Investigative journalist Adele Ferguson has accepted the Graham Perkin journalist of the year award at the state of Victoria’s Quills, using her speech to rally against job cuts at Fairfax Media, reports ABC News.
The Quills are awarded for excellence in Victorian journalism and “acknowledge outstanding work produced by journalists, photographers, camera people, cartoonists, illustrators and editors”.
Ferguson took out the top award as Fairfax staff continued to strike in protest at plans to cut 120 editorial jobs as part of cost-cutting measures at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Australian Financial Review.
Ferguson’s work for The Age, in partnership with ABC Four Corners, last year revealed retail giant 7-Eleven was systematically paying its workers about half the minimum wage at stores around the country.
The story prompted the resignation of the company’s chairman Russell Withers, along with chief executive Warren Wilmot and general manager of operations Natalie Dalbo.
The company has since established a panel led by former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) boss Allan Fels to help staff recover wages, and the Fair Work Ombudsman expects to take more court action over worker exploitation.
Ferguson told the audience gathered in Melbourne that the cuts would make her job and others’ much more difficult.
“Given the past 24 hours at Fairfax, it’s with a heavy heart I’m here tonight,” she said.
“If there are job cuts it’s going to be harder.
“I hope we’re not going to go on cutting, cutting, cutting until there’s nothing left.”
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) believes the cuts amount to one-quarter of the editorial workforce.
The mood at the awards has been a sombre one, with journalists wearing “Fairgo Fairfax” T-shirts in support of the diminishing editorial workforce at the company.
A number of media professionals have tweeted in support of Ferguson and other Fairfax staff for their commitment to quality journalism.