Drought report wins inaugural Excellence in Rural Journalism Award

Canberra-based ABC reporter Lucy Barbour has taken out the top prize at the National Rural Press Club’s inaugural Excellence in Rural Journalism Award for her report on the huge impact of drought within and beyond rural communities.

Best News Coverage and Overall Winner, Lucy Barbour, ABC

The prize of $5000 is one of the richest rural media awards in the country and pays for attendance at the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Congress being held in in Denmark in June 2020.

This year’s competition attracted a total of 47 stories covering print, television, online and radio, with a heavy focus on drought and water management. Prizes were awarded for ‘Best News Coverage’ and ‘Best News Feature’ and ‘Best Feature Sections’ ($1000 for winners and $250 for runners up), along with an award for Outstanding Contribution ($500).

These awards encouraged journalists to enter who report on agricultural, rural and regional news and feature stories with a clear connection to the Canberra region as the subject matter and/or showed clear linkage to where the journalist was based.

NRPC President Pip Courtney thanked the all the entrants to the inaugural awards (listed below) and also the judges, Anna Vidot, Les White and Sue Neales.

“Attending the IFAJ Congress is an extraordinary opportunity for rural journalists and we are thrilled Lucy will be representing Australia in the international media awards recognising the best rural journalism in the world,” Pip said.

Best News Coverage

Winner: Lucy Barbour, ABC
Highly Commended: Kath Sullivan, ABC
Highly Commended: Shannon Twomey and Chantelle Francis, The Weekly Times

Best Feature

Winner: Brett Worthington, ABC
Highly Commended: Kath Sullivan, ABC
Highly Commended: Anna Henderson, ABC

Outstanding Contribution

Winner: Mike Foley, Australian Community Media

Overall Winner

Winner: Lucy Barbour, ABC

The Excellence in Rural Journalism Awards have been made possible through the generous support of sponsors Westpac, Animal Medicines Australia, Case IH and CropLife Australia.

NRPC also thanks Stephanie Corsetti (ABC), Matt Coughlan (AAP), Lucy Knight (The Weekly Times), Kemii Maqguire (ABC) and Sean Murphy (ABC Landline) for your quality entries

Winning stories

BEST NEWS COVERAGE – Sponsored by Westpac

WINNER: Lucy Barbour, ABC, for her report  “Day Zero”

The judges commented that “Lucy Barbour’s “Day Zero” reporting was well told and had huge impact both within and beyond regional communities and media. Her story brought home the significance and reality of the drought to city audiences, and made significant mainstream news. The focus on regional towns and not just farmers was important, highlighting that people on mains water and not just tanks, were about to be left high and dry. It was a significant and impactful contribution on one of the biggest issues of the year”.

Lucy’s TV story ‘Day Zero’ is not online, but here are a series of stories she produced:

Kath Sullivan, ABC was awarded the highly commended for two categories

Highly commended: Kath Sullivan, ABC

Barnaby Joyce says he sent ‘an awful lot’ of special drought envoy reports to PM

This story broke the news that Barnaby Joyce had prepared no written reports in his time as drought envoy, but had communicated his thoughts via text messages to the Prime Minister. The story highlighted the ad hoc nature of the Federal Government drought response, and had impact on the mainstream news and political agenda.

Shannon Twomey and Chantelle Francis, The Weekly Times, “DFAT bureaucrat linked to controversial ‘Aussie Farms’ group”
This story showcased the reporters’ tenacity in chasing down a story of clear interest to the farm sector, and to the Public Service community of Canberra itself. It raised interested questions about how the public behaviour and private business dealings of public servants interact with their government work, and where the lines are and should be drawn. (not online)

BEST FEATURE sponsored by CropLife Australia

WINNER: Brett Worthington, ABC, “Popping Prosecco’s Bubble

Recipient of ‘Best Feature’ Brett Worthington with Laureta Wallace and Colin Bettles

This beautifully written and presented feature delivered a fresh perspective and the other side of a story of clear interest and significance to Australian producers, and consumers of Australian produce. It gave the reader a human and valuable insight into the cultural and historical significance of ‘geographical indicators’ like prosecco, which are typically rejected out of hand in Australian news coverage that understandably focuses on local views. With trade negotiations between Australia and the EU underway, this article provided timely and newsworthy information. But, it did that in a very engaging way, that kept the reader interested to the end.

Highly commended: Kath Sullivan, ABC

Water trading’s ‘unintended’ consequences across Australia’s Southern Murray Darling Basin

This was a thoughtful and interesting read on an incredibly technically challenging subject. Water trading and the Basin Plan have been constantly in the news all year, and this feature put a human face and a considered voice to local concerns about the operation of the water market. It helped put news in context.

Highly commended: Anna Henderson, ABC

The cotton grower, the water minister, the pumping ban, and the broken meter

This was an engaging read that explained highly technical water industry details in an accessible way, while reporting on the outcome of a high profile and impactful case. Sitting through days of hearings, acquiring further information, and transforming that into very readable copy, was impressive.


Lucy Barbour, ABC
The quality of Lucy’s reporting on a subject of major national interest, looking at the drought from fresh and human angles, was a standout. This story, and the body of work submitted for these awards, is deserving of recognition.


Outstanding Contribution recipient, Mike Foley of Australian Community Media with Laureta Wallace, National Farmers’ Federation

Mike Foley, Australian Farm Online, Australian Community Media
Michael has made an “outstanding contribution” almost every week on the biggest issues of the year; water, drought and the Murray Darling Basin plan. He consistently explains difficult and complex issues clearly and concisely, including breaking stories along the way. Neither farming or city audiences would be as well informed without his efforts.

Leave a Reply