Presentation script – Awards Lunch

This is a transcript of Kate Silverton’s remarks when presenting the London Press Club Awards on 30th April 2019.

Well, here we are again to reveal the decisions made by the London Press Club’s independent panel of judges.

First UP as always we have BUSINESS JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Cision. 

After much discussion, the judges produced a shortlist of three consisting in alphabetical order

  • Jim Armitage, of the Evening Standard, a prolific news gatherer and writer of a column the judges said is always bang on the money;
  • Mark Kleinman, city editor at Sky News, a scoop specialist who the judges said has burnished his reputation as ‘scourge of the City’ – digging out stories many City people would prefer to be kept quiet;
  • and Madison Marriage, of the Financial Times.

Madison has worked for the FT as a multi-faceted reporter since graduating from university.  She has roamed across several financial editorial areas, but last year her work on the Presidents Club scandal – ‘Men only: the elite charity dinner where hostesses are put on show’ – caused a furore in the City and beyond and brought about the Club’s closure.  For a great story brilliantly pursued, the judges have awarded Business Journalist of the Year award  to MADISON MARRIAGE. 

Now to BROADCAST JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR, sponsored by APB,

This award as ever features a cluster of household names and faces. 

To begin with, an incomparable team – Katya Adler, the multi-linguistic Europe Editor of the BBC, whose penetrating reporting of the ongoing saga of Brexit has helped unlock this vast and complex subject, and Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC News’ political editor whose relentless and perceptive interviewing made the road to Brexit even more uncomfortable for politicians on all sides of the argument.

Also in contention is Channel Four News, for its undercover investigative team’s coverage of Cambridge Analytica.  The undercover investigations by Channel Four News, begun in partnership with The Observer, developed into an extraordinary piece of television that eventually helped to bring the company down. 

And lastly in this category is my colleague Clive Myrie,  a front-line presenter on major news events and also out on the road, supplying reports for BBC News specifically he was praised by the judges for his reports from the Mexican drugs industry that brought new insights into smuggling and the human cost of a deadly trade. 

All worthy contenders, but separately and often together, Adler and Kuenssberg provided outstanding Brexit reporting and analysis on TV and radio and, when they could, find time in between to tweet, blog and make excellent ‘Brexitcast’ podcasts with their colleagues.  In acknowledging this two-pronged excellence, the judges unanimously agreed that joint Broadcasters of the Year are KATYA ADLER and LAURA KUENSSBERG.

Our third and another hotly-contested category was DIGITAL JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR, sponsored by Google. 

Those shortlisted were:

Daniel Adamson and Aliaume Leroy, of Africa Eye, BBC, who along with colleagues conducted an open source investigation, ‘Anatomy of a Killing’ which unpicked a gruesome killing of two women and two children – when challenged that it was fake news.  The subsequent twitter thread on killings in Cameroon has since been retweeted tens of thousands of  times.

Next, the Bellingcat investigative team.  This open source and social media-based team went from strength to strength in identifying the Russian operatives at the heart of the Sergei Skripal story and by Bellingcat’s own transparency in revealing how they made the identifications.

And number three is Maeve McClenaghan, of Bureau Local, whose leadership of ‘MakeThemCount’, a collaborative investigation with Channel 4 and local journalists about homeless deaths across the UK, brought about a change in legislation in 2018.

A terrific trio of contenders, said the judges, who eventually decided that Digital Journalists of the Year are the BELLINGCAT INVESTIGATIONS TEAM.

The shortlist for PRINT JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR, sponsored by The Madison Square Garden Company, features another three journalists at the top of their game. 

Firstly, Amelia Gentleman, of The Guardian, – she is the reporter and features writer who exposed the Windrush immigration scandal, overcoming the government’s initial – the judges said – shameful indifference and succeeding in forcing the issue on to the political agenda.

Next, Alison Phillips, of the Daily Mirror, who in becoming editor of the paper is only the second female to take its helm since its very first,  more than a century ago.  She also writes an informed, punchy column that has established her as a leading Brexit turmoil critic and thorn in the side of inefficient officialdom. 

Thirdly, Sean O’Neill, The Times’ chief reporter.  His revelation that some staff of the Oxfam charity paid to use prostitutes while employed on providing aid in earthquake-torn Haiti was followed throughout the world and resulted in the resignation of top Oxfam officials.  Top-notch reporting said the judges.

And after much hand-wringing they decided the PRINT JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR, for tenacity that eventually brought about the resignation of the Home Secretary, is AMELIA GENTLEMAN.

On then to SCOOP OF THE YEAR, one of the original categories in the London Press Club Awards.  The category this year produced a number of jaw-dropping scoops and it was difficult for the judges to select a shortlist let alone a winner. 

The three to emerge at the top were:

Cambridge Analytica in The Observer which saw Carole Cadwalladr lead an investigation that put the paper at the forefront of unveiling a major political scandal, revealing that Cambridge Analytica had gathered the personal details of millions of Facebook profiles without the subjects’ consent and used the data for political purposes.  Facebook’s share price fell dramatically.

Number two, The Sun for the John Worboys revelation and campaign.  Public outrage followed the paper’s revelation that the parole board’s recommendation for the rapist’ Worboys to be granted parole and led to the paper leading a vigorous campaign for a judicial review that permitted the decision to be challenged.  The chairman of the Parole Board resigned and Worboys’ parole was denied. 

And our third scoop is Windrush,  in The Guardian.  Revelations that many people, mostly from Caribbean countries who had arrived in the UK before 1973, had been wrongly detained, denied legal rights and incorrectly deported from the UK caused outrage but received a lethargic response from government.   A National Audit Office report found the Home Office had failed in its duty ‘to be proactive in identifying people affected.

And the winner among three worthy winners is… The Observer for Cambridge Analytica.

Now to the unique and much-prized category for which there is never a shortlist – the Edgar Wallace Award for Writing or Reporting of the Highest Quality, created by the Press Club in 1990. 

This year’s recipient trained as a journalist in Scotland before arriving at The Sunday Times, where he became a section editor, then foreign correspondent.  Subsequently, having written for The Observer, he joined the embryo Independent on Sunday, which he edited from 1991 to 1995 before becoming a distinguished editor of the quarterly Granta magazine.  In the past two decades he has written extensively for The Guardian and in 2007 began to contribute what has become a much-admired Saturday column.  His published collection of essays were complimented by The Economist as a work that ‘transcends journalist and attains the status of literature’.

The London Press Club’s 2018 Edgar Wallace Award goes to IAN JACK. 

Now on to the Press Club’s awards for the best newspapers of 2018, both sponsored by Just Eat.  

We begin with SUNDAY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR, and the first of a shortlist of three is the Sunday Mirror, which during the year revitalised its traditional strengths of investigations and campaigns.  It outshone its rivals with a series of successes, from the Telford child sexual exploitation investigation to its ‘Time to Change’ mental health crusade, which saw more than 100,000 readers sign a pledge supporting increased funding for treatment of those affected by depression and other mental issues.

Next, The Observer, where its relaunch as a tabloid, coupled with a redesign to showcase an array of formidable writers and commentators, saw the paper punching above its weight in a difficult market.  Carole Cadwalladr ensured it was always ahead of its rivals with the Cambridge Analytica story and the paper’s coverage of the tortuous progress towards Brexit, the judges felt were exemplary.

And finally The Sunday Times.  A big beast in the Sunday jungle, the paper continued to employ its considerable resources in ensuring  it remained a ‘must-see’ title.   Strong news coverage and comment, unparalleled in-depth analysis and an ever-muscular sports section, were complemented by top-class columnists and add-ons such as the Rich List and ‘Best Companies to Work For’ survey.  Always the one to beat, said the judges.

On this occasion it and The Observer were edged out.   Our SUNDAY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR is the SUNDAY MIRROR.

Now on the last lap, to the DAILY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR, where such was the division of opinion among the judges that it was decided to shortlist four of the titles discussed.

First, the Evening Standard, where its refreshed front page, with the traditional Eros graphic returning to the masthead, signalled a new look. The title’s content continued to grow in strength –   Campaigns included tackling the terrifying increase in knife crime on London streets, and investigations such as the disturbing rise in pharmaceutical companies selling addictive drugs for prescription.   And a new initiative, live blogging, was launched to reinforce its news operation.

Next, the Financial Times.  which in offering readers clinical, non-partisan and detailed coverage of all aspects of the Brexit crisis and implications of the many possible outcomes, is the first port of call each morning for leaders in business and both big and small investors.   All this while continuing to offer comprehensive coverage of foreign news and a pace-making weekend magazine.  A very good year, agreed the judges. 

The Times, as always, was in contention.  In a year dominated by politics at home and abroad, the title flexed its editorial muscle with superb Brexit coverage, including Henry Zeffman’s ‘What happens next’ guide, exclusive stories from inside Downing Street and perceptive columns from Rachel Sylvester, Danny Finkelstein, Matthew Parris and Philip Collins.  Also, the paper saw the number of its paying customers pass 500,000, of which more than half receive their content digitally. 

Finally, The Sun, where strong political coverage, exclusives such as the proposed release of John Worboys and vigorous campaigning kept the paper ahead in the circulation game.  Readers were also treated to the best tongue-in-cheek humour in the business, from Max Mosley and ‘The Liar, the Swish and the Whore Probe’, to Cabinet member Gavin Williamson’s Monty Pythonesque admonishment with ‘The Minister of Silly Wars’.  An irresistible package.

After lengthy deliberation the judges highly commended The Financial Times for its comprehensive coverage across the news spectrum but eventually agreed that for the third year running, for its all-round excellence, the London Press Club’s DAILY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR is…  THE TIMES.

And that’s all until next year.  Congratulations to the winners, commiserations to the shortlisted entries that didn’t quite make it and thanks to all of you for coming along today.  

Richard Dymond

Honorary Treasurer and Director of the London Press Club and the London Press Club Ball.

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