Tonight in Melbourne, Australia’s leading journalists will gather for the annual Walkley Awards—the profession’s highest honour.

Noting the absence of a Walkley that recognises excellence in environmental journalism, leading figures in national climate and energy debates have signed an open letter to the Walkley Advisory Board, calling for a new award to fill this critical gap in 2011.

I encourage you to read the statement below which featured in Crikey‘s subscriber email today. As a signatory, I hope the letter contributes to the creation of a Walkley for Australia’s outstanding environmental journalists sooner rather than later.

Filling the clean energy and climate change gap at the Walkley’s:

When national journalism awards were first held, in 1956, the world was a very different place. The awards were initiated and sponsored by Ampol Petroleum founder Sir William Gaston Walkley. The intention was that these annual prizes would recognise Australia’s best journalists and encourage the development of the profession.

This year some 800 of the nations journalists and friends of journalism will gather at Crown  Casino for the 55th Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism and celebrate the centenary of the founding of the  Australian Journalists Association.

Journalists are competing across 34 categories covering key public interest topics and all media formats. Most of the prizes are sponsored.

Sir William Gaston’s Ampol Petroleum is no longer a sponsor, but the current benefactors list includes influential global and national corporations: BHP Billiton, Bayer, JP Morgan, Nikon, Media Monitors, ABC, Nine Network, Fairfax Media, SBS, Media Super, Seven Network, August, QUT Creative Industries, Purple Palate, Ernst & Young, Pantera Press and ING Direct.

One of the roles of the Walkley Advisory Board is to ensure the integrity and independence of the awards.

In addition to the awards which recognise media forms, from current affairs to cartooning, there are also topic awards for business, international, indigenous, community and regional, sports and social equity journalism.

There is no Walkley award for environmental problems or their solutions.

Clean energy and climate change are the biggest environmental issues facing in the world of 2010. They have powerful impacts on economy, society, technology, science and national security. This presents complex, controversial and challenging decisions for reporters and senior, editorial staff.

Why should some of the most important public interest journalism continue to be under-recognised by Australia’s most prestigious awards?

We believe that the Walkley Advisory Board should instigate a process to bring about a new award for 2011, that would recognise achievement in reporting of clean energy and climate change. This award should also be open to sponsorship, through a process that safeguards its independence and integrity.

Signed:

  • Dan Cass
  • Lane Crockett
  • Matthew Wright, Executive Director, Beyond Zero Emissions
  • Luke Osborne, Operations Manager, Windlab Systems
  • Greg Barber MLC, Australian Greens
  • Dr Richard Denniss, Executive Director, The Australia Institute
  • Simon Sheik, National Director, GetUp!
  • Leigh Ewbank, climate and energy commentator
  • Fiona Armstrong, policy analyst and commentator
  • Fergus Green, climate change lawyer and policy analyst
  • Miriam Lyons, Executive Director, Centre for Policy Development
  • Donna Luckman, Communications Manager and Deputy CEO, Alternative Technology Association
  • Sara Gipton, CEO, Greenfleet
  • Peter Avery, Co-Founder, Peninsula Speaks
  • Susannah Powell, Business and Communications Manager, Energy Research Institute, University of Melbourne
  • Michael Day, Editor, Environment Design Guide Journal
  • Antoinette Abboud, Public Affairs Manager, Centre for Policy Development
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