From UniLife to High Life: Liam Mannix wins a Walkley

Most university students spend their final year anxiously trawling the jobs guide and drafting up a reckless ‘plan B’ which might consist of travelling to Helsinki and pouring beers for a living.

Former Unilife Magazine chief of staff Liam Mannix wasn’t compelled to flee the country in search of bar work after graduating, nor was he made to move to a remote mining town in the Australian outback to kick start his career.

Liam’s meteoric rise from university student to fully fledged metro journalist reached a new high last month when he became a Walkley Award winner.

Taking home the Innovation in Journalism title in the Young Australian Journalist of the Year awards, Liam’s work included an interactive map of Adelaide Metro bus frequency and other mapped changes in South Australia’s population

To win such a prestigious individual decoration as a journalist is impressive in itself; to do so a little over a year after graduating is phenomenal.

Admitting his Walkley victory still hadn’t sunk in, Liam stressed he owes the win to his colleagues at Indaily, the publication which took a punt on him by hiring him as fresh uni graduate.

Indaily’s editor David Washington penned a small column for the publication’s main page following the announcement and Liam said the award was an achievement for the paper’s entire staff, rather than an individual effort.

“All of my learning comes from these guys and I see it as a win for the whole team,” he said.

The Walkley, according to Liam, is proof smaller publications with less staff still produce quality content to rival the established metropolitan mastheads.

“It’s something Indaily can be proud of you know, that we’re a small team but what we’re doing is as good as the bigger places,” he said.

“We were up against the Herald Sun and the Sydney Morning Herald and I thought the girl from the Sydney Morning Herald’s entry was outstanding so I was shocked to win it.”

Liam said his time at UniLife Magazine laid the foundations for investigating hidden stories and he and his team travelled far and wide to find them.

He recalled how a conversation with a student led to him, along with co-editor Angus Randall and chief of staff Alicia Melville-Smith, piling into a car and heading north.

“We pitched a story, after speaking to a student from the Whyalla campus, where we basically decided to travel down there, paid for by Unilife.”

“We spent a week interviewing people about the youth of the town and where it is heading.”

Covering the full spread of UniSA campuses as part of an editorial team largely based at Magill is no mean feat.

To find innovative ways to cover the news too is the great challenge for the next generation of journalists looking to make their mark on a tough industry to break into.

Liam said his interest in data journalism was born out of an active interest in technology and development.

“I figured I’d muck around with it when I had time,” he said.

Looking to the future however, he believes what is considered innovative today will soon become just another task in a journalist’s day.

“Data journalism right now can seem like a bit of a fad and eventually it will probably just become a tool that journalists use as part of their general reporting.”

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