How the MPC Young Journalist of the Year Award came about

Recent Young Journalist award winners Sam Cucchiara (2019), Paul Sakkal (2020), Olivia Jenkins (2021) and Sarah Booth (2022)

By Jim Clarke, MPC president 1992 – 1995

Thirty years ago the Melbourne Press Club’s role in advancing journalism mostly was to host interesting lunches and to provide a platform for lively discussion by like-minded professionals. We struggled to keep members’ costs to a minimum, yet in 1993 the club had managed to accrue a modest surplus. This was a chance to make a contribution.

The club had not succeeded in attracting young journalists and generally the few promising future leaders of thought gained little recognition or public encouragement. So, the MPC committee decided to create an award that would acknowledge achievement and assist in the development of young journalists. A journalist aged 25 or younger would win $2000 from the club and a $500 trophy given by former president Noel Tennison. I thought overseas media experience would benefit the winner and negotiated with Qantas and American Airlines to provide international travel.

Mike Smith, then editor of The Age, suggested the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference would be a worthwhile target and gave me a contact, which resulted in a delegate’s pass, two weeks’ work experience and billeted accommodation. A few months later Michelle Coffey, of the Herald Sun, was announced the inaugural MPC Young Journalist of the Year and shortly after headed to New York.

Although the MPC had hosted the Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year presentation on behalf of The Age since its inception, the Young Journalist was the club’s first award and it has certainly enhanced the experience of new generations of journalists. The impressive list of awardees, which includes Gavin Morris, Gerard Whateley, Nick McKenzie, current MPC president Ashlynne McGhee and 26 others, demonstrates the depth and diversity of our media.

The Young Journalist of the Year was only a beginning and today the club offers several programs for young and early-career journalists, including the MPC Mentoring Program.

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