of society in Western Australia and we put back a lot and I think that’s really good.”
Mr Wharton started his journalism career in 1976 as a copyboy at Fairfax Media’s afternoon daily, The Sun.
“The machines were probably 100 years old when I got there. But it was a thrill just to hear the press crank up for the first time. The hairs went up on the back of my neck and I was hooked from that moment on,” Mr Wharton said.
He has worked at Christchurch Press in New Zealand, country newspapers in NSW and the Cumberland Newspaper Group, rising through the ranks to become assistant general manager.
In 1995, he was appointed chief executive of Perth’s Community Newspaper Group.
Between 2000 and 2008 he worked as managing director of Seven Perth before being appointed CEO of West Australian Newspapers, a true highlight of his career.
Another highlight was leading the charge in the merger between WAN and the Seven Media Group, which formed Seven West’s current business.
More recently he has been at the helm of an ambitious project that saw the integration of The West Australian and Seven television newsrooms.
Mr Wharton remains a big believer in the power of print and reiterates the enduring importance of newspapers.
“The world would be a poorer place for not having the newspaper industry,” he said.
In his career at The Australian, Mr Sheridan has interviewed dozens of foreign heads of state, including all past five presidents of Indonesia and South Korea, many of which have been exclusive.
“It’s important to bring fresh Australian integration to the world’s leaders,” he said of his role. “Another important element is to be able to test what the government is telling us with reality.”
“It’s important to bring fresh Australian integration to the world’s leaders.”
While Mr Sheridan is renowned for his analysis and commentary, he has broken a fair share of news including the recent leaked draft Defence white paper that created a political storm surrounding Australia’s new submarine fleet.
In terms of his career highlights, Mr Sheridan cites campaigning for Australia to accept Vietnamese refugees and a front page story about left-wing propaganda in the classroom – a story that helped make that edition of The Weekend Australian the biggest selling up to that point – as particular stand outs.
He also has written a number of books about Asia and foreign affairs. His most recent, When We Young & Foolish, outlines his young adult friendships with Australia’s future political leaders including Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Kevin Rudd and Bob Carr.
Mr Sheridan’s first newspaper article was an opinion piece written as a 17-year-old in 1974 about how to improve the nation for The Sun in Sydney.
He took a job at The Bulletin in 1979 before joining The Australian in 1984 to write editorials.
In 1985 he became the paper’s first Beijing correspondent. He then worked in Washington and Canberra before being appointed foreign editor – a role he has held ever since.
“Although it’s kind of unfashionable these days to stay in the one job a long time, I think people like Paul Kelly and Michelle Grattan have shown that there can be a real usefulness in it as long as you keep your energy, your vigour and your curiosity,” Mr Sheridan said.
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