When Australia’s leading regional journalists converge in February to discuss the future of regional journalism in Australia, four of UNE’s brightest media and communications students will be taking over the news desk to package and broadcast all of the event’s news. 

The Walkley Regional Journalism Summit will precede the industry’s most prestigious awards, the Walkley Awards, all aiming to celebrate and nurture the highest standards of reporting in Australia across all formats.

Working under the mentorship of The Northern Daily Leader’s deputy editor, Madeline Link, UNE media and communications students Catherine Davis, Lucy Eddy, Jacob Johnston and Kirsty Meyer will be taking notes, interviewing participants, pitching stories, and turning the day’s big issues and ideas into news pieces for the event’s news partner, The Northern Daily Leader.

The summit’s speakers will include well-known journalists Lisa Millar, co-host of the ABC News Breakfast, Rudi Maxwell, editor of the Koori Mail, Rhanna Collins, head of Indigenous news and current affairs, NITV and SBS, and Donna Page, investigative journalist with The Newcastle Herald. Tim Mareema, editor of the Daily Yonder, and Evan Smith, CEO and co-founder of the Texas Tribune, will deliver keynote addresses on the state of regional journalism in the US.

It is the first time UNE students have been involved in the event, as UNE joins the Walkleys as the university partner.

The four UNE student reporters have each achieved outstanding academic results in their media and communications units, and have elected to participate to extend their professional experience.

UNE Media and Communications course coordinator, Dr Lewis Fitz-Gerald, says he is “delighted” his discipline can partner with the Walkleys to offer this invaluable experience.

“The Walkleys are the Oscars of journalism in this country, celebrating the finest achievements in journalism. This summit will have the students standing with the best in the industry; people they will have long admired, with careers they would like to emulate,” Dr Fitz-Gerald says.

“Just like the reality of the industry today, the students will be challenged to be able to work remotely in a digitally connected world, where they need to be agile and responsive and create their own opportunities and success.”

Jacob Johnston, who has completed his Bachelor of Media and Communications with Honours at UNE and currently works in the UNE Corporate Communications and Events team, says the opportunity to be involved and represent UNE is an “immense honour”.  

“The opportunity to be immersed in an industry event such as the Walkley Awards feels like my own personal award. More than anything else I am excited to be surrounded by professionals who are at the top of their respective fields,” Mr Johnston says.

“Being at the Walkley Awards and participating in the Student News Desk will be an opportunity to further my standing and understanding in the field of journalism. As a recent graduate I am looking to begin my career – this feels like the perfect way to kick start that journey.”

Tamworth local Kirsty Meyer says she’s looking forward to the wealth of knowledge, experience, and insight the speakers will be bringing to the table. 

“There is everything to gain from this experience,” Ms Meyer says. 

“Journalism may bring us together at the Walkey Regional Journalism Summit, but no path is the same. It will be interesting to hear people tell their stories. There is much to learn from what others have experienced throughout their journalism and media careers – the wins, the losses, and the lessons! 

“Practical experience will only enhance the education and knowledge UNE is providing as part of my degree,” she says.  

Due to the surge in Omicron cases, the summit is being held online instead of face-to-face in Tamworth, as originally intended. Anyone interested in regional journalism can register to attend for free.

The summit will take place on 10 February 2022 ahead of a range of professional masterclasses from 16 February, which students can attend at a discounted price, and the Walkley Awards on 25 February.

Click here to find out more about the summit and to register.