Journalist Hedley Thomas and wife Ruth Mathewson at the Walkley Awards. Picture: Adam Hollingworth
Journalist Hedley Thomas and wife Ruth Mathewson at the Walkley Awards. Picture: Adam Hollingworth

2018 Walkley Awards: Hedley Thomas’s Teacher’s Pet wins Gold

THE Australian's national chief correspondent Hedley Thomas and producer Slade Gibson have won the nation's most prestigious award in journalism, the Gold Walkley, for their ­record-breaking true crime podcast The Teacher's Pet.

The pair also won a Walkley Award for investigative journalism for The Teacher's Pet, which looked into the disappearance of Sydney mother Lyn Dawson in 1982 and has been downloaded 27 million times worldwide.

The Walkley judges described the podcast - the subject of a Hollywood bidding contest - as "a masterclass in investigative journalism".

"The investigation uncovered long-lost statements and new witnesses, and prompted police to dig again for the body of Lyn Dawson," they said in a statement.

Thomas wrote and recorded an average of 15,000 words a week, as new informants came forward and the investigation unfolde­d in real time. Gibson added original music and audio production.

Dawson disappeared from Sydney's northern beaches in 1982, leaving two young daughters behind. A year later, her ex-footballer husband Chris Dawson married high school student and babysitter Joanne Curtis. Two inquests determined Lyn was probably murdered by her husband, but no one was ever prosecuted.

Thomas also won a Gold Walkley for his coverage of the Mohamed Haneef case in 2007, making him only the second person to win the coveted journalism accolade twice in the award's 40-year history. The other was cartoonis­t Ron Tandberg, who died in January.

The Australian's Jon Kudelka also won a Walkley for his ­cartoon "From The Heart", which showed a middle finger emerging from Uluru after the government's response to the indigenous Statement from the Heart.

Kylie Stevenson, Caroline Graham and Eric George of The Australian were awarded the Walkley for their radio/audio podcast Lost in Larrimah, which examined what happened after the disappearance of Paddy Moriarty from the Northern Territory town.

The Australian's publisher, News Corp Australia, won four other Walkley Awards.

In Sydney, The Daily Telegraph's Sharri Markson, ­Chris­topher Dore and Kylar Lous­sik­ian won scoop of the year for their exclusive story in February that then deputy prime minister ­Barnaby Joyce was expecting a baby with former staff member Vikki Campion.

Mr Joyce was married at the time to Natalie Joyce, the mother of his four daughters. Mr Joyce ­resigned as deputy prime minister and ­Nationals leader weeks later.

At the time, Mr Dore was the ­editor of The Daily Telegraph but recently he was appointed editor-in-chief of The Australian.

The Daily Telegraph's Anthony De Ceglie and Brad Clifton were also awarded a Walkley for best headline for the Barnaby baby story, "Bundle of Joyce".

Leo Schlink, from Melbourne's Herald Sun, won a Walkley for sports journalism for his story on racing figures doping champion horses in some of Australia's biggest races, possibly ­including the Melbourne Cup. The Courier-Mail's Leisa Scott also won for feature writing.

Walkley Advisory Board chairman Angelos Frangopoulos said he was impressed with the calibre of this year's winners.

"It's so exciting to see innovative formats for journalism reaching huge audiences, and the diversity of our winners is a ringing endorsement of the quality of Australian journalism," he said.

He noted there were 1329 ­entries this year.

Mr Frangopoulos, who has been at the helm of the judging board for three years, will be ­replaced by Lenore Taylor, editor of The Guardian, next year. Claire Harvey from The Sunday Telegraph will be deputy chair.

Mr Frangopoulos recently became chief executive of Sky News Arabia after working as chief executive of News Corp's Australian News Channel.

Previous Gold Walkley winner Kerry O'Brien will become chair of the Walkley Foundation next year, replacing Quentin Dempster. It was also announced that the first round of Walkley Public Fund grants would be distributed next year.