This year, RoyalAuto, the magazine of auto club and insurance provider RACV, won the first mainstream journalism award ever won by an auto club in Australia.
During the first half of 2016, RoyalAuto flew to the side of road automobile accidents with Air Ambulance, in an impact project designed to bring attention to what happens to the more than 6,000 people who are injured on the state’s roads each year.
The judges at the Melbourne Press Club Quill Awards called the campaign “an outstanding team effort by the RACV’s RoyalAuto produced a compelling multi-platform series on Victoria’s hidden road toll.” The judges were especially impressed that journalism of such high calibre was supported and delivered by a corporate newsroom.
The project was more than a year in the making.
RoyalAuto photographer/videographer Meredith O’Shea spent day after day waiting with air crews for calls to crash sites. She arrived at many scenes with the flight paramedics, documented the scenes in video and stills, and flew with the survivors to hospital, recording all the time. Her Impact team colleagues, writer Nick Place and videographer Miguel Rios, were alerted by text and would be waiting at the helipad.
The entire team then documented the process, as survivors were met by trauma professionals, assessed, had surgical interventions and scans in emergency, were moved to the intensive care unit, and were taken for surgery. The team sometimes worked for 16 hours straight, documenting the arrival of family members and interviewing them — often while the patients themselves were still in emergency rooms.
Over the weeks and months that followed, RoyalAuto continued to build the stories as patients moved to rehabilitation hospitals and on to home. The team also sourced exclusive dashcam video of one of the crashes.
This project, called Impact, followed five months of negotiations with Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria, and The Alfred and Royal Melbourne hospitals. It was the first time that any media had gone on the scene with Air Ambulance for any significant period — and the first time that road-crash survivors’ stories had been documented in Victoria, from crash to recovery.
By the end of June 2016, RoyalAuto had hundreds of hours of video, thousands of pictures, and compelling stories from survivors.
Impact was published in the October 2016 print edition of RoyalAuto, online at racv.com.au/impact, and on social media channels. Using RoyalAuto footage, 7News Victoria created a Special Report on road trauma that aired on October 3, to coincide with the magazine’s distribution.
The reach that Impact had included:
- 1.43 million print readers.
- The 7News audience.
- 119,000 views on RACV’s Facebook page.
- 33,000 views on Victoria Police’s Facebook page.
- 9,000 views on the Royal Melbourne hospital’s Facebook page.
Impact generated hundreds of letters, e-mails, and social media comments from readers describing their own road trauma, or how they had changed their driving behaviour to be safer on the road. The Impact project also inspired the #5SecondSafety road safety campaign on social media (but that’s another story).
As the publisher of Australia’s largest circulating monthly magazine, represented in 75% of homes across the state, RACV has long campaigned for safer roads, safer vehicles, and safer drivers. The project was done for the benefit of RACV members and because traditional media on their own no longer have the resources for such a public education project.