Australian Skeptics calls for nominations for media prize

Australian Skeptics Inc is once again offering an annual award for the best piece of skeptical journalism.

The Barry Williams Award for Skeptical Journalism recognises the best piece of journalism (in any medium) that takes a critical and skeptical approach to a topic that falls within our remit, which is the scientific investigation of pseudoscience and the paranormal. It is awarded annually, with a citation and $2000 prize. The first award was given in 2018 to News Ltd journalist Jane Hansen for a series of pieces on the anti-vaccination movement, and the No Jab No Pay/Play legislation.

A panel made up of experienced award-winning journalists across differing media has been put together to review entries.

The award is named for the late Barry Williams, past president and executive officer of ASI who was a regular on Australian media. The award is nicknamed the “Wallaby”, in memory of “Sir Jim R Wallaby”, the regular nom-de-plume Barry used for his more whimsical editorial pieces.

Tim Mendham, executive officer of ASI and editor of The Skeptic, said “We’re calling for nominations for the 2019 Wallaby from skeptics, the public and the media – journalists can nominate their own work. It would nominally be given for one piece or a series, used in print, TV, radio, or online, produced in Australia.” The item(s) nominated should have been published between November 2018 and October 2019 inclusive.

Nominations should be sent to the editor of The Skeptic at editor@nullskeptics.com.au or send hard copies to Australian Skeptics, PO Box 20, Beecroft NSW 2119. Deadline is November 1, 2019.

He said that a key issue would be the nature of a “skeptical” piece of journalism: “Should it take a debunking stance, or a more general critical thinking approach? Personally I would prefer the second – the piece takes a critical investigative approach to the topic, though I must admit I might have concerns if a piece came down in favour of the outer fringes of ‘woo’. My view is that we would certainly not be rewarding a puff piece for either side of the argument – serious journalism only need apply.”

The Wallaby will complement the Skeptics’ other awards, which include the Bent Spoon, which goes to “the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal piffle”, as well as the more positive Skeptic of the Year and the Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason. The latter goes to a member of the public who may not have anything to do with the skeptical movement.

Both the Wallaby and the Thornett awards include a $2000 prize.

The recipients of these awards are traditionally announced at the gala dinner at Skepticon, the Skeptics’ national annual convention, which this year will be held in Melbourne on December 7.

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