UTS student Jonathan Weitz-Freeman has won the 2023 Democracy’s Watchdogs Award for an investigation into the backyard slaughter of farm animals, which raised questions over state regulation.

The Bachelor of Communications student, who produced the investigation as an assessment for his ‘Investigations, Data and Collaboration’ class, also claimed $1,000 in prize money.

His fellow student Pamela Rontziokis was one of three runners-up, with her investigation on death certificates issued by the Greek Orthodox Church.

The Watchdogs judges commended Weitz-Freeman for having found a story “hidden in plain sight” then engagingly presenting it with scrolling photos, video and “perfect text”.

“In addition to the presentation, his story revealed the lack of regulations in the home slaughter of farm animals, an issue that attracts little or no mainstream media interest,” judges said.

Of the runners-up, Queensland University of Technology student Rose Innes’s interview in The Courier Mail with the parents of a toddler who died after being sent home from a local hospital was commended for its hard news values; University of Melbourne’s Gwen Liu’s story about the scamming of international students by Chinese rental brokers was praised as an important investigation; while judges said UTS’s Rontziokos, a dual law and communications student, had held a powerful institution to account – “a key characteristic of investigative stories”.

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Main image by Jonathan Weitz-Freeman.