Campaign of the Year – Weekly / Sunday Paper

Scroll down to meet the nominees for Campaign of the Year for Weekly / Sunday Papers. 

 Judges were looking for campaigns that made waves, struck a chord with readers and simply made a difference. 

The Shortlist

Save Kentish Town City Farm, Camden New Journal

Supporting statement:

This campaign had it all. It staved off several staff redundancies and loss of animals and services for disabled kids at cherished institution in heart of deprived area of Camden. 

We got Hollywood actress Rosamund Pike to back the campaign, which helped boost publicity. 

A very rich businessman picked up a copy of the paper and pledged £100,000 to save the farm, this was as a direct result of reading the latest front-page story in the Camden New Journal. 

All the board quit at the end of the campaign and they were replaced by a board trustees who live nearby and are committed to it continuing. 

The eviction of a farm night watchman due to be evicted from his home on the site was stopped. The £100,000 was paid in full and the farm’s staff and trustees are excited about the future. 

This was banging on every week for three or four months, increasing the pressure each week. 

Rachel Schwartz, who was installed as new director, said: “The campaign to protect jobs and services at Kentish Town City Farm could not have succeeded without ongoing coverage by the Camden New Journal over the past three months. The CNJ worked to a high standard of professional journalism bringing scrutiny to questionable actions, and ensuring that all points of view were shared. It was singularly responsible for connecting the farm to a local benefactor who has made a £100,000 donation to help secure the farm’s financial sustainability.”

“The CNJ fosters fact-based dialogue about local issues that helps knit together our community and makes Camden a great place to live and work.”

There is a special connection between the farm staff and residents around there, and we were able to bring that to the fore over months of stories. It achieved what it had set out to do and with a Hollywood-ending. Several people would have lost their jobs and children in a poor ward would have suffered if the paper hadn’t got involved. The £100,000 donation made on the back of someone reading your story felt unique. I doubt something like that will happen again. 

Judges’ Comments:

A captivating campaign with an impressive cast of supporters highlighting the important place local papers have in their communities.

A clear case of a strong campaign on a community issue resulting in real change.

As this experienced old hand of an editor says, this campaign has everything: children, pets and a film star. It did though need a seasoned but still enthusiastic editor to bring the campaign together and bring about a successful ending. Well done the Camden New Journal for excellent old fashioned campaigning local journalism.

This hugely successful campaign has touched the community, securing the future of a much valued and unique inner-city asset. It has had a far-reaching impact on both the staff and visitors.

Paedophile Police Informant campaign, Yellow Advertiser

Supporting statement:

Everybody knows police use informants. We’ve all watched cop dramas where the officers turn a blind eye to a low-level drug dealer or a fence, in return for information which helps catch the bigger fish. 

But what if the informant isn’t a small-fry dealer or thief? What if the informant your local police are doing secret deals with is in fact one of Britain’s most dangerous, serially-convicted paedophiles?

Last year, this campaign/investigation was shortlisted for Weekly Campaign of the Year and won the NMA Making A Difference award. In 2019, it continued to make waves, sparking calls for police reform and attracting international traffic to the YA website, writes Charles Thomson. 

In 1989, Dennis King was charged with running a paedophile ring from Shoebury, Essex. He faced possible life in prison, but a generous plea bargain saw him sentenced to just four years. His fellow abusers were never pursued and many victims weren’t even interviewed when they came forward – police insisted the case was already dealt with. As such, the children were not formally recognised as victims and so were denied counselling. Many are now dead, from suicides and overdoses. 

Since 2015, when whistleblowers who worked on the case asked me to investigate these irregularities, I’ve been campaigning for answers for the victims and their families. Between 2015 and 2018, my investigation directly provoked an official review of the original case, two new police probes, and saw seven victims come forward. But each time, police ultimately failed to take any action. 

Then, in 2019, I uncovered a document that might finally explain why. After tracking down a nervous source who’d hidden documents from the case in their home for 30 years, I was able to unmask King as a police informant, casting a new light on his lenient treatment. The story was picked up by other media, including The Mirror, and a production company now has a TV documentary in development about my investigation. 

The revelation that police had recruited a compulsive child molester as an informant sparked outrage. A leading abuse charity said any privilege conferred upon such an informant amounted to aiding their crimes against children. Victims, lawyers and charity workers lobbied Government as a result of my stories, calling for an inquiry/IICSA investigation and for rules on the use of informants to be strengthened. 

Throughout the year, my regular campaign updates included exclusive revelations about the original court case, interviews with victims, and reports on public bodies consistently censoring and suppressing information about the case. I used a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to force the MOJ to release King’s criminal record, proving his lenient treatment had freed him to abuse more children. I later took legal action against the ICO for helping to suppress a report into alleged child abuse cover-ups at Essex Council.

IICSA staff have told campaigners they hope to insert the Shoebury case and the issue of police informants into a future investigative strand. In the meantime, the campaign continues.

Judges’ Comments:

A powerful campaign which has required hours of investigative journalism. A wonderful example of tireless determination for greater transparency and justice for abuse victims.

Diligent and persistent work has unearthed yet more historical failings from the police and local authorities. This ongoing investigation, including taking legal action, is even more remarkable given the limited resources available.

First class and determined reporting was needed to delve into this campaign which questioned the authorities and those who had been involved in the most sensitive and appalling crimes. The Yellow Advertiser is to be congratulated for sticking with their story and winning recognition for what they believed was a public wrong.

Save Reading Gaol, The Reading Chronicle

Supporting statement:

Over the course of six months, The Reading Chronicle fought to save an under-threat piece of the town’s history – Reading Gaol.

The grade II listed building has been put on the market by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) who intend to sell the historic site to the highest bidder. With fears the jail could be turned into housing, the Chronicle decided to support campaigners in their bid to see the site turned into an arts and heritage hub for the community. 

To strengthen the brand of The Chronicle we decided to get behind people and what they believe in. We spent time listening and understanding their causes and putting our weight behind it, rather than just reporting on what others are up to.

This worked perfectly with the Gaol. A site with huge significance in the arts world as well as being described at the ‘Mecca for the LGBT+ community’ because of Oscar Wilde’s infamous incarceration. 

Every week for six months, we featured a page editorial examining the causes, interviewing those involved and seeking answers. Alongside this we would publish a cut-out signature petition form which has been signed by almost 10,000 people. 

This campaign concluded in our Christmas edition where a front-page plea stated ‘All I want for Christmas is to Save Reading Gaol’. The publicity stunt saw an open letter sent to Boris Johnson and his new government to plead for success. 

An opening editorial comment by Group Editor Andrew Colley said: “The Reading Chronicle declares enough is enough and calls on all readers and residents to get behind the community campaign to Save Reading Gaol. The prison itself has a priceless historical value. It is seen as a key landmark in the town and has been labelled as a ‘Mecca for the LGBT+ community’. Well-known buildings, much-loved green spaces and, of course, our swimming pools have come and gone in the past. Now is the time to speak up, don’t watch our history disappear – make your voice heard. As Editor of this newspaper, I want us to continue to be at the heart of this glorious community. We’ve got you covered in print and online and will be relentless in holding authorities and the government to account in a bid to get the best for this town. With efforts being ramped up, our team knew something needed to be done. Not everyone will like it, some may even disagree, but we are adamant Reading’s Gaol must be preserved for future generations. Many campaign groups have their own ideas of what the building should house, including an arts hub, theatre and museum. We are supportive of all of these and won’t be taking sides – what is essential however is that we have the choice to see it have a future in some way.”

Reading Borough Council has now submitted a bid to buy the jail with support from Theatre and Arts Reading (TAR) and we are awaiting the result. 

The fight to save this historical site continues.

Judges’ Comments:

A case study in how a strong stand and consistent coverage can deservedly capture national interest.

A good example of a determined local campaign to save a historic building.

It can be a challenge to get the public behind a campaign to save an empty building. When that building is a jail… most editors would look for an escape route. The Chronicle got residents to turn out in their droves to support a long-term solution. An imaginative campaign that thought out of the box.

Persistent pressure has borne fruit in this important campaign to save a historically significant landmark. The turnout for the ‘hug’ illustrates the relevance of the local paper and the community who support it.