Boost for Kennedy Award's prize for regional newspaper reporting

Chris Watson

Chris Watson

AN award honouring former Newcastle Herald editor Chris Watson has been boosted by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism.

The Kennedy Foundation on Thursday announced that the Nielson institute had become the inaugural sponsor of the Chris Watson Award, which celebrates outstanding regional newspaper reporting.

The institute's $30,000 grant to the foundation will see the winner of the Chris Watson Award take home $5000 at the annual Kennedy Awards for excellence in journalism.

The grant will also allow the winning journalist to undertake a future reporting project on regional issues as well as help the foundation provide support to media professionals facing hardship.

The Chris Watson Award was established at the first Kennedy Awards in 2012. It honours Watson, a former Herald editor and mentor to many journalists.

Watson, known as Watto to his mates and colleagues, retired from the industry in 2012.

He died after a battle with cancer in 2013.

Kennedy Foundation chairman Simon Dulhunty praised the institute for its support of regional journalism.

"The Chris Watson Award is a recognition of superb regional newspaper reporting by professionals who keep the regional and rural communities up to date on the latest events affecting their lives and we are honoured that the Judith Neilson Institute has committed to back the industry," Mr Dulhunty said.

"Regional journalists and their proud mastheads are the backbone of Australia's media industry and their tireless coverage of daily news provides a combined number in the millions of people with a round-the-clock update of events shaping their lives.

"The Kennedy Foundation is extremely grateful that the Judith Neilson Institute recognises the importance of promoting and supporting our national regional newspaper industry."

Nielson institute board member Mark Ryan said regional journalism was "one of the obvious areas worthy of support right now".

"It does valuable work that the major metropolitan media either can't or won't do and it has proven time and again that it can dig out local and regional stories that then become national and international news on the biggest topics of our time," Mr Ryan said.

"There is real excellence in regional journalism and we want to play our part in making sure that continues."

More information is available at the Kennedy Awards website.