To celebrate excellence in Australian journalism, six leading journalists have been awarded Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) degrees by the University of Sydney.
Few sectors have been affected by digital disruption as the news and current affairs media.
Six of Australia’s best-known journalists have been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Sydney.
Geraldine Doogue AO, Sarah Ferguson, Caroline Jones AO, Michelle Grattan, Ray Martin and Laurie Oakes received Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) degrees at the University during a ceremony and dinner celebrating excellence in Australian journalism.
“Honouring the professionalism of these highly acclaimed and awarded journalists is also a timely reminder of the vital role journalism plays in democratic societies,” said Chancellor of the University, Belinda Hutchinson AM.
“Few sectors have been affected by digital disruption as the news and current affairs media. Financial pressures and the rise of alternative facts and fake news are challenging all media outlets to reassess how they deliver high quality, informative news.”
Honorary degrees are conferred to people who have made an outstanding contribution to the wider community, or achieved exceptional academic or creative excellence.
Geraldine Doogue AO has carved out a high profile career in print and broadcast media since joining the West Australian in 1972. She worked for The Australian in London before joining the ABC to present a new current affairs show, Nationwide.
Ms Doogue worked for radio station 2UE and Channel 10 – where she co-presented its nightly news bulletin – before returning to the ABC. She began presenting Life Matters in 1992, later also becoming host of Compass, a TV show examining spirituality, philosophy and belief. Since 2005, Doogue has presented Saturday Extra on Radio National, a radio show focusing on international politics, global affairs and business.
Sarah Ferguson began her career in the UK, where she wrote for The Independent before emigrating to France. There, she was employed by the ABC, a move which eventually brought her to Australia.
In Australia, Ms Ferguson worked for SBS and Channel 9 before re-joining the ABC.
At the state broadcaster Ms Ferguson became a reporter at Four Corners. Her investigative journalism included exposing Australia’s live cattle trade. She wrote and presented the highly acclaimed documentary series The Killing Season which delved into the bitter rivalry between former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.
Michelle Grattan is renowned for being part of Canberra’s parliamentary press gallery for more than 40 years. She was the first female editor of an Australian metropolitan daily when made editor at the Canberra Times in 1993.
Now a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra and Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland, Ms Grattan continues to work as a journalist as the Chief Political Correspondent for The Conversation media website.
Our alumni, students and an academic discuss the importance of journalism in Australia
Most familiar as presenter of the ABC weekly biographical TV show Australian Story, Caroline Jones AO has spent much of her journalistic career helping disadvantaged groups tell their stories. She has worked at the ABC for more than 50 years, presenting on a range of shows including Four Corners, The Search for Meaning and This Day Tonight.
In 1988 Ms Jones worked with Indigenous broadcasters at the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association in Alice Springs as they produced their first cultural and current affairs TV programs. CAAMA is now Australia’s largest Aboriginal media organisation.
University of Sydney alumnus Ray Martin joined the ABC as a cadet in 1965. As the ABC’s North American correspondent he has interviewed Presidents Nixon, Carter and Ford, soon-to-be Presidents Reagan and Bush, and Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger. Mr Martin helped launch 60 Minutes in 1978.
More recently Mr Martin has delved into exploring cultural divisions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. He presented the acclaimed TV series First Contact and last year reported for provocative SBS show Is Australia Racist?
Also a university alumnus, Laurie Oakes cut his teeth as a journalist when editing the University’s student newspaper Honi Soit. He was only 25 when appointed The Melbourne Sun-Pictorial's Canberra bureau chief.
He started his own political journal The Laurie Oakes Report in 1978, before joining Network Ten as a television reporter. He went on to work for the Nine Network where he stayed until he announced his retirement last week.
Mr Oakes became a highly regarded political author after writing a biography of Gough Whitlam. He also wrote political commentary for The Daily Telegraph, a role he will soon relinquish as he retires from journalism.
University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence said the occasion was an opportunity to honour some of the best in the business.
“At the University of Sydney we consider our work in supporting this with robust, quality research and public engagement as core to our mission. Participation in public discourse is enshrined in our governing legislation – so it is literally embedded into who we are as an institution.
“There has never been a more important time to shine a light on some of Australia’s leading members of the Fourth Estate,” Dr Spence said.