Each year, a New Zealand journalist is chosen as the Wolfson Press Fellow to join a scheme designed to bring talented journalists in mid-career to Cambridge University in the UK for a term of 10 weeks to research a project of their own choosing under light academic supervision.
The scheme has been operating since 1982 and since that time, at least 25 New Zealanders have taken part, most of whom hold prominent positions in journalism today (see list of Fellows below).
The NZ Fellow will join the scheme in the calendar year following the announcement, ie the Fellow announced in 2017 will attend Wolfson College in 2018. The programme usually starts in mid-April, running until the end of June.
The Fellowship is sponsored by the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, joined by Bauer Media Group. Return economy flights will be provided. Accommodation is a private flat with kitchen and sitting room including all services, heating, lighting, cleaning etc. Wolfson advises this is not suitable for families. Most meals are provided by Wolfson including formal halls, guest nights, special lunches and functions. College fees are met by the NZ sponsors.
Candidates for selection are chosen from among the finalists of major journalism categories in the annual Canon Media Awards, run in recent years by the NPA. Eligible categories include the main writing categories spanning reporting, feature writing, investigations, editorials, columns and reviews as well as editors of Newspaper, Magazine and Website of the Year finalists.
The association oversees the process by which the Wolfson Press Fellow is chosen. This involves identification of potential candidates and facilitating an independent selection panel to agree on a candidate to submit to Wolfson College for final approval. Announcement of the winner is one of the highlights of the awards presentation night.
This takes place in April/May, once the finalists for the Canon Media Awards have been chosen. Before any potential candidate is approached, his or her employer will be asked to confirm support for the employee’s candidacy. This will include the employer agreeing to continue to pay the employee’s salary while attending Wolfson College and confirming that the employee’s position will be kept open for the Fellow’s return.
Once an employer’s support has been confirmed for a particular candidate, that person will be contacted by the NPA and asked if he or she wishes to be considered for selection. If the response is in the affirmative, the candidate will be asked to submit a detailed research or study proposal, of up to 1200 words, stating how this will be of professional benefit to the individual as well as benefiting the employer’s media organisation and New Zealand media generally.
A panel of senior publishers and editors will consider the list of proposals and agree on a candidate whose selection will be recommended to Wolfson College. Members of the panel will be chosen close to the time to avoid potential for conflict of interest. The panel may require those on a short-list to attend an interview. If this is required, travel to and from the interview will be at the candidate’s expense.
The Press Fellowship Programme has been running since 1982. During this time, more than 320 Press Fellows from 47 countries have taken part. For many of the Wolfson alumni, the fellowship has been a life-changing experience. They become full members of Wolfson, Cambridge’s largest postgraduate college, and are expected to play a full part in the life of the collegiate community during their time in college. Wolfson is the most cosmopolitan college in Cambridge, with more than 70 different nationalities represented among its members at any given time.
The fellowship is not a course, but a period in which journalists are immersed in the intellectual life of one of the world’s great universities, given time to think, read and reflect, and converse with people from a wide range of disciplines and cultures.
2017 Miriyana Alexander
Miri Alexander was awarded the fellowship in recognition of the Weekend Herald, under her editorship, winning Weekend Newspaper of the Year and overall Canon Newspaper of the Year at the 2017 awards. The Weekend Herald also won Best Front Page and on an individual level, Miriyana was a finalist, for the second consecutive year, in Editorial Executive of the Year.
Under her editorship, the Weekend Herald increased readership by 15 percent year on year, while the other paper she edits, Herald on Sunday, also grew readership while overtaking its main rival to become the highest circulating Sunday paper in New Zealand. A former deputy editor of the Sunday Star-Times, she won Qantas Reporter of the Year in 2000.
Her study proposal was entitled “Fake News! How to stay a trusted, credible news source in the era of alternative facts”. Miri proposed using her time at Wolfson to explore how the world’s media, the social media giants, lawmakers and others are dealing with these new threats.
2016: Rebecca Macfie - NZ Listener
Rebecca Macfie is a senior writer with the Listener, and has previously worked as a business writer with the Herald’s The Business, Unlimited Magazine, The Independent Business Weekly and the National Business Review. She has won a host of Canon, Qantas and MPA awards for her current affairs feature writing. She is the author of Tragedy at Pike River Mine, which won the Best First Book for Non-Fiction award at the New Zealand Post Book awards in 2014, and was a finalist in the General Non-Fiction Award in the same year.
She takes up her Wolfson Fellowship in 2017. She will focus on climate change and climate policy internationally, tapping into the wealth of economic think tanks in the UK and Europe tracking the progress of the Paris agreement and the impact of climate change on economies and communities.
2015: Shayne Currie - NZME
Shayne Currie was awarded the Wolfson Fellowship in 2015 in recognition of five Newspaper of the Year awards collected by newspapers under his editorship in the previous eight years. This remarkable record, probably unparalleled in New Zealand publishing, included The New Zealand Herald taking the supreme award in 2015. Shayne also picked up the gong as editor of the Herald on Sunday, a post he held before being promoted to the daily.
Shayne, pictured with Canon NZ managing director Kim Conner, will take up his fellowship in 2016. He intends to research one of the great dilemmas facing editors in the modern era – how to serve traditional newspaper readership while appealing to new and younger generations who often appear to care little for serious news. And of course the continuing and massive challenge of maintaining a viable print publication while satisfying the rapacious demands of the exploding digital audience.
2014: Andrea Vance - Fairfax Media
Andrea Vance was awarded the Wolfson Fellowship this year for starring in the Canon reporting categories. She was crowned Reporter of the Year, having also won the award for best political reporting. These awards recognised the powerful stories she broke in 2013 about illegal spying by the GCSB. While doing her job, she also became a surveillance target with her emails, phone records and movements around Parliament buildings being monitored by Parliamentary Services.
Andrea was born in Northern Ireland and educated in Wales, starting in journalism with a news agency filing stories for UK national papers. Then came a seven-year stint as an investigative reporter with News of the World before taking up the role of night news editor at the Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. In 2008, she joined Fairfax in Wellington, first as news network co-ordinator before moving to the Press Gallery in 2010.
Given her personal experience, it’s fitting that Andrea has chosen as her subject for study at Wolfson College the whole new problem facing journalism of protecting sources and information in the digital age. Commenting to the awards audience, she pointed out that in the post-Edward Snowden landscape, journalists are lagging behind resource-rich governments, their agencies and other organisations. Many don’t possess the technical literacy required to protect their privacy – and, more importantly, that of their sources. Andrea will take up her fellowship in 2015.
2013: Mike White - North & South
Mike is one of New Zealand’s most renowned journalists. A former chief reporter of the Marlborough Express, Mike spent time as a freelancer writing from Pakistan and Afghanistan before joining the UN in the Middle East where he had two tours in Iraq.
He’s spent the past decade at North & South where has won a host of Qantas, Canon and other awards for a wide range of stories. He lives on Wellington’s wild south coast with partner Nikki.
He has no children, no TV - but one dog. Mike submitted a proposal to study miscarriages of justice. He’s driven by a comment from a retired High Court judge Sir Thomas Thorp who believes up to 20 New Zealand prisoners may be innocent of the crimes they were convicted of. One of his aims is to provide a resource for New Zealand journalists to help them evaluate and carry out investigations into potential wrongful convictions.
2012: Martin Van Beynen - The Press
Martin was both Newspaper Feature Writer of the Year and Reporter of the Year – a double that we are not aware of ever being achieved before.
Martin has had a varied career, finding his true vocation in journalism in his early 30s. He is known for the diversity of his journalism which ranges from satiric columns to investigative exposes. Most of his 23 years in journalism have been spent with The Press newspaper of which he was deputy chief reporter for many years. He is perhaps best known for his writing on the David Bain case, New Zealand's most notorious and intriguing murder case. Martin has three children with wife Paula and lives in Diamond Harbour on Banks Peninsula.
2011: Sinead Boucher - stuff.co.nz
Sinead Boucher was recognized for her contribution to leading digital journalism and development at Fairfax and in particular, its multi-awarded flagship stuff.co.nz website.
She travelled to Wolfson College in 2012 to study digital community as it relates to journalism. During her time at Wolfson, Sinead visited the Guardian, Observer, BBC, Huffington Post/AOL, attended the Global Editors' Conference in Paris, and talked with many leading academics and analysts on the future of the media in the digital age. In 2013, Sinead was promoted to the post of Group Executive Editor for Fairfax Media in New Zealand, responsible for leading the company’s editorial strategy and integrated editorial operations, and contributing to the continued development of Fairfax newspapers, magazines and digital platforms. Sinead joined Fairfax as a reporter at The Press in Christchurch in 1993, staying for six years before moving to the UK and working as a digital journalist for the Financial Times site, FT.com, then to Reuters’ London bureau. She returned to The Press in 2004.
|2017||Rebecca Macfie||NZ Listener|
|2015||Andrea Vance||Fairfax Media|
|2014||Mike White||North & South|
|2013||Martin van Beynen||The Press|
|2011||Pamela Stirling||NZ Listener|
|2010||Christopher Barton||NZ Herald|
|2009||Phil Kitchin||Dominion Post|
|2008||David Fisher||Herald on Sunday|
|2007||Steve Braunias||Sunday Star-Times|
|2006||Tim Watkin||NZ Listener|
|2005||John Roughan||NZ Herald|
|2004||Anthony Hubbard||Sunday Star-Times|
|2003||Deborah Coddington||North & South|
|2002||Tony Wall||Sunday Star-Times|
|2001||Phil Taylor||NZ Herald|
|2000||Brendon Burns||Marlborough Express|
|2000||Yvonne van Dongen||Sunday Star-Times|
|1999||Caroll du Chateau||Metro|
|1998||David Wilson||The Press|
|1996||Belinda Milnes||The Dominion|
|1994||Finlay Macdonald||NZ Listener|
|1986||Bruce Ansley||NZ Listener|