The story which will always be the highlight of my career

Josh Parry of the Liverpool Echo was named young journalist of the year at the Regional Press Awards. Here is the story behind the story which he believes will always be his proudest moment:

Josh Parry, pictured centre, with Nick Ferrari, right, host of the event, and Paul Linford, editor of Holdthefrontpage, a trade website for the regional press

The piece that saw me win Young Journalist of the Year at the Regional Press Awards was an undercover investigation into gay ‘cure’ therapies happening in Liverpool.

There’s always one story a reporter is most proud of, and this — for me — is the story that I think will always be the highlight of my career.

I went to a church in Anfield which was offering a dangerous therapy involving prayer and starvation to ‘cure’ gay people — which although proven not to work and to cause harm, is sadly still legal in the UK.

I’d heard the church was providing these ‘services’ — but we needed to gather the proof needed in order to be able to report it.

The resource that goes into an investigation like this is huge and I was really thankful I had the backing of my news editor Steve Graves, as well as ECHO editor Alastair Machray and managing editor Chris Walker who all gave me the time and resource needed to investigate something like this — as well as seemingly hundreds of meetings over legal issues.

I visited the church posing as a member of the public with a hidden microphone and recorded the assistant pastor say that being gay is a ‘deceit of Satan’ and advising me to pray and starve myself.

As a gay man, it was deeply personal and actually was the catalyst for me to come out to my own family.

As a reporter, I’ve only ever worked in a digital-first newsroom and as such, while an undercover investigation might be seen as ‘traditional’ or ‘old-school,’ from the very beginning I wanted to tell the story with a visual, multimedia treatment.

With this in mind I filmed myself throughout each stage of the investigation and these videos formed part of the eventual story — including my reaction after visiting the church carrying out the therapies, and I continued with this method after the story broke with Facebook Live broadcasts from the resulting protests outside the church.

I was later able to reveal that the pastor of the church was an NHS brain surgeon working in Ireland, and the ECHO backed a petition to have these therapies outlawed which the government is now promising to act upon.

Winning an award for something so deeply personal and involved has been amazing, and the perfect way to celebrate what the investigation has achieved.