An investigation by the ABC’s Mark Willacy into alleged war crimes by elite Australian soldiers in Afghanistan has been recognised with three of Queensland’s top journalism awards.
Willacy, a Brisbane-based member of the ABC Investigations team, won the trophies for Investigative Journalism and Best TV Current Affairs for the March 2020 Four Corners “Killing Field”, which the judges described as “compelling viewing”.
“Mark Willacy has again set the benchmark for this category with an outstanding piece of investigative and agenda-setting work,” the judges said. “It ticked every judging criteria for the category: incisive, impact, public benefit.
“The story was followed by every major news outlet nationally and internationally, in what is a forerunner to undoubtedly the most significant scandal facing Australia’s defence forces in the months ahead.”
Willacy also shared the award for Radio News Current Affairs with Alexandra Blucher and Rory Callinan for their related AM report “The Village Idiot Killing”.
ABC News Digital teams comprised all three finalists in the Innovation category in what judges decribed as “a field of outstanding online content”, with Tim Leslie, Ben Spraggon, Joshua Byrd, Nathan Hoad and Cristen Tilley taking the prize for “How climate change has impacted the world since your childhood“.
Digital team ABC News Story Lab also won the Health category for its digital COVID-19 coverage.
Josh Bavas was awarded for Social Issues Reporting, Marian Faa was named New Journalist of the Year and Nibir Khan was named Most Outstanding Final Year Journalism Student for work done for ABC News Digital.
Director, News Gaven Morris congratulated all winners and finalists and said the ABC was producing some of the best journalism in its history across all platforms.
“Our journalism has never been stronger and our coverage has never been more comprehensive,” he said.
“To have this recognition from our peers and audiences for the hard work, talent and innovation of our people and teams is well deserved and very welcome.”
ABC winners and finalists at the 2020 Queensland Clarion Awards
Winner: Mark Willacy, Four Corners, “Killing Field”
Mark Willacy’s investigation into Australia’s elite special forces was compelling viewing. The never before seen footage, damning interview with Braden Chapman backed up by local villagers truly revealed the extent of the “Killing Field”. The ramifications of this Four Corners report for our soldiers and the military as a whole will be far reaching. “Killing Field” encompasses the attributes of a fine investigative report. The extensive research and ability to cultivate contacts to take part in the story, combined with the strong vision, good scripting and interviewing makes it compelling viewing. The bravery of the whistleblower and the reporting team in pursuing this impactful story is evident.
Finalist: Michael Atkin, ABC News Online and ABC 7.30, “Leaving Eden Camac to die”
TV Current Affairs, Feature, Documentary or Special Broadcast
Winner: Mark Willacy, Four Corners, “Killing Field”
“Mark Willacy has again set the benchmark for this category with an outstanding piece of investigative and agenda setting work. “Killing Field” meticulously uncovered never before seen proof that some of our elite soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan. It required gaining the trust of members of the notoriously secretive special forces, as well as months of painstaking research and verification. It ticked every judging criteria for the category; incisive, impact, public benefit. The story was followed by every major news outlet nationally and internationally, in what is a forerunner to undoubtedly the most significant scandal facing Australia’s defence forces in the months ahead.”
Radio News Current Affairs
Winner: Mark Willacy, Alexandra Blucher and Rory Callinan, ABC AM, “The Village Idiot Killing”
“A standout amongst a high calibre of nominations, Mark Willacy’s report surrounding the alleged shooting of a disabled man in Afghanistan and its subsequent cover up demonstrated Willacy’s persistence and tenacity in storytelling. Willacy not only gained the trust of former SAS soldiers and witnesses to blow what was already an explosive previous Four Corners exclusive wide open, but he told it in a way that took listeners to the scene from the outset with his use of imagery and sound.”
Finalist: Mark Willacy, Four Corners, “Killing Field”
Winner: ABC News Story Lab, ABC News Digital, “ABC News Story Lab COVID-19 coverage”
The COVID 19 story is a huge and rapidly-moving one, with so much information it is easy for the consumer to be overwhelmed. This work simplifies complex data by using a conversational tone with easy-to-understand graphics. The main feature is its simplicity of style and design which makes the information easier to digest. It is the sort of production that enables people to remember the content. The creativity and innovative thinking behind this work make it a standout entry.
Finalist: Elly Bradfield, Rebecca Richardson and Nathan Morris, ABC News, ABC Online and Radio National, Earshot, “Inside the Birth Suite”
Social Issues Reporting
Winner: Josh Bavas, ABC TV News and ABC News Online, “Angelo vs Bupa – A student’s fight for life”
“This was a difficult category to judge because of the sheer volume and high quality of entries as well as diverse range of social issues. Josh Bavas’ exclusive report on a Colombian student’s David and Goliath battle to get his cancer treatment covered by a multinational health insurer, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic was a powerful piece of public interest journalism. Sensitively handled, the reporting achieved maximum impact in a matter of life and death.”
Finalist: George Roberts and Josh Robertson, ABC TV News, ABC Radio Current Affairs, ABC Radio News and ABC News Online, “Autistic teens locked in squalor, despite reports to ‘Child Safety'”
Winner: Tim Leslie, Ben Spraggon, Joshua Byrd, Nathan Hoad and Cristen Tilley, ABC News Digital, “How climate change has impacted the world since your childhood”
“The judges felt, in a field of outstanding online content, this entry by the ABC News Digital team demonstrated a very deliberate approach to personalised information delivery and individual engagement. Examining an often-heard statement in the complicated area of climate change, “we had this weather when I was a child” the content felt connected, direct, and looked not only at past climate impacts but towards future modelling.
“The construction of the platform was user-friendly while complex, and delivered effortlessly to the user. A clear intention to cut through a white-wash of information and reach the user was at the centre of this approach. A remarkable level of research and data analysis was transformed into something tangible and relatable. Leaving the user with knowledge as well as questions.”
Finalist: Tim Leslie, Matt Martino, Colin Gourlay, Ben Spraggon and Cristen Tilley, ABC News Digital, “How extreme conditions drove Australia’s bushfire crisis”
Finalist: ABC News Story Lab, ABC News Digital, “Australia Talks”
The John Bean Memorial Award for Television Camerawork
Finalist: Stephen Cavenagh, ABC TV News, “Stanthorpe Fire”
Regional and Community – Broadcast Report
Finalist: Annie Guest, ABC Landline, “The fight for the right to repair”
Finalist: Nathan Morris and Elly Bradfield, ABC 7pm News, ABC Radio News, ABC News Online, “New Acland Coal vs the Oakey farmers”
Finalist: Dominique Schwartz, ABC Radio AM and ABC TV 7.30, “Rural mental health”
Most Outstanding Final Year Journalism Student – Graduating 2020
Winner: Nibir Khan, ABC News Online and JACDigital via Adobe Spark, “Coverage of the Rohingya and Muslim Communities in Queensland”
“An outstanding entry introducing Nibir Khan as a big-picture storyteller. He shows a global perspective, even visiting a refugee camp in Bangladesh as a “one-man crew” to reveal the different lives of two Rohingya cousins – one living in Australia and the other in the camp. His work demonstrates original, important and ambitious journalism, of which much more experienced journalists would be proud.”
New Journalist of the Year
Winner: Marian Faa, ABC News Online and PM, “Ethical concerns over military’s COVID-19 drug trials”
“Marian Faa was at the leading edge of a story of national interest – no mean feat for a young journalist in far north Queensland. Her reports on plans to trial Coronavirus drugs on soldiers addressed legitimate concerns and highlighted cracks in the process of a controversial decision. They were timely, topical and well-researched. Marian impressed the judges with her assured radio current affairs reporting.”
Finalist: Tim Swanston, ABC News, ABC News Digital and Triple J Hack: “Body of Work”
Finalist: Brittney Kleyn, ABC News Online, ABC 7pm News, IGTV, “Issues facing Women in the AFLW”
Finalist: Kelly Butterworth, ABC News Online, “Community relations: Badge and Culture”
Finalist: Josh Robertson, ABC TV News and ABC AM, “Gus Kuster and the folly of Australia’s hard line”