We support independent & critical thinking

We need your help to continue our work

Our democracy depends on the talents and efforts of those relatively few journalists, commentators and outlets willing to challenge the status quo. Their work allows us to challenge the limits to political debate in New Zealand.

Bruce Jesson was one of New Zealand’s great thinkers, a social critic whose writing put the establishment and the then new breed of ’money men’ under the microscope as New Zealand went through convulsive change in the 1980s and 1990s. Yet Bruce was also welcome in board rooms and around council tables. His fine mind, his pragmatism and his collegial attitude endeared him to business leaders and politicians, even if he couldn’t be persuaded to credulously follow their short-sighted and sometimes damaging policies.

When he died the Bruce Jesson Foundation was established to celebrate his legacy and to promote activities that would generate critical, informed, analytical and creative contributions to political debate in New Zealand and about New Zealand.

In these days of weak traditional media this task is ever more critical.

That’s why we are inviting you to join us in helping apply intelligence where there is tabloidism, informed analysis where there is bigotry, reason where there is sensationalism, and substance where there is shallow, lazy thinking.

It’s critical that high quality journalism endures. We make grants every year to journalists who need support to undertake brave and important work, and awards to promising journalism students who are the profession’s future.

But, apart from royalties from a book of Bruce Jesson’s collected articles, the trust has always depended on donations. In the last few years those donations, at our annual lecture and otherwise, have barely covered the $4000 a year in journalism grants and awards (our accounts are available on the Charities Commission web site). We have used up most of the reserves that we built up in earlier years and we now need to develop a more sustainable system of ongoing donations that can keep the grants and awards going at least at their current level, and preferably increase them.

To continue and expand the Foundation’s activities your support is crucial. Without it our ongoing work is in jeopardy. By contributing to the Bruce Jesson Foundation you will help us continue our efforts. Small contributions are very welcome, especially regular ones.

Please become a supporter today by following this link to our

Contribution Page

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Jesson Trust seeks alternative to ‘click-bait’

In today’s media world of celebrity and “click-bait”, the Bruce Jesson Journalism Grants are deliberately seeking something different.

The grants, now open for applications in their 13th year, aim to fund “critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing which will contribute to public debate in New Zealand on an important issue or issues”.

In the past 12 years they have part-funded books on inequality, on New Zealand’s role in the US “war on terror”, and on the abdication of corporate and political responsibility that led to the deaths of 29 miners at Pike River.

They have helped to finance Jon Stephenson’s award-winning reporting from Iraq, a documentary on New Zealand’s climate change policies, investigative articles on rest homes, and a report on how the welfare system treats beneficiaries in domestic relationships.

The latest grants last year supported a new documentary on New Zealand’s role in the US-led global surveillance network, and a report on the feasibility of the Auckland Council adopting the Living Wage.

The grants are unique in New Zealand because they fund time and research costs of up to $4000 in advance.

Applications for the 2016 grants and student journalism prizes are now open, and close on Friday 9 September.

Grant applicants should submit an outline of their proposed project and explain how it meets the criteria set out the Jesson website www.brucejesson.com.

It is usual to submit references and/or examples of previous work, and a budget for the project.

The separate Emerging Journalism Prize for student journalists offers $1000 for “outstanding recent work by New Zealand print journalism students.” It is nominated by the heads of New Zealand journalism schools or journalism programme leaders for work by student journalists published between the closing date of last year’s award, 18 Sept 2015, and this year’s closing date 9 Sept 2016.

Entries for both awards will be assessed by members of the Bruce Jesson Foundation’s Journalism Sub-committee: Simon Collins (convenor), Joe Atkinson, Bryan Bruce, Geoff Kemp and Nicola Legat. The committee’s convenor my be contacted here.

Applications and nominations can be submitted online through the Jesson website or by mail.

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Video of Rod Oram’s 2015 Lecture now available

Click on the still above to play. A direct link to the YouTube video is here.

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Historical Snippet – NZ Republican Association 1967

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Surveillance film and Living Wage report win 2015 Jesson awards

A documentary film about New Zealand’s role in the Five Eyes global surveillance network and a Living Wage feasibility report are the co-winners of this year’s senior Bruce Jesson Journalism Awards.

The awards, established in 2004 in honour of the journalist and politician Bruce Jesson who died in 1999, provide grants of up to $4000 in advance to complete works of “critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism”.

This year the Bruce Jesson Foundation has awarded $3000 to Wellington-based Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones of CutCutCut Films for The 5th Eye, an investigation of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and its role in the global Five Eyes network,

The other $1000 goes to Auckland journalist and lawyer Catriona MacLennan for a report on the feasibility of adopting the living wage at Auckland Council.

The 5th Eye tells two stories in parallel – an investigation into the GCSB’s role in surveillance for the United States and its allies, and the 2008 break-in at the Waihopai spy base in Marlborough by three Catholic activists who successfully deflated a dome covering a satellite interception dish. Wright and King-Jones say the break-in was “a misadventure of sorts that saw the three almost fail in their mission through a series of mishaps and twists of fate”.

The footage was shot over the past seven years, and the Jesson grant will enable the film-makers to complete the edit in time for a 2016 release.

Catriona MacLennan’s report on the Living Wage aims to update a 2013 report on the feasibility of paying all Auckland Council workers and contractors at least the living wage – a pay rate high enough to support a couple with two children assuming that one parent works fulltime and one half-time. It is currently estimated to be $19.25 an hour. The minimum wage is $14.75 an hour.

In 2013 the council paid 1544 workers less than the living wage. At the same time it paid more than $100,000 to 1500 well-paid employees, a number that has risen to 1920 this year.

Wellington City Council has voted to support payment of a living wage both to contractors and employees but Auckland Council voted against a living wage.

In presenting Catriona MacLennan with her award, foundation chair Sir Edmund Thomas said he was well aware of her writings in the legal area and her journalism “invariably set the highest standard”.

The foundation has also given three Emerging Journalist Awards this year to journalism students, all from Massey University in Wellington. They are:

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Rod Oram’s 2015 Bruce Jesson Lecture

On 14th October Rod Oram delivered the 2015 Bruce Jesson Lecture to an appreciative audience at the University of Auckland.

Addressing the future of business journalism in NZ, he identified the necessary starting point as grappling with the fundamental issues shaping our economy, and went on to outline how a new model for NZ business journalism would be built on three foundations: money, people and relationships.

A PDF version of the lecture can be downloaded here. A link to the video recording of the lecture will be posted as it becomes available.

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Rod Oram to Deliver 2015 Lecture

The 2015 Bruce Jesson Lecture will be delivered by Rod Oram and entitled

‘Follow the money ‒ the future of business journalism’

The feeble state of business journalism in New Zealand and around the world is but a subset of journalism’s general decline. To try to survive financially, many media organisations are increasingly blurring the distinction between journalism and advertising, devaluing both in the process. Yet, there has never been a more important time for business journalism.

Profound change is sweeping through business and economics and the societies they help shape. Journalists should be trying to explain what’s happening – the good and the ill – for the benefit of participants and public alike.

Wednesday 14 October, 6pm

Maidment Theatre, 8 Alfred Street, The University of Auckland

Doors open at 5.45pm, lecture starts at 6pm The Maidment Bar will open from 5pm

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Entries open for 2015 Jesson journalism awards

Have you got a journalistic project that you want to complete, but can’t get enough money or time to do it?

If so, a Bruce Jesson journalism award may be able to help. Applications for the 2015 awards are now open, and close on Friday 18 September.

There are two awards, a senior one to fund a planned journalistic project and a journalism student award for work that has already been published.

The Senior Journalism Award is unique in New Zealand because it funds time and research costs of up to $4000 in advance for projects that could be newspaper or magazine articles, reports on the internet, books, films, radio or TV documentaries or “any other publication which is aimed at, and accessible by, the general public of New Zealand or any part of New Zealand”.

Projects must be “critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing which will contribute to public debate in New Zealand on an important issue or issues”.

Past winners have included Nicky Hager, Max Rashbrooke and Rebecca Macfie for books; Jon Stephenson, Amy Richardson and Peter Malcouronne for magazine articles; Tina McIvor for a research report; and Alister Barry for his 2014 film on New Zealand’s climate change policies, Hot Air.

Applicants should submit an outline of their proposed project and explain how it meets the criteria set out here. It is usual to submit references and/or examples of previous work, and a budget for the project.

The Emerging Journalism Prize for student journalists offers $1000 for “outstanding recent work by New Zealand print journalism students.” It is nominated by the heads of New Zealand journalism schools or journalism programme leaders for work by student journalists published between the closing date of last year’s award, 26 Sept 2014, and this year’s closing date 18 Sept 2015.

Entries for both awards will be assessed by members of the Foundation’s Journalism Sub-committee: Geoff Kemp (convenor), Camille Guy, Joe Atkinson and Simon Collins.

Applications and nominations can be submitted online

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2014 Bruce Jesson Awards

The Bruce Jesson Foundation has announced its 2014 Journalism Awards:

  • The Senior Journalism Award of $4000 for a proposed work of “critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing that will contribute to public debate in NZ on an important issue or issues” was awarded to Max Rashbrooke for an e-book on wealth inequality in NZ;
  • The Emerging Journalism Award of $1000 for “outstanding published work of critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing by NZ print journalism students which will contribute to public debate in New Zealand on an important issue or issues” was awarded to Chloe Winter of Massey University, Wellington, for her article “War against killers we face at work“, published in the Herald on Sunday on 3 November 2013.

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2014 Bruce Jesson Lecture Available

On 15 October, Mike Joy delivered the 2014 Bruce Jesson Lecture at Auckland University. His topic, Paradise Squandered; New Zealand’s Environmental Asset Stripping. Mike’s capacity to blend an engaging narrative with the detail in his many informative slides meant an attentive audience, with many thirsty for more information and access to to resources referenced. Mike undertook to write the lecture up for distribution and it is now available in PDF form here.

Of particular note was that this lecture was not just an account of the damage that has been wrought on New Zealand’s environmental assets, but a call to action:

Crucially we must immediately stop the procrastination; we must get the science back and get rid of the politics. We must accept the reality that we can’t collaborate away environmental reality. Community agreement won’t stop the reality of impacts once the conditions for declines and biodiversity losses exist.

He went on to outline key actions required to arrest and then reverse this degradation:

At the many talks I have given to farming groups the usual response is “that’s all very grim, so now give me some solutions”, which translated means give me some (preferably technical) solution so that we can keep doing what we are doing because I’m not prepared to stop doing what I am doing. Of course this is not possible to really achieve improvements, so we must make these simple changes. We must:

  • put a cost on pollution (or premium on not polluting)
  • farm for profitability not for capital gain
  • Immediately move away from fossil fertiliser
  • Immediately move away from imported fertiliser and feed.

Please take the time to download Mike’s lecture, read it, and distribute it as widely as possible.

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