Young Journalist of the Year

Scroll down to meet the nominees for this category

Young Journalist of the Year is sponsored by Amazon Prime Video 

Open to journalists aged 26 or under on 31 December 2019 who have not previously been shortlisted for this award. Entries may include work from any journalistic discipline. Judges will be looking for the individual who has made significant impact over the year. Click on the articles to read the entrant’s work.

The shortlist

Ashlie Blakey, Manchester Evening News

During her first year at the MEN, Ashlie worked on a variety of breaking news stories, features and live blogs. She also used her experience as a court reporter from her previous role at Cavendish Press to source court stories and look in-depth at different cases.

For her first entry, Ashlie suggested to her editor that she spend a day at Youth Court for a feature. She felt that the public don’t often get an insight into what happens inside a Youth Court and wanted to shine a light on this underrepresented area. Her finished piece using the latest youth justice statistics told the emotive story of three different young people in court that day – all with different backgrounds.

Her second entry was a huge public interest story, both locally and nationally, when a fire broke out at a student accommodation block in Bolton and devastated the entire building. Students lost all of their belongings in the fire, including university work and treasured possessions. Ashlie was the first reporter on the scene of the temporary accommodation where students were staying to talk to them about what had happened. Students spoke candidly about some of the things they had lost in the fire to put a human face to the story to make splash in the print edition the following day.

The final entry was a story Ashlie wrote after spending the day at a live scene in Sheffield. A mother and father had murdered their two sons, and tried to poison their four other children.

In her own words, Ashlie said although she was nervous when she was first asked to go to the scene and run a live blog, looking back now, she realised the huge impact this story had on MEN readers. At the scene, Ashlie managed to confirm the identities of the victims and the suspects within an afternoon, though a legal order was immediately put in place. When she returned from the scene, Ashlie drew on her own experiences covering this particularly difficult story to create an emotive colour piece to bring together everything that had happened that day. The story had over 65,000 hits to date.

The judges said:
Covering big breaking news stories and showing creativity and self-motivation in chasing fresh angles on features, Ashlie is clearly a talented journalist displaying all the best ingredients of an ambitious and skilled news reporter.

Strong news coverage of a Sheffield murder and student fire. A standout piece on Manchester’s youth courts – a genuinely original piece of reportage.

Emilia Bona, Liverpool Echo

The Liverpool ECHO has a reputation for telling the kinds of local stories that truly matter to its readers. Emilia says she hopes she can tell the kinds of human-interest stories that reflect the real people in the ECHO’s communities in a way that makes them feel represented.

Emilia’s exclusive on the life and death of Aimee Teese built up a picture of how a young woman with so much to live for could end up dying in a tent on our city’s streets. Emilia was the first journalist Aimee’s family agreed to speak with, talking to them at length about her struggles with addiction and motherhood. She also trawled through old court listing and CPS records to help piece together a timeline of when Aimee slipped from having a fixed address to bouncing between homeless shelters. Her story was later picked up by The Guardian as part of their Empty Doorway series.

Her second piece covered the death of Stephen Pollitt at Liverpool Museum, with Emilia providing hours of live updates as the circumstances of the tragedy became clear. In the days following Mr Pollitt’s death, Emilia continued to report on the story, securing an ECHO exclusive that he was discharged by mental health teams just days before taking his own life in a horrific and public way.

Emilia’s final piece about Liverpool’s Adelphi Hotel revealed how one of the city’s most historic institutions had fallen into an appalling state of disrepair under Britannia’s ownership. After reporting on countless stories of guests’ disastrous stays at the hotel, Emilia spent a night trying to understand whether these complaints were justified, and how the Adelphi lost its way.

Judges’ comments:
Very strong pieces on the twin tragedies of a homeless mum who died on the streets and a vulnerable man who took his own life in a museum, alongside a lighter but innovative investigation into the state of a Liverpool hotel that has seen better days. Great all-round package.

Emily Townsend, East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star

The first story is a scoop that revealed hundreds of pacemakers given to Suffolk patients were at risk of malfunctioning. After receiving a tip-off, Emily’s extensive research discovered it was part of a much wider issue affecting up to 150,000 pacemakers worldwide. Her online story had hundreds of shares and was raised in European Parliament by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and used to lobby multinational firms to make major changes.

Her second piece is an in-depth look at a major cladding issue affecting one of Suffolk’s biggest tower blocks. Through an FOI and online research, obtained copies of originally redacted tribunal documents which revealed the true extent of how flammable the cladding was. Emily produced a video and a timeline along with two follow-ups: one with then-MP Sandy Martin raising it in Parliament.

The third entry followed the improvement journey of Suffolk and Norfolk’s mental health trust. Emily used FOI to expose the scandal of patients being sent up to 300km away from home for treatment and featured tough interviews with grieving families over the trust’s response to a prevention of future deaths report.

The judges said:
Emily’s story show how a local news tip can travel to the national, and international, news agenda. She displays in her entries a clarity of writing, a great news sense, and an empathy for those she’s reporting on. Clearly a talent.

Jack Dyson, Kentish Gazette

Jack’s first article is about the shortcomings of a self-exclusion scheme used by problem gamblers to ban themselves from betting shops. Jack uncovered a widespread problem with the scheme, revealing how those registered to the system could still manage to continue placing wagers at nearby bookies. Using covert filming, Jack pieced together the story and the Gambling Commission subsequently launched an investigation into his findings.

His second submission is an unvarnished account of married life as a male domestic abuse victim. After attending a magistrates’ court hearing where a wife pleaded guilty to coercive behaviour, Jack contacted the husband and secured an interview with him. He told Jack how the abuse graduated from name-calling and bullying to physical violence and death threats. He also described how he mustered the courage to report his wife to the police, his continued battle with depression and urged other men not to suffer in silence. The article highlighted that men can also be victims of domestic and Jack hopes it showed to others in similar situations the benefits of speaking out.   

The final article investigated homelessness in Canterbury, which through spending a night with a rough sleeping charity and talking to those on the streets, gave a flavour of just how complex an issue it is and underlined the difficulties councils and charities face.

Judges’ comments:
Jack’s stories are impressive – and show that is skilled at shoe-leather reporter, getting out and into the community he covers.

These are well-written entries which show an ability to cover a wide range of stories – particularly the willingness to conduct an investigation from the driving seat by putting oneself in the position of the gambling addicts so seriously affected by the failings of betting firms and steer staffs.

Jessie Mathewson, East London Guardian

Jessie is a Local Democracy reporter covering the Mayor, London Assembly, TfL, the Met and the London Fire Brigade.

Her first piece revealed that “Boris Buses” – the Routemaster model introduced by the PM while he was Mayor – were costing TfL £3.6 million a year in fare evasion. Jessie revealed TfL’s plans to prevent fare-dodging by rolling front-entry access only across all “Boris Buses”. The story was later run by other London outlets, and when the switch to front-entry was confirmed in January, it was picked up by nationals.

Her second piece revealed that a widely-covered incident of anti-Semitic abuse on the Tube, first reported from social media footage, was not a one off, and there had been two other incidents on buses that week. In the context of a national conversation about rising anti-semitism, this was an important story for Londoners. By covering an under-reported meeting, Jessie revealed this development – which was later picked up by the BBC and run nationally.

Her third piece demonstrated Jessie’s ability to respond to breaking news when she was at London Bridge during the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack. A contact phoned to say what was happening shortly before the story broke. Jessie ran straight towards the scene and spoke to people at the cordon, filmed, photographed, and gathered facts. Her reportage was used by over 100 outlets across the country. Jessie says she believes all news reporters hope they will be ready to approach danger if required – and knowing that she has it in her, has strengthened her resolve.

The judges said:
Jessie has broken stories at a local level that have national importance. Her entries display skill, ambition and tenacity – and suggest she is a real rising star.

While some see local government as stultifying this entry shows that good stories are there for the finding – and can be shown to be matters which are of public interest and interesting to the public.

Lydia Chantler-Hicks, Kentish Gazette

Lydia’s first article on Dignity in Dying shines a light on the battle facing terminally ill people who wish to end their lives on their own terms. By interviewing those on both sides of the debate regarding assisted dying, Lydia’s article provided a great opportunity for members of Dignity in Dying to set the record straight, and for this important topic to be brought into general discourse.

Her piece on speed cameras – based upon a FOI request made to Kent Police -exposed the fact that cameras across the district were out of use about 70% of the time. Lydia interpreted huge set of data to uncover this information, before questioning the authorities to find out why speed cameras were out of action for such lengthy periods, and reaching out to councillors, school head teachers, and MPs to gain reaction to the damning figures.

A feature on Canterbury Food Bank helped raise awareness of the fact people from all walks of life, even in an outwardly prosperous city, can face times of hardship when they are forced to rely on charity. Published during Christmas week, the piece helped generate not only an influx of donations and new volunteers, but also raised awareness of the charity and what it does, and of the hundreds of people relying upon it year-round. Her coverage of the food bank throughout the year, which was facing closure due to lack of supporters, prompted a number of volunteers to come forward and resulted in the vital service staying open.

The judges said:
A good range of stories, well-presented and treated with care, on issues which affect a large number of people.

Marcus Hughes, WalesOnline

Marcus’s first story focused on the idea that psychotic illnesses were largely being left out of the discourse around mental health in recent years. Addressing that imbalance, Marcus shared his family’s experience with schizophrenia. Although Marcus’s brother has passed away, he wanted to ensure someone with first-hand experience of the illness had a voice in the piece and spoke to Stephen Debar who shared his story.

The second story came about from a cutting of a court case involving a father’s murder of his eight-week-old son which the Western Mail covered in the early 2000s. Following up the case, Marcus coincidentally found out the child’s mother was concerned that her son’s murderer may soon be granted leave from prison. Marcus secured the only interview the mother has given on the horrific event to reveal the deep and long-lasting impact of the loss of a son.

For the final story, Marcus spoke to the family of Carson Price, aged 13, who died in tragic circumstances after taking an ecstasy tablet in a park in Ystrad Mynach. Carson’s mother Tatum spoke to Marcus about what happened and shared her concerns about the availability of drugs in her community. It was the only interview she gave during that period shortly after Carson’s death and before his funeral.

The judges said:
A powerful set of entries combining strong news sense with excellent interviewing skills. All three pieces were great hard news stories in their own right but Marcus’s treatment of them gave them real depth.

Marcus shows a strong tabloid intuition – and clearly knows what his audience wants. He shows initiative in his newsgathering, and is clearly comfortable writing across news and features.

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