When Behind Local News launched its quest to find the brightest and best women working in local journalism, we little suspected what a stellar set of nominations we would receive.
Today, it is our great pleasure and privilege to reveal the winners who have — despite the restrictions of lockdowns and the associated enormous barriers to covering their communities - gone above and beyond to report on, photograph, share, lead and teach.
APPRENTICE OF THE YEAR: Shona Elliott, reporter, Edinburgh Evening News
Shonna’s entries were three exclusive stories while working as a trainee news reporter at the Edinburgh Evening News.
Racism at an Edinburgh school which was published during the BLM protests. Shona heard testimonies from 30 pupils who had experienced racial abuse at the school and her work prompted an independent investigation which concluded there were long standing problems of racism in the school which need to be addressed.
This expose of a fake company illegally subletting rented properties in Edinburgh which led her to to track the company’s activities across two continents.
Recounting the experiences of a group of newly arrived Syrian tailors using their skills to create personal protective equipment for local GP surgeries. Working with a translator, Shonna produced a compelling feature about the strength and resilience of a local group of skilled women.
Judges’ comments: Excellent exclusives, well researched and presented on important topics and a local and national level. Shona is obviously a very talented reporter who can seek out stories which might otherwise go unheard, and she surely has a great career ahead …. Shona has clearly delved into important and hard-hitting topics during her time as a trainee, producing in-depth pieces which have contributed to real change.
CONTENT EDITOR OF THE YEAR: Claire Pierce, Wrexham and Flintshire Leader
Promoted to a new role of community content editor just as lockdown started, Claire was given a highly public profile and task of finding stories and building links across two large counties.
She said: “It’s been a massive learning curve, often incredibly challenging but I’ve tackled everything with positivity and considerably more faith in myself than I had a year ago”.
Judges’ comments: Claire’s commitment to her community is clear, reporting on touching issues that affect individuals and shining a light on their experiences.
DIGITAL JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: Sarah Wilson, Senior digital journalist, JPI Media
The examples of Sarah’s work that impressed the judges were:
Rewinding an area of Scotland
The unknown woman whose body was found in the Yorkshire countrysideTown twinning feature
Specialising in producing original online journalism for local titles; focusing largely on digital features for flagship brands The Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman, Sarah creates original long-form articles, delving into local stories and topics not often covered at depth by the national press. Sarah uses interactive digital tools to best convey topics to her audiences, and uses SEO and social media to distribute her content as widely as possible.
Judges’ comments: Brilliant use of digital tools to increase reader engagement and share stories. Really good use of Reddit to share more niche stories too…Brings genuine multimedia storytelling to her audiences, and uses digital tools effectively and with purpose…Sarah’s use of a digital content platform has given her new ways of story-telling. It has opened up access to issues which may not otherwise be given such in-depth coverage — such as twinning — in a compelling and interesting way. It is a digital journalism format that many publishers would benefit from adopting.
EDITOR OF THE YEAR: Laura Collins, Yorkshire Evening Post
Laura Collins is the youngest female editor in the history of the YEP who has been determined to make the biggest impact for the title she joined 14 years ago as a trainee.
Under her editorship, the Yorkshire Evening Post fights for the city and people of Leeds, and she led the YEP through its biggest relaunch in nearly a decade.
In 2020 she launched the Yorkshire Evening Post’s Call It Out campaign in response to some of the abusive comments the reporting team received online.
Judges’ comments: Inspired by how much Laura has achieved since becoming the youngest female editor in the history of the Yorkshire Evening Post…Inspiring editor and in tune with industry issues, launching the Yorkshire Evening Post’s Call It Out campaign …Great work speaking out about the online abuse and tackling it front on.
INSPIRING JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: Amelia Tait, Freelance writer
Nominated in this category by a teenager she had inspired through her work, freelancer Amelia’s work spans wide ranging themes, from the social-economic politics of a gaming phenomenon to the weird process of pitching ideas for TV programmes. She is mostly know for her work in the nationals and digital online publications and earlier this year the Technology Writer award at the Freelance Writing Awards. She was also featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Europe in 2920.
Judges’ comments: For a 15-year-old to nominate a journalist you must be doing something right. Particularly like the capitalism in Animal Crossing story — adding quite a complex topic to a video game that everyone was playing during lockdown. Really clever but still easy to read
JOURNALISM TRAINER OF THE YEAR: Lucy Jolin, Bauer Media
Lucy Jolin was nominated for her knowledge and passion for journalism, which was described as ‘infectious and inspiring’ by one of her students.
The nomination went on to explain how she led individual units including Essential Journalism while supporting individuals through their diplomas. and seamlessly helped students move from classroom learning to virtual spaces.
Judges’ comments: The comments about Lucy show she is a valued, approachable journalism trainer who makes a difference to trainees’ careers. In what can be a challenging, ever-changing and testing career, that is invaluable in a newsroom…”She is kind and encouraging at all times and makes you feel like you can do anything”. — Words any teacher would be proud to hear … Lucy’s commitment and passion to training in journalism clearly shows through her support for the young individuals working to train as journalists.
MENTOR OF THE YEAR: Emily Hewett, Head of digital, Archant
Emily’s nomination describes her as a “huge asset to Archant” who has transformed how the newsroom operates digitally and mentored a number of women into senior roles.
She is encouraging, inspiring and supportive and expertly navigates maintaining clear professional expectations and standards while still being very approachable. She also encourages young, talented women within the company to have a voice and to challenge long held values within editorial practise. This has allowed them to shape the content Archant produces in the future and lead discussions in the newsroom.
Judges’ comments: Emily’s support and dedication to her female colleagues is inspiring and offers a brilliant example of what can be achieved for women in journalism…Great to see Emily has mentored women into senior roles.
UNSUNG HERO OF THE YEAR: Georgina Morris, Yorkshire Post
Described as the unofficial social secretary for the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Yorkshire Post, Georgina took it upon herself to organise virtual events to keep her colleague’s spirits up during lockdown, sort out virtual leaving parties and also be a sympathetic ear to anyone who needed to talk. A strong ally of women who have been struggling with a work issue, she has, according to the nomination “single-handedly saved the sanity of a lot of local reporters in Yorkshire”.
Judges’ comments: Georgina is a respected and vital part of her newsroom. Juggling a news desk role with that of a senior crime reporter is no easy task, and requires excellent time management and focus. But her willingness to go above and beyond for colleagues is inspiring — she does training for newcomers, is the lead reporter on the NUJ, fighting for her colleagues, and even a virtual pub organiser. Bravo — how does she find the time?!”
PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR: Claire McKie-Reid, ChronicleLive
Claire is a talented photographer who is also passionate about the craft; outside her role with ChronicleLive, she teaches evening classes at the local college to inspire young budding photographers.
Her nomination described her as having “an amazing eye for detail and her creativity shines through in her work”. She also has strong people skills which are an aid to her work.
When Black Lives Matter demonstrators were met with counter demonstrators in Newcastle this summer, Claire still managed to capture some fantastic photos, despite the challenging, heated environment.
Judges comments: Great pictures and particularly love that she also teaches classes to young photographers — passing the baton to the next generation
REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Catriona Stewart, Glasgow Times
Catriona’s journalistic instincts and her compassion have led to some superb articles. From exclusive interviews with friends and family of Mercy Baguma to shocking tragedies of Covid, to gaining access to ICU to tell the health workers’ stories, Catriona’s entries stood out in a very strong field of nominations.
Judge’s comments: Persistence and humanity — Catriona is the perfect blend of a skilled reporter who looks after her sources but ensures their stories are told. ….Catriona has all the skills of a consummate reporter: persistence, an ability to get people to talk to her, and a remarkable instinct for a story.
SCOOP OF THE YEAR: Alison Hayes, Newmarket Journal/Suffolk News
This story is one of Suffolk News’ most read since it’s August 2020 launch and came to light when Alison spotted a large crowd gathered in a Newmarket cemetery. Investigating, she discovered hundreds of people from all over the country had come to the town for a funeral during the Covid lockdown. She also learned police had been told about the funeral ahead of time and had chosen not to attend or to issue any fines.
Alison has just celebrated 40 years with Iliffe Media,all at the Newmarket Journal.
Judges’ comments: This is a great example of following your instincts for a human story and holding authorities to account…. Genuine scoop and very fast instincts and actions to land it.
SPECIALIST REPORTER: Lucy Leeson, Crime reporter Yorkshire Post
While working for the Yorkshire Post, Lucy (now with the Hull Daily Mail) covered not only breaking news incidents, but also in-depth coverage of topics such as gun crime, sexual assaults, child exploitation and County Lines drug dealing. Part of her work includes lobbying the Government for change and through this she helped grieving Yorkshire mother with her campaign for tougher gun licensing laws following the death of her six-year-old son
Her remit extends to both magistrate and crown court hearings where she provides live coverage of major trials such as the Libby Squire rape and murder trial.
After interviewing a North Yorkshire war veteran who had his life-savings stolen during a burglary at his home, while he was in hospital, Lucy set up a Just Giving fundraising account to help raise £4,000. The final total raised was more than £25,000 for him
Judges’ comments: Lucy is much more than a brilliant crime reporter, she recognises the power of journalism as a force for good, using that power highly effectively.
SPORTS JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: Katie Sands, Digital Development Editor, Media Wales
Three great stories secured Katie the win in this category.
The first was a moving interview with Welsh Team GB boxer Lauren Price, which told how a little girl who was taken in by her grandparents at three days old grew up to become a champion.
A one-to-one (virtual) interview with then Wales manager Jayne Ludlow produced an in-depth, behind the scenes account of her coaching style and what it took to manage her country and play at the top level during her career.
The final entry — an interview with Wales and Bristol player Alisha Butchers — illustrated the shocking reality of playing women’s rugby. When injured in training — for a club owned by a billionaire — Alisha had to crowdfund to pay for her own surgery. This story shone a light on what sportswomen endure to play the sport they love.
Judges’ comments: Incredibly impressive portfolio and a well known name in Welsh sport. Deserves all the plaudits that come her way… Katie’s superb reporting tells the story behind the sport — shining a light into dark corners and exposing truths which might otherwise have remained hidden from public view. ..
TRAINEE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Leanne Woodruff, Yate and Sodbury Gazette/Gazette Series/Newsquest
Leanne started as a trainee reporter on the cusp of the 2020 lockdown — since then she has worked, full time throughout lockdown, with four children at home; learning on the job in a virtual world, she broke the news of the first school closures locally through Covid 19.
She became one of Newsquest’s best read reporters for her work on a Yate MacDonald’s robbery and her photos and words were used by the national media. She interviewed Prime Minister Boris Johnson in January at the Covid centre in Bristol, grilling him on restrictions and guidance and why he had made certain decisions
And she made headlines herself through her fundraising efforts for Bristol Children’s hospital; Leanne raises money for the hospital every year and ran 100k in December for them.
Judges’ comments: Really impressed by Leanne’s journey and all she has achieved in the last 18 months in the most unusual of circumstances.. An ability to turn a straightforward story into something readers connect to very strongly
WHATS ON/LIFESTYLE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Daisy Jackson, Acting What's On editor, Manchester Evening News
The near-collapse of the hospitality industry throughout the pandemic has been well documented, but the Greater Manchester area was particularly hard hit thanks to long running restrictions that ran for far longer than most regions.
Daisy’s determination to not let her What’s On beat suffer lead to her tackling interesting and diverse issues in a space usually dominated by events, restaurant and bar openings, and food reviews.
To do this she turned industry matters such as VAT cuts and the lease forfeiture moratorium into compelling, audience-friendly reads.
From the devastating ripple effect of one single pub closure on the local community and economy, tracing the supply chain all the way from pub landlord to the local company who supply pint glasses to an innovative timeline of everything that has happened within the sector this year — a summary of the stories that have consumed my working life for 12 months, Daisy continued speaking to contacts and reporting on legal battles to save the sector, and helped readers understand what was happening, where, and why.
Judges’ comments: Daisy clearly lives and breathes What’s On and really gets under the skin of the city with her work…Great feature entries which show ability to turn a mundane story that has zero what’s on appeal into something readers connected to very strongly. A lively, relatable writing style.
OUTSTANDING JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: Lucy Leeson
Awards judges described Lucy’s outstanding work and contribution to local journalism as recognising “the power of journalism as a force for good, using that power highly effectively”
This award carries a prize of £500 provided by Women in Journalism. WiJ is a not for profit organisation that provides guidance and support for its members — local and national, UK and overseas, at every state of their career. It is the UK’s leading networking, training and campaigning organisation for journalists with more than 900 active members. It also supports various initiatives and awards throughout the year and runs a mentoring scheme for women journalists.
Chair, Alison Phillips, editor of The Mirror, said: “It was hugely encouraging to see so many entries of such an extremely high standard. The work being produced by women journalists across the UK during these past months of the pandemic has been truly outstanding. But we were particularly impressed by Lucy Leeson — not only for breaking stories about crime on her patch but also campaigning on the issues beneath that crime. This is the first time Women In Journalism has sponsored this award and we are delighted Lucy is the winner”.
From the list of worthy winners above, judges were hard pressed to pick on single overall winner. Indeed, from apprentice to editor, each of the nominees and ultimate winners had standout qualities that show what a thriving, important industry local journalism really is