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The WPR Journalist of the Year Awards

After much debate (and the odd tantrum!) our WPR Journalist of the Year Awards for 2017 are here. Before we start it is important to note that the judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into (unless of course the winners want to give us a retweet!).

Anyway, if you are all sitting comfortably with your coffee and mints, we shall begin.

Political Journalist of the Year

2017 (and 2016 for that matter) has been an outstanding year for political journalism. Special mention must go to Stephen Bush of the New Statesman whose early morning email briefing has become essential reading in WPR Towers. A personal favourite was the NS podcast after the General Election, which consisted mainly of Stephen and Deputy Editor Helen Lewis giggling to themselves about the result. Schadenfreude is a dish best served cold.

However, one political journalist has stood out this year for her fearlessness in the face provocation, threats and questioning of her impartiality. The Daily Telegraph christened her, “The most divisive woman on TV today” and an online petition was set up calling for her to be sacked. All the while she has shown real grit, real impartiality, has worked punishing hours and offered exceptional insight into extraordinary times. Our Political Journalist of the Year is Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC.

Bernstein and Woodward Award for Investigative Journalism

The Bernstein and Woodward Award for Investigative Journalism is one of the most prestigious on offer and two investigations this year have caught the judges’ eye. Carole Cadwalladr in The Guardian has shown exceptional bravery in uncovering the murky trail of Russian money, that winds through Moscow Twitter Bot factories to the Legatum Institute and on to Aaron Banks and even into the Cabinet. Never has the phrase, “Follow the money” been more apt.

However, the award goes to an outstanding piece of investigative journalism, centred on our own doorstep here in the Midlands. A joint ITN and Guardian investigation, spearheaded by Joel Hills and Simon Goodley, into the 2Sisters chicken processing factory in West Bromwich, uncovered some appalling food hygiene practices and potentially a major public health issue. The judges were particularly impressed by the abundance of news-jacking opportunities it provided for the PR community.

Magazine Journalist of the Year

The judges are always anxious to include trade and consumer media in our deliberations. Special mention must go to Mark McGettigan at Installer magazine and Dave Tudor at PES, who travel thousands of miles every year supporting their chosen sectors and still find time to pull together informative and, most importantly, fun-to-read publications.

However, our Magazine Journalist of the Year is responsible, in part, for an extraordinary publication which combines technology, science, culture and business. In recent months he’s covered some of the really big issues including Russian interference in Brexit (and the US presidential election) through targeted social media propaganda; Firefox’s bid to beat Google Chrome in browser wars, Adidas’s manufacturing innovation and reshoring strategy, and Facebook’s bid to combat fake news. Our magazine journalist of the year is James Temperton, Digital Editor of Wired magazine.

Journalist Villain of the Year

We must briefly turn the spotlight onto one of the tables at the back which holds our journalist villains. Kelvin Mackenzie disgraced himself again this year with yet another senseless, and this time racist, attack on the City of Liverpool and Everton footballer Ross Barkley. His sacking from The Sun was long overdue and we can only hope that Kelvin has no further part to play in British public life.

Nevertheless, our Journalist Villain of the Year can’t quite decide whether he is, in fact, still a journalist or a politician. His 4,000-word ‘manifesto’ in the Telegraph setting out his vision for Brexit, which neglected even to mention Northern Ireland, drove a bus through collective responsibility and was transparently designed to undermine the Prime Minister in advance of her Florence speech. Quite how he is allowed to write for a newspaper on a rumoured salary of £500,000 a year whilst being Foreign Secretary is one of the mysteries of our time. Our Journalist Villain of the Year is Boris Johnson.

Sports Journalist of the Year

Sports Journalist of the Year is always a hotly contested category, but the judges were adamant that nominees must show a dedication to the furthering of their chosen sport, above and beyond merely turning up for an FA Cup Third Round replay at Rotherham in January.

One golf journalist has this year finally broken through with his argument that technology is having a detrimental effect on the royal and ancient game and that the governing bodies have been AWOL on the issue. After years of being told to sit down and be quiet, his line of attack is now being endorsed by Tiger Woods and even some of the equipment manufacturers, which foreshadows much-needed change. Step forward American golf writer Geoff Shackelford.

Nevertheless, one sports journalist has, this year, consistently and brilliantly placed sport into the context of wider society, holding the powerful and those with vested interests to account. His lengthy article on The Battle of Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike drew a direct line with Hillsborough, the appalling effects of 1980s policing on working class communities and the policing of football matches – lessons which are only now being learned by the police 30 years later. Our Sports Journalist of the Year is David Conn of The Guardian.

Editor of the Year

They say print is dead, but one editor has completely reinvigorated what was a moribund newspaper, with a series of stinging attacks on the government, particularly its handling of the Brexit negotiations and its response to Grenfell. Eyebrows were raised when he applied for, and got, the job, but the decision has been vindicated. Our Editor of the Year is George Osborne, who has made the Evening Standard a must-read for the first time in decades.

Journalist Double Act of the Year & Journalist Tweeter of the Year

There is only one nomination for Journalist Double Act of the Year. At a time when vast swathes of the population have tuned out from politics, the Kevin Maguire (Mirror) and Andrew Pierce (Times) double act on the GMTV sofa is both entertaining and, we hope, penetrating the deep well of apathy towards politics which pervades this country. For good measure, Kevin also wins our Journalist Tweeter of the Year award for his continued trolling of ‘Tory Boy Pierce’.

Comment Writer of the Year

Judges’ deliberations over Comment Writer of the Year are always a bruising few hours. This year was no different with outstanding cases being put forward for Polly Toynbee and Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, Charles Moore in the Telegraph, Peter Oborne and Dan Hodges in the Daily Mail. However, one comment writer this year has been forced to turn back from his own self-confessed tribalism and question the direction and motives of his own party over Brexit and the Hobson’s Choice of wrecking the party or wrecking the country. Our Comment Writer of the Year is former Conservative MP, Matthew Parris, of The Times.

Journalist of the Year

However, our Journalist of the Year has reached beyond the normal boundaries of his patch, football, to uncover an appalling scandal which, for years, remained buried. In the process he has performed a great service to his sport and to the cause of protecting young people. When he decided to dig further into football abuse he uncovered a can of worms that shames all of football, the FA in particular, for fostering a culture of cover-up, denial and obfuscation, which for years has damaged the most vulnerable. Our Journalist of the Year is Daniel Taylor of The Guardian.

All that is left for me to say is thank you to all members of the Fourth Estate for a great year and to wish you all a Happy Christmas. It’s not quite the Café Royal, but if any of the winners or nominees would like to join us for an early Friday evening glass of Prosecco our door is always open.

The Author: Tom Leatherbarrow is a Director at WPR specialising in B2B PR and marketing.