Levin journalist Aaron Smale has won this year’s Bruce Jesson journalism award to fund research into abuse of patients at the former Lake Alice mental hospital near Marton.
Smale, a freelance journalist whose previous work on abuse at Lake Alice helped to put the wider issue of abuse of people in state care on the public agenda, receives a $4000 grant to fund further work on the issue.
The annual grant was established to honour journalist and politician Bruce Jesson, who died in 1999. It funds “critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing which will contribute to public debate in New Zealand on an important issue or issues”.
Bruce Jesson Foundation acting chair Simon Collins says Aaron Smale’s work, done mostly without secure employment but with a passionate commitment to social justice, is “exactly the sort of work that the Jesson Foundation exists to support”.
“This work would not be done without an independent source of funding for public-interest journalism,” he says.
“We are very grateful to everyone who has donated to the foundation over the past 18 years so that we can contribute in a small way towards funding Aaron’s important work.”
The foundation has given this year’s Emerging Journalist Award of $1000 for published work by a student journalist to Wellington journalist Meriana Johnsen for a story published in the Sunday Star-Times on police handling of suicide calls, written while she was a journalism student at Massey University.
Two other Massey students have been awarded special $500 highly commended awards: Amber Allott, for an investigation into reptile trading published in NZ Geographic magazine, and Anna Whyte, for an in-depth story on revenge porn published on the TVNZ website.
The awards are being announced at the annual Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture, which is being delivered at Auckland University at 6pm tonight by Monte Cecilia Housing Trust chief executive Bernie Smith.