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YorkshireLive unveils first public awareness journalism team

Posted on: January 26, 2021 by Mariella Brown

YorkshireLive has launched a new public awareness team to serve up the untold stories of the county to its readers.

The new team – under regional publisher Reach – now hopes to use its scale as the county’s largest website to ensure the stories readers need to know about reach the widest possible audience. They will also provide live court and council coverage and make sure that stories behind high profile cases and issues are told.

The team will be headed by former BBC data journalist Victoria Prest with existing YorkshireLive award-winning journalists Kristian Johnson and Stephanie Finnegan joining as investigations reporter and court reporter.

Former BBC online journalist Guy Bell also joins as a second court reporter and freelance data journalist Sam Brooke completes the team as insights reporter.

YorkshireLive editor Wayne Ankers said: “I am really excited about this team getting started. It is brimming with talent and they will help us build on the success we have had in our first nine months.

“We are already the most read site in Yorkshire and we are proud to deliver the content the audience wants.

“This team will be able to investigate, explore and expose the issues at the heart of our communities and help the people of Yorkshire fight for what they believe they deserve.”

Meet the team:

Victoria Prest

Victoria Prest is a local government and data specialist journalist with almost a decade of experience, mainly based in Yorkshire.

She started her career at the Harrogate Advertiser series as a trainee reporter, before moving on to the York Press where she was the newspaper’s political reporter throughout the 2015 and 2017 general elections, and the EU referendum.

In 2018 she became one of the first local democracy reporters on the launch of the service before joining the BBC.

She later moved into data journalism, working on cross-platform and collaborative stories for BBC Yorkshire.

She joined Reach in November 2020 to lead Yorkshire Live’s new public awareness team, and is looking forward to bringing more public interest journalism to the growing audience that has already been attracted to the engaging content on Yorkshire Live.

Sam Brooke

Sam is YorkshireLive’s Insight Reporter, covering councils and government across the county. Born in Sussex, Sam trained as a journalist in Portsmouth before working as a reporter in Brighton, developing a passion for public interest journalism and scrutinising authorities, as well as gaining experience in data journalism. Sam covered the 2019 General Election, the February 2020 coronavirus outbreak in Brighton, and the pandemic as a whole before going freelance in September, writing for Private Eye magazine among other publications. Now settled in Leeds, Sam works with other reporters to cover everything from councils to NHS trusts and government, aiming to provide deep, engaging coverage so readers are always in the know.

Guy Bell

Guy began as a trainee reporter with the Brentwood Gazette and Essex Chronicle in January 2015 where he covered murder trials and other court cases from his first week.

He spent 18 months at the Gazette and Chronicle before gaining his senior qualifications and moving to Reading as a journalist for what was then known as INS News Agency. His stories would regularly feature on national news websites and in their respective newspapers.

He later joined the Kent Messenger, where he was appointed chief reporter in 2018.

In June 2019 he joined the BBC as an online journalist covering Kent, Sussex and Surrey. He has always had a desire to move to the north and continue with court reporting and says he is now fortunate enough to now be able to combine the two.

Kristian Johnson

Award-winning journalist Kristian Johnson has moved into a new role as YorkshireLive’s investigative reporter.

The transition comes after the senior reporter spent three years covering major news events in Leeds, from Brexit marches through the city centre to live reporting on pivotal election nights in Yorkshire.

Part of the role will see him produce video content for the website in the mould of his previous investigations into the Leeds sex zone and the devastating impact of suicide — the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.

Kristian said: “I’m excited to start as YorkshireLive’s investigations reporter, which will give me the opportunity to shine a light on the issues that really affect people all over the county.

“Yorkshire is an amazing and incredibly varied region, full of brilliant people. From the vibrant cities of Leeds, York and Sheffield to the idyllic villages in the countryside, there are all manner of stories to be told that have not yet been unearthed.

“This new role means I will be able to hold public figures to account and tackle the biggest issues facing Yorkshire.

Stephanie Finnegan

Stephanie started at the Huddersfield Examiner in 2017 and quickly progressed to court reporting.

She covers the most serious court cases in the region and has successfully challenged reporting restrictions.

After one such challenge in May 2018, her Twitter thread about the case went viral.

She was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and the BBC Asian Network, and written about in Ireland’s Sunday World as a result. She also wrote about the challenge for the British Journalism Review.

Later that year, she filled almost the entire news section of the Huddersfield Examiner with copy about phase one of the Huddersfield grooming gang prosecution and secured exclusive interviews with victims. She was praised for her coverage in the New Statesman and interviewed by Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio 5.

The following year, she was named best young print journalist in Yorkshire and the Humber at the o2 Media Awards.

Stephanie appeared in both seasons of the BBC documentary Hometown: A Killing and the BBC Sounds podcast by the same name, which are about the fatal police shooting of a Huddersfield man.

She has given talks about her work at industry events, including the NCTJ’s 2018 Journalism Skills Conference, and a number of universities.

Credit: Behind Local News