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Behind Local News Weekly: Celebrating the winners of the Women In Local News Awards


A special edition of the Behind Local News email today, celebrating the winners of the Women In Local News Awards.

Now in their second year, the awards were presented in person for the first time this year, as part of the Behind Local News Conference which took place in Birmingham last Friday.

Run with huge support from Women In Journalism, the awards were set up to try and do something different, reflecting roles and achievements right across local news.

Read on for the winners — and we’ll be back in the week with a round-up from the conference.

Thanks for reading and have a great week.

Celebrating some of the women doing amazing things in local journalism

A journalist who has spearheaded efforts by a local news publisher to be more inclusive in its recruitment and the stories it writes was named outstanding woman journalist of the year at the second Women In Local News Awards.

Lynda Moyo, who is head of what’s on and emerging content at regional publisher Reach, was presented with the main award at the ceremony, held during the Behind Local News conference in Birmingham last week.

The prize, sponsored by the Women In Journalism organisation, was presented by Laura Collins, publisher of the City World portfolio of titles at National World.

Judges said: “The Women in Journalism committee were deeply impressed with how she had inspired and supported more broader and representative reporting at Reach and brought to life the ideas of diversity of inclusion in content.”

At Reach, Lynda has led the Belonging Project, which involved every newsroom in the Reach Live network focusing on how it could improve relationships with communities traditionally under-served by local media.

The outstanding woman journalist prize is chosen from the winners of the other categories at the Women in Local News Awards. Lynda also scooped inspiring journalist of the year.

Judges said: “An inspirational and influential leader who is not afraid to challenge her colleagues to think differently, work smarter and be the best they can be.

“Chairing the ethnicity inclusion network ReachCulture, it is clear she is determined to make a difference and challenge perceptions — as well as still finding the time to support parents with her popular LemonAid newsletter to connect families all over the country each week.”

Lynda with her award, pictured with Jacqui Merrington, who hosted the awards presentation

The awards in full

Apprentice of the Year Award — Tamika Green of the Bury Free Press

Award winner Tamika Green with host Jacqui Merrington

Our judges said: “This is a community reporter who is committed to representing marginalised groups in the community by telling their stories and giving them a voice.”

As an apprentice journalist, Tamika covers a range of subjects from business stories to community and breaking news, but has also focussed on giving representation to people of colour and other marginalised groups, telling their stories and educating the wider readership.

Examples of Tamika’s work included the Bury St Edmunds civil rights activist who worked with Martin Luther King.

Editor of the Year Award — Sarah Lester of the Manchester Evening News

This award was judged by the Women In Journalism Committee, who said:

“The Women in Journalism committee felt this person had boldly led her team to produce confident journalism which was relevant and respected by her title’s readers and which upheld the proud tradition of the brand.”

Those nominating Sarah said: “Under Sarah’s leadership, the Manchester Evening News now rivals many national titles in terms of its reach and impact, and she has maintained the highest standards of original, regional journalism.

“She is fiercely passionate about the region she represents and doggedly determined to give Greater Manchester and its communities a voice, particularly on issues of social justice and inequality.

“She’s an inspiring leader who made her way to the top at a time when newsrooms were very much an old boys’ club. Having challenged and changed this, the MEN newsroom is a far better place now for having her in charge.”

Specialist Reporter of the Year Awards— Lindsay Bruce of the The Dundee Courier

Award winner Lindsay Bruce and Jacqui Merrington

Our judges said: “In a particularly difficult category, this entry clinched the award for demonstrating how to carve out a new specialism in obituary reporting — and storytelling with empathy and even joy in celebrating lives of people.”

Examples included can be viewed here, here and here.

Runner-up in this category and that was Claire Wilde from JPIMedia.

Unsung Hero of the Year Award — Helen Johnson of the Manchester Evening News

The award is given to someone who behind the scenes works without looking for recognition to support others.

Our judges chose the winner because: “It’s clear she is a highly valued member of the team who goes the extra mile not only to represent colleagues through her work with the NUJ, but as someone who dedicates considerable time to developing and encouraging young journalists, and as a mental health first aider, providing crucial support to colleagues in difficult times.”

Those nominating Helen said: “ Helen is one of the most familiar, fun, and involved people in our newsroom. She has worked at the MEN for around 15 years, and is passionate about good reporting as well as supporting journalists in what can often be a tough job. She is the MEN’s NUJ rep, and spends countless hours making representations and attending meetings on behalf of her colleagues and for their benefit.

“She is also a mental health first aider, making her a trusted and supportive colleague for any journalist who needs someone to lean on. She takes all this in her stride, as well as doing her day job running the MEN’s social media, which is a huge job that requires immense dedication and creativity. Helen is particularly good at encouraging younger journalists to value and look after themselves in this demanding industry. She does all this with a smile on her face, and the MEN newsroom would not be what it is without her.”

Highly commended: Kate Young from the Isle of Wight County Press

Scoop of the year — Gill Sutherland of the Stratford Herald

Our judges said: “Scoop after scoop — exposing truth and wrong-doing as all investigative reporters should do.”

The nomination from editor Andy Veale read: “When it comes to scoops our content editor Gill (who triples up as passionate reporter and arts editor) has scored more than most in the last year… And no wonder really: she is always hungry to get the story first.

“That nose for a story and excitement for a scoop still drives her forward. Gill’s enthusiasm for news inspires others — and she definitely brings life, wit and vigour to the newsroom.”

Stories included Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi’s no-show at an awards evening at prestigious local grammar King Edward VI where he was guest of honour on the day he was appointed Education Minister. Gill was there on the evening to record — in joyfully satirical fashion — the whole debacle. Gill’s story was subsequently picked up by Private Eye and the nationals.

Another scoop involved an interview with a local tea shop owner who had been accused of being a racist in the national press after he refused to accommodate a Jewish family’s dietary requirements. The splash, with all viewpoints represented, was picked up by The Times and others

One particularly poignant scoop from Gill happened in the wake of the Sarah Everard murder, when Gill made contact with a local woman who had been assaulted by an off-duty officer which was subsequently covered up by Warwickshire Police.

Journalist Trainer of the Year — Clare Johnston from DC Thomson

Award winner Clare Johnston and Jacqui Merrington

When we launched the Women In Local News Awards, we wanted to ensure people who do so much ‘behind the scenes’ were celebrated too. The trainer of the year award is a great example of that.

Judges said of Clare, who also helped arrange the Behind Local News conference with other editorial leaders from around the country: “From creating the “Imposters” group as a wry nod to building women’s confidence to empowering other women in their roles — Clare is more than a trainer — she is every support a journalist needs.”

The nomination for Claire read: “She is honest but empowering, she goes over and above to make sure we feel confident in our roles, and we always know she’s just a Teams call away from having her there to help. I wouldn’t — and many, many others, wouldn’t be doing what we are doing, and be feeling excited to do it without her.”

What’s On Journalist of the Year Award — Kirsty Bosley, a freelancer from Birmingham

Award winner Kirsty Bosley and Jacqui Merrington

Our judges said: “Her refreshingly honest and hugely relatable style makes the reader feel immediately comfortable in her presence and entertained throughout her reviews. Her work stands out for its distinctive style, warmth and for being both highly engaging and informative.”

The nomination written said: “Kirsty wrote the most read and lauded restaurant review in Reach history earlier this year! Always relatable in both her topics and articulation, she writes with a quality, passion and accuracy that shows what’s on content can be just as (if not more) integral to daily life as hard news. A shining star of 2022 so far, Kirsty is a breath of fresh air and a much needed new perspective among UK food critics.”

You can read that review here

Reporter of the Year Award — Lydia Chantler-Hicks from Kent Online

Our judges selected our winner saying: “She is the epitome of an excellent all-rounder, be it turning her hand to hard-hitting features, breaking news or shining a light on often over-shadowed topics.

“Her knack for telling a story has united her community to help make a positive and lasting difference. There is nothing more powerful and compelling in local journalism than giving a community a voice — and that is something she has done with aplomb.”

The nomination for Lydia was glowing: “Whether it be breaking news, hard-hitting features or shining a light on overshadowed topics, Lydia is the best reporter any newsdesk can wish for.

“Thanks to her efforts, our paper raised £15.5k for German student Daniel Ezzedine who was left severely injured by a brutal attack in Canterbury. Lydia — who had built a rapport with the victim’s family — came up with the idea and organised every aspect of the fundraising.

“Her excellent reports on the shocking incident, and its aftermath, were the catalyst which paved the way for the successful fundraising.

“Because of Lydia’s work, the city was unified in sympathy towards Mr Ezzedine. Hundreds of people were ashamed of their home city due to the horrifying attack on an innocent visitor — but thanks to Lydia, Canterbury came together to prove it can make a positive difference.

“Lydia has immense skill at approaching and communicating with families impacted by tragedy. People trust her with their harrowing and deeply emotional stories, which is evident with these entries.

“Lydia’s wide-ranging skill is unmatched in Kent, and from what I can see, in any county. She is the best local female reporter in the country.”

Image Journalist of the Year — Gayle Marsh from Wales Online

Award winner Gayle Marsh and Jacqui Merrington

This is what our judges had to say: “A great all rounder, turning her hand from stills to video. She had a natural ability at getting people relaxed enough to be interviewed in front of the camera and that is a skill in itself. And to top every story off there are photographs to tell the story too.”

Examples of Gayle’s work include:

Highly Commended was Brittany Woodman from Newsquest.

Sports Reporter of the Year — Sophie Goodwin — from the P and J in Aberdeen

This category is a really important one for our industry, said organisers, as we try to encourage more women into sports reporting — and we are beginning to see success with this judging by the strength of this category.

This is what our judges said out our winner: “She has performed wonders raising the profile of women’s football through her journalism and also ion confronting issues such as sexism that still exists in the sport.”

Examples of Sophie’s work included coverage of Aberdeen in the SWPL1 as well as covering the paralympics and grassroots sport. Sophie also recently worked on an investigative project that uncovered the scale of sexism that women experience due to playing football. 86% of participants felt that media coverage needed to be better.

Digital Journalist of the Year — Cathy Owen from WalesOnline

Cathy Owen with Jacqui Merrington

Our judges had this to say: “Our winner is in tune with what her audience want, when they want it and is a trusted member of her community which ensures she not only gets the story first but is able to dig into powerful human-interest stories too. It’s a tough gig when you’re training and upskilling colleagues on top of the day job and she is doing brilliantly.”

The nomination from her colleagues read: “Cathy is WalesOnline’s breaking news editor, meaning that any story on a national or UK wide scale, she needs to be all over, and she normally is. Within minutes of a breaking incident she will have the copy sorted and online. Whether reporting on floods — or traffic, police incidents or royal visits, her copy is always clean, informative, and comprehensive.

“More than that, she brings her experience to all areas of the newsroom, training new staff on not just the software-side of her job but helping teach them to become digital journalists.

“During the pandemic, she has ensured accurate, live reporting of the rule changes for Wales, what they mean, and made WalesOnline the go-to for people looking for the latest information. Her role obviously means heavy involvement with the emergency services, and that has led to great contacts which lead to relationships which generate long-form stories, and trust from their side to put her in touch with victims.

Trainee of the Year — Olivia Marshall of the Brighton Argus

Our judges said of this winner: “She stood out for producing an investigation into drink spiking — a brilliant piece of journalism which put a hugely important topic on the agenda. The story was well written and presented with interactive online content formats to dig deep into a big issue, combining data with emotional interviews with victims. She is a talent for the future.”

Mentor of the Year Award — Sarah Elmes of PlymouthLive

Sarah Elmes with Jacqui Merrington

This award was created to celebrate the importance mentors can have in in helping to support women journalists to progress in their careers.

Sarah is Senior Customer editor for the south west at Reach, looking after the audience team across GloucestershireLive, SomersetLive, BristolLive, PlymouthLive, DevonLive, CornwallLive and newer sites in Dorset and Wiltshire.

Those nominating Sarah said: “She is a brilliant leader and mentor to her team, as well as all the journalists in our newsrooms across the south west. Many turn to her for help and advice over and above their own line managers. She makes every decision based on compassion. She knows how to get the best out of people. And she’s trusted because she’s open and honest with them.”

Our judges said: “Our winner has an awful lot on her plate but doesn’t shy away from helping others, even if they sit outside of her immediate team. She instils confidence in those around her with an honest and compassionate approach and consistently goes above and beyond to ensure her colleagues succeed.”

Content Editor of the Year — Bethan Evans from BBC West Online

Bethan Evans with Jacqui Merrington

The judges praised our winner for not only doing her job but also demonstrating she has a great career ahead of her.

This is what they said: “A fully-rounded newsroom leader — demonstrating great leadership, ability to reshape digital output for the future and pushing her teams every day.”

Those nominating Bethan said: “Bethan has been with the BBC for several years having joined from the Bristol Post. She has had a transformative impact on the team — from introducing a successful story pitching culture within the team to making BBC West’s social output some of the best and most respected in BBC England.

“Bethan’s story pitching plan has led to much more, and successful, original content making an impact on the BBC News website.

“Beth has mentored and trained numerous younger journalists, been a calming presence during the Covid lockdowns and coped with everything that has been thrown our way through a challenging few years.”

Our thanks to everyone who nominated, the judges who selected the winners and in particular to Jacqui Merrington who agreed to host the awards during the Behind Local News Conference.



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