Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year 2011

Neil Mitchell
3AW and the Herald Sun

Congratulations to 3AW and the Herald Sun's Neil Mitchell, winner of the 2011 Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year Award. Neil Mitchell is a broadcaster on 3AW, writes a weekly column for the Herald Sun, and comments daily on the Sunrise Program on Channel Seven.

Mitchell won the esteemed prize for excellence in radio journalism over a quarter of a century, particularly in 2011, becoming the first radio journalist to win the coveted prize.

At the 2011 Quill Awards dinner, the Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year, Neil Mitchell, referred to a speech made by Perkin 40 years earlier. It was the 1972 Wilkie-Deamer lecture in which Perkin described why newspapers  deserved criticism, but  also needed defending. Mitchell said it was a relevant warning about bad journalism  but also a powerful  reminder to dismiss some of the sillier critics of the media.

Read the 1972 Graham Perkin speech here

His work in 2011 included breaking the story that led to the resignation of Victoria's Chief Commissioner of Police, exposing a crisis in the health system and conducting several heated interviews with the Prime Minister.

Mitchell received a $20,000 prize and a plaque at the Melbourne Press Club Quill awards dinner at Crown Palladium in Melbourne on March 23, 2012.

This is the thirty-sixth year of the award and the third year it has been open to journalists from television, radio and new media. This year, a record number of entries were recieved.

Six other journalists were short‐listed for the award. They were:

  • Natasha Bita of The Australian for her investigative pieces on the Fluvax vaccine. 
  • Hamish Macdonald of Network Ten for a series of reports from the Middle East, Africa and Japan.
  • Matt Moran and Hugh Riminton of Network Ten for breaking the Skype scandal at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
  • Steve Pennells of The West Australian for a portfolio of news and feature articles from Asia and Africa.
  • Mark Willacy from ABC television and radio for his coverage of the Japanese tsunami.
  • Caroline Wilson of The Age for excellence in sports reporting and commentary over three decades, particularly in 2011

The Perkin commemorates the legendary editor of The Age who died prematurely at age 45 in 1975.

The judges for the 2011 award were Les Carlyon (Chair), Jana Wendt and Paul Kelly.

Carlyon, the chair of the judging panel, said: 

"Neil Mitchell last year broke the story that led in a straight line to the resignation of Victoria’s Chief Commissioner of Police. He exposed a serious new crisis in the health system. He wrote strong columns about both issues for the Herald Sun. He jousted spectacularly with the Prime Minister. He did a long interview with Australia’s three living Victoria Cross winners that was memorable for its gentle teasing out of facts and feelings. As always, he spent the year sticking up for ordinary people who otherwise might not have had a voice.

As part of Neil’s nomination, Laurie Oakes, last year’s winner of this award, wrote: ‘He breaks stories. He has good sources. He holds the powerful to account.' Peter Blunden, the managing director of the Herald and Weekly Times, wrote: ‘He never gives up until he gets results. That’s what great journalism is all about.’

In judging the award we also noted that Neil’s performance in 2011 was no one-off performance. Rather it was typical of his twenty-five years on air.Neil meets the defining criteria for this award - that the journalism be memorable and excellent. There is a third criterion. We are asked to look for work that Graham Perkin might have liked. There’s no doubt Graham would have applauded the Mitchell trademarks: an uncanny sense of audience, a hatred of humbug and a belief that the only agenda is the story itself.So congratulations to you, Neil, and also to the other six on what was a very strong short list."

Mitchell's entry, including a collection of his best journalism from 2011, is featured below.

Winning Entry 

View Neil Mitchell's entry in fullscreen

3AW Radio excerpts and Herald Sun Columns

Part 1 - Lies, Damn Lies and Crime Statistics: The Campaign for Truth

24th February

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25th February

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28th February

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1st March

Column: "Crime stats simply don't add up", Herald Sun

1st March

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9th May

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10th May

Column: "Public trust is lost in the spin around our police force crisis", Herald Sun

7th June

Column: "Peter Ryan needs to display leadership", Herald Sun

16th June

Victorian Ombudsman's Report: "Investigation into an allegation about Victoria Police Crime Statistics"

17th June

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Part 2 - Changing the World: A Whistle Blower Talks

October 11

Column: "Band-Aid fix has failed in hospitals", Herald Sun

October 11 8:30am

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October 11 9:00am

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October 11 10:00am

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Part 3 - Three Heroes, One Interview, One Microphone

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