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Wolfson Fellowship recipient selected

9 May 2014

Wolfson Fellowship recipient selected

The journalist at the heart of the GCSB spying scandal last year, and whose stories led to the resignations of a senior public servant and a Minister, has been awarded a prestigious fellowship to Cambridge University in the UK.

Fairfax Media political reporter Andrea Vance was chosen as this year’s Wolfson Fellow, announced at the Canon Media Awards presentation in Auckland on Friday night. Vance also won the political reporting award and was named overall Reporter of the Year. She plans to study the increasing challenge facing journalists of protecting sources and information in the digital age.

Vance’s award-winning stories included the revelation in the Kitteridge report that the Government’s intelligence agency may have unlawfully spied on 85 people. A subsequent investigation into the leak of the report, ordered by the Prime Minister, created more furore when it emerged that Parliamentary Service had accessed Vance’s email and phone records and tracked her movements around Parliament Buildings using her security card.

Casualties included the resignation of the head of Parliamentary Service, Geoff Thorn, and the resignation from the Key Administration of Minister Peter Dunne. The latter was alleged by many to have leaked Vance the Kitteridge report. She has never disclosed her source.

Vance sees the bulk collection of metadata by spy agencies posing a huge threat to reporters.

“Phone numbers dialed, emails sent, even a coffee shop loyalty card can reveal as much as the actual conversations we have with our sources,” said Vance.

“The authorities no longer need to get a reporter into a courtroom to uncover our sources. Unless we are careful, our laptops or cell phones provide all the record they need.”

She believes that in the post-Edward Snowden landscape, journalists are lagging behind resource-rich governments, their agencies and other organisations and is concerned many journalists don’t have the technical literacy to protect their privacy and that of their sources. At Wolfson College, she plans to examine the various tools employed by reporters, competing newsrooms, media freedom organisations and investigative journalism networks.

“One aim is to source the best protections and technology journalists can use to keep us – and our sources – safe, with the ultimate goal of making those tools as ubiquitous as a pen and notebook to New Zealand journalists.”

Vance joined Fairfax Media in New Zealand in 2008 having previously worked on the Scotsman daily newspaper and the News of the World. She was born in Northern Ireland.

Funded by the NZ Newspaper Publishers’ Association, the Wolfson Fellowship is awarded each year to an outstanding journalist. It was judged this year by New Zealand Herald editor-in-chief Tim Murphy, Otago Daily Times editor Murray Kirkness and NPA editorial director Rick Neville.

ENDS

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