Karen Percy speech to 2023 Walkley Awards

This is an edited version of the speech given by MEAA Media Federal President Karen Percy to the 68th Walkley Awards held in Sydney on Thursday, November 23.

I want to acknowledge that we are on Gadigal land tonight and that many First Nations people are still hurting after the recent referendum. I pay my respects to elders past and present.. and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the room tonight.

The media is again in the spotlight because of concerns about partisanship and increased complaints about failing to report fairly, particularly in the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

There’s no doubt violence and crises of this nature are difficult to report – we’re in an information war as much as a military one.

There’s a high number of journalists who have died in this conflict. 53 and counting …

Without reporters on the ground in Gaza, it’s a huge challenge for Australian agencies to pick through the misinformation, disinformation, lies and deception.

Our colleagues across the industry are demanding better. They are having crucial conversations about the language being used in reporting, they’re challenging the assumptions being made and they are trying to root out biases.

All amidst a backdrop of hate, threats and intimidation.

Through military conflicts, pandemics, natural disasters, political turmoil MEAA members have proven again and again their commitment to the public interest , ethical standards and the important role of journalism in our society.

Rather than bristling and being defensive, media leaders, owners and editors need to listen and to respond constructively to their frontline workers – who know their communities and their colleagues.

As we celebrate Australia’s best journalists and journalism tonight, I want to shine a spotlight on some of the great local, community, regional and rural journalism in this country.

I’ve been lucky enough this year to attend a number of evenings like this … in Adelaide, Brisbane and most recently Geelong.

The quality of reporting being done by our colleagues outside of Sydney and Melbourne is astonishing and we must do what we can to nurture them.

Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to support a small outlet. Perhaps it’s from your homestate, or your hometown, or from a town or place you have travelled to every summer, or a place you’ve never been.

Or perhaps there’s a paper or broadcast service in another language that reflects your local community.

Find them … subscribe, follow them on social media, share their content, provide praise and feedback.

Do the same for freelance colleagues, whose ideas, energy, adaptability, are crucial to a diverse media.

But whatever you do subscribe, listen, watch, read. Our industry depends on it.

Oh yeah and let’s keep up the pressure to Free Julian Assange.

Thank you.

/Public Release. View in full here.