Jack Ward is a 17-year-old journalist and producer who was recently named 2020’s Student Journalist of the Year by Youth Journalism International. He hosts and produces a local news podcast, Ararat’s Latest, and recently gained his first job at Ararat’s new newspaper, The Ararat Advocate. You can Tweet him at @jacktward_

What aspects of journalism motivate you the most?
Journalism has always been a passion of mine because I love sharing stories and keeping people informed. I’m motivated by the responsibility we have as journalists to keep people accountable for their actions and ensure society stays connected to issues. Being in the regional area of Ararat in Victoria, there is a heightened need for trusted news sources, and people deserve the right to know what’s going on in their communities.  My community is always at the forefront of my reporting.

What aspects of journalism motivate you the most?

Journalism has always been a passion of mine because I love sharing stories and keeping people informed. I’m motivated by the responsibility we have as journalists to keep people accountable for their actions and ensure society stays connected to issues. Being in the regional area of Ararat in Victoria, there is a heightened need for trusted news sources, and people deserve the right to know what’s going on in their communities.  My community is always at the forefront of my reporting.

What are the most important new skills that your job requires?

I’m only at the beginning of my journalism career so I’m continually learning new things that I can bring to my role. Communication has always been something that I focus on because, without that integral strength, it is very hard to create a connection with someone and build a relationship. In the technological world, sometimes we rely too heavily on our devices but there’s nothing better than a face-to-face chat. Whilst on the topic of technology, adapting to the evolving digital age is a skill I’m constantly building on as well.

Walk us through your process on how you sort through your press releases, from what’s usable and what’s not.

A local focus is very important when reporting on a small community. I always look for press releases that have quoted local people or include contact details for locals who are knowledgeable about the topic. It’s not always the case but it immediately shows that the story has a local angle. On the other hand, my pet hate is when a press release is trying to sell a product. I usually bin them straight away because the emphasis is on advertising, not content. I also enjoy it when a press release is sent directly to me in a personable way.

How do you gather research for your stories?

Google is always my first point of call to find contacts and a brief overview of what I’m looking at. I then like to email and call people to understand a story because I value a good chat. I begin by researching and reading, but then I want to speak to someone knowledgeable about the topic to further my understanding.

What is the most memorable story you’ve reported on?

Small communities are full of fascinating people and events – some really do make me smile. The one story that will always stick with me is the extensive coverage I was involved with when one of our local primary schools, the one I had attended as a child, was ravaged by fire. I gained insight into how stories can provoke emotions and it was incredible to share the school community’s journey out the other side.