Paper Emperors by Sally Young wins 2020 Colin Roderick Literary Award
An exposé of the Australian newspaper industry Paper Emperors: The Rise of Australia’s Newspaper Empires by Sally Young has won the 2020 Colin Roderick Literary Award, valued at $20,000.
Dr Young said she’s delighted to receive the award and to be a part of a celebration of Australian literature.
“I felt honoured to be one of the twelve long-listed authors, and then one of the six on the shortlist for the Colin Roderick Award,” she said. “I am proud to be in their company and to be a part of this celebration of Australian books.”
Chair of the judging panel Dr Leigh Dale said the non-fiction book, which is about the history of Australia’s newspaper industry, is particularly relevant this year as the industry struggles with online business models and social media.
“It is fascinating to read about its beginnings and the influence it had on the nation, its politics, and its social fabric,” she said. “The opening words ‘Newspapers have found it very difficult to tell the truth about themselves’ gives an indication of what is to come.”
Dr Young said she wrote the book because she wanted to document the important role newspapers have played in Australian politics, history, and public life.
“In the future, people will wonder what was so special about these musty, old papers and their digital versions – many of which won’t make it through the era of Facebook, Google and Netflix,” she said.
“I hope this book helps us to think about the role of news, journalism and the media in a democracy – then, now and into the future.”
The judges praised Dr Young’s detailed research into the time period, which spans more than 100 years from 1803 to 1941.
“Meticulously researched and compulsively readable, it examines closely the power struggles between newspapers and politicians and how they were lost and won,” Dr Dale said. “We eagerly await a sequel.”
The Colin Roderick Award is one of Australia's oldest literary awards, founded in 1967 by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies (FALS). The Foundation, based at James Cook University, has supported public engagement with Australian Literature for over 50 years. The award was renamed in 1991 to honour Professor Colin Roderick’s long contribution to Australian literature and to mark the 25th anniversary of the award.
The Foundation presents the annual award to the value of $20,000, coupled with the silver H.T. Priestley Memorial Medal. These honour the best original book, in the judges’ opinion, published in Australia in the previous calendar year. Submissions can deal with any aspect of Australian life and can be from any field or genre of writing, verse or prose.
The other shortlisted books for this year’s award were Peace by Garry Disher, Shepherd by Catherine Jinks, The Glad Shout by Alice Robinson, The Lost Arabs by Omar Sakr, and A Universe of Sufficient Size by Miriam Sved.
Foundation for Australian Literary Studies