Walkley Awards to finally recognise arts journalism

For many years the arts industry has complained that there is no devoted category for arts journalism in the Walkley Awards. Just two weeks ago, Editor of The Australian’s Review magazine Tim Douglas argued that the Walkleys should recognise arts and culture journalism.

Well, it seems that those wishes have been heard, with the Walkley Foundation introducing a new award for arts journalism and reviving the Pascall Prize for Arts Criticism as the Walkley-Pascall Award for Arts Criticism.

The Walkley Awards were established in 1956 and have become Australia’s highest honour in journalism, but this will be the first time arts journalism is recognised.

The move comes just three weeks after news emerged that Fairfax planned to cut the majority of its arts and entertainment journalists. The company’s planned redundancies are yet to be confirmed.

But the Walkley Foundation was consulting with arts journalists and editors as far back as March as to the structure and scope of the new awards.

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The arts journalism award recognises: “significant contribution in reporting, writing, news breaking and analysis of arts issues. This may include profiles of artists, features and investigations, reporting on the structures and personalities involved in the creation of contemporary culture, and examination of the creative arena”.

The the Walkley-Pascall Award for Arts Criticism celebrates: “the unique contribution of critics to our cultural landscape, and the specialist, detailed knowledge they draw on to contextualise works of art. Criticism includes both reviews responding to the work itself, and deeper criticism placing work in the context of the artist’s oeuvre, specific genres and/or the current social/political/cultural landscape.”

Unfortunately for Australia’s critics, the Pascall Prize has been downgraded from a $15,000 award for a body of work to an award attached to a single piece of criticism, and there’s currently no cash prize attached.

There are also concerns being expressed within the arts journalism community that the awards will be presented as part of the mid-year awards ceremony on July 26 — with categories such as Young Australian Journalist of the Year, Women’s Leadership in Media and Freelance Journalist of the Year — instead of at the main ceremony later in the year.

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