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Student wins prize for telling soldiers' stories

Audrey Seaman, winner of the Bruce Jesson Emerging Journalism award for 2016.

For a fourth straight year, a Massey journalism student has won the national prize for young investigative journalists in New Zealand. Audrey Seaman, a Master of Journalism student, has been named the winner of the $1000 Bruce Jesson Emerging Journalism Award for 2016. Ms Seaman wrote her article as part of her postgraduate work at Massey.

Her win means Massey students have won the prize in every one of the past four years, and six times in the award’s eight-year history. Ms Seaman's article, published in Dominion Post, was on the support offered to members and families of the New Zealand military, especially those involved in war-zone deployments.

The story raised important questions about the quality of care Kiwi military personnel and their families receive from pre-deployment to the return home. The judges said the article won in a field of strong entries.

In their comments the judges said: “The story engages the reader from the opening line and fully examines all the questions which would be raised in the reader’s mind. Her article is a valuable contribution to public debate. It is hoped that it may encourage the Defence Force to improve support for returning military personnel in the future.”

An American international student, Ms Seaman graduated from a United States military university before coming to New Zealand.

“The military lifestyle hits close to home for me,” she said. “I’ve watched loved ones say goodbyes for long-term deployments.”

She was intrigued by media coverage of the NZ Defence Force’s deployment of troops to Camp Taji in Iraq.

“I immediately thought of the 143 families who were facing new challenges with this deployment and wanted to see what the Defence Force was doing to keep their families healthy and happy.”

Ms Seaman appreciated the opportunity to tell the servicepeople’s stories.

“There was even greater reward when other Defence Force personnel and RSA support staff thanked me for writing about what they felt was an important issue, with challenges that needed sincere and immediate focus.”

She thanked Massey for supporting her work.

“I was grateful for the encouragement to write on a topic I was passionate about, and for the time devoted to crafting something both meaningful and beautiful.”

She also thanked the Bruce Jesson Foundation, which runs the award.

“I feel privileged to be part of this award that acknowledges creative and informed journalism on issues that matter.”

MS Seaman has now returned to the United States to further her career.

The Bruce Jesson Emerging Journalism prize honours the late journalist Bruce Jesson. The judges include journalists and academics.

Read Audrey Seaman's feature article here

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