Feature Writer/ Long Form Journalist of the Year

Scroll down to meet the nominees for this category

The Shortlist

Specification: Quality of writing is paramount. Judges looked for journalists who demonstrate a compelling style in news reportage, colour writing, analysis and backgrounders.

Click on the articles to read in more detail.

Amanda Powell, The Western Mail

Fresh perspectives are brought to life through compelling storytelling which reflects the strong emotions surrounding three sensitive and highly controversial topics.

Amanda encountered over a year of setbacks in the case of the Porthcawl miners’ wives feature before she tracked down women prepared to go public with their memories of the day Margaret Thatcher was egged in Porthcawl.

It was a topic which made headlines all over the world then and in subsequent years, but no-one else had taken the time to find women who were there and who could share their experiences and open up about the impact on the rest of their lives.

Amanda drew on personal memories from the time strike-breaking miner Monty Morgan went back to work at Garw Colliery, not least because she had been caught between stone-throwing protesters and the police as a junior reporter. With the 35th anniversary approaching, she dug out her original reports from the local council archives and spent months persuading people from Blaengarw to speak to her.

The follow-up to the murder of child killer David Gaut also involved months of research, including delving into the socio-economic statistics of the area while being sensitive to the concerns of local people. Without glossing over the very real social problems, Amanda’s intention was to explore and portray the elements which still galvanise the community where she grew up.

The judges said:

Brilliant evocations of past events, which uncovered new insights through sharp questioning of contacts whose trust had been earned. The journalist’s long experience shone through.

Anna Lewis, WalesOnline

For her first article written in the aftermath of the EU referendum, Anna spotlighted the Welsh borough of Blaenau Gwent as Wales’ most pro-leave constituency. Her piece revealed people eager to explain their frustration, their experiences and the reasons behind their choice as they spoke of unwanted art installations, of empty shops and an unnecessary cable car. Digging into years of council reports, and speaking to experts, Anna turned the spotlight on what the EU had really achieved in the area and whether the millions of pounds of funding given had made a difference or not.

For her second piece Anna looked at the booming world of storage units as a growing industry within the UK. 

From one exasperated wife paying to store her husband’s life-size Dalek, to those storing late family members’ treasured possessions, she conveyed the magnitude of emotions staff at these centres encounter every day.

Anna’s third piece is an in-depth interview with retired engineer Mike Carter who has paid hundreds of thousand dollars to have his body preserved in liquid nitrogen in a storage facility in Arizona. 

The judges said:

Anna Lewis’s piece about Ebbw Vale was the standout feature in a strong category. Its examination of the town’s complex relationship with the EU, and its challenge to simplistic narratives about residents’ views on Brexit demonstrated this kind of long-form journalism at its best – allowing a story to be told by its participants with the writer’s guiding hand strong but barely seen. Top class.

Barry Didcock, The Herald & The Herald On Sunday

Although primarily an arts and features writer and not a political journalist or a social affairs reporter, Barry has long held that this so-called “softer” end of the journalistic spectrum is some ways the canary in the coalmine where major societal change is concerned, and that, he says, was especially true in 2019.

Accordingly he discovered that whether interviewing footballers, playwrights, composers, authors, animal rights campaigners, designers or broadcasters issues of class, gender, historicity, religion, identity (both national and cultural), diversity and – yes – politics regularly intruded. 

Barry said, “I hope I have done each of these topics justice in the pieces I have submitted and mined my subjects’ lives not just for their pertinent details but for the wider themes and universal truths those lives can serve to illuminate.”

The judges said:

The pieces give you a real sense of the person. Portraiture in words.

Joe Thomas, Liverpool Echo

As the Liverpool ECHO’s dedicated reporter on the prosecutions linked to the Hillsborough tragedy, Joe was tasked with working on the biggest court cases in the ECHO’s history and, arguably, the most legally sensitive in modern British history.

He was the only journalist present at every day of the trial and retrial of David Duckenfield, the police officer in charge when a tragic crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final led to the deaths of 96 men, women and children, creating unrivalled analysis of the verdict and its implications.

Another of Joe’s articles was an innovative take on the story of British crime’s most-used gun.

Where possible, Joe looks beyond a story and even re-visits it to see the impact a crime or investigation has had on an area, seen in his backgrounder on how the guns fell silent on a proud Liverpool estate of Speke once dogged by gun crime. His showed a willingness to be a responsible journalist who supports the communities he represents.

The judges said:

Comprehensive storytelling of the cleanup of gang and gun warfare in South Liverpool and coverage of the Duckinfield trial. Superb journalism.

Rebecca Day, Manchester Evening News

Rebecca’s long reads during the year laid bare the ugly hardships many people face.

‘Between Crack Alley and The Druggy Phone Box’ stemmed from a conversation with local shop owners at the scene of a vicious hammer attack on a woman. The victim’s account of the attack was chilling and revealed the complexities of the drug problem in the area. Rebecca’s feature shone a spotlight on the area’s issues in a highly deprived area of Manchester and was read by 59,000 readers.

In an interview with the ex-girlfriend of a notorious Manchester gang leader Rebecca revealed how she had been groomed and then subjected to years of physical and mental abuse, producing a difficult feature that divided its 75,000 readers.

For her third submitted feature Rebecca spoke to homeless people when temperatures dipped below freezing. The feature opened with the story of Sarah. Rebecca’s article captured a woman who was desperate and wanted to block everything out on one of the busiest streets in Manchester.

The judges said:

Delivers a punchy style between and holds councillors and the police to account.

Richard Heath, Jersey Evening Post

For his first entry, Richard spent hours researching the Mariecelia yacht tragedy of 1964, and ultimately discovered that the sole survivor was still alive. He persuaded her to talk about the disaster for the first time in more than 50 years. Richard also discovered that one of her rescuers was still alive. Despite living just a few miles apart – neither the victim nor the rescuer had met since the day of the accident, but Richard brought them together.

His second entry covered the split of Jersey’s RNLI crew the subsequent formation of an independent lifeboat service. It was one of the most contentious and talked about events of recent times in Jersey. Richard persuaded the coxswain to talk and handled the sensitive issue with care. The feature clearly set out the complex background to the story while at the same time encapsulating the emotion and turmoil felt by the crew. It was a balanced, sensitive and informative news feature on what was quite a difficult issue for the Island.

In the third entry, Richard interviewed Cheyenne O’Connor, one of the most prolific paedophile hunters in Britain. Richard persuaded her to open up about her difficult past and her previous conviction for violence. He also put to her difficult questions surrounding the legitimacy of what she does. The feature is written with pace, and with the use of short sentences and well-placed quotes it cleverly gets across Miss O’Connor’s abrupt, no-nonsense attitude to life.

The judges said:

An interview with Cheyenne O’Connor nicely set out the complicated nature of her relationship with the law. The highlight of this submission, however, was the retelling of the Mariecelia disaster: gripping feature journalism told with real flair and local knowledge.