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The Private Eye Paul Foot Award 2020 – shortlist announced

The Private Eye Paul Foot Award 2020 shortlist was revealed yesterday, comprising the best submissions from digital media, national and regional publications.

The Private Eye Paul Foot Award 2020 – shortlist announced
Paul Foot

In spite of the numerous obstacles created by the Covid-19 crisis, say the organisers, there was no shortfall in the number of entries to the 2020 Paul Foot Award, with investigative and campaigning journalism no longer the preserve of investigations desks of the big papers, but spread among a range of publications from local outlets to new media organisations to the business press and freelance reporters. It should give hope to reporters and readers, judges agreed, that the range of outlets that will publish investigations and support campaigns is broadening.

In a change from previous years and in line with current regulations around Covid-19, the awards ceremony normally held at BAFTA has moved online. The winning entry for 2020 will be awarded £5,000 at an online awards presentation, Tuesday 9th June, hosted on the Private Eye website and YouTube. A piece on the winner will also run in print issue 1524 of Private Eye, available Wednesday 17th June.

The shortlist nominations, in alphabetical order by journalist, are:

  • Katie J.M. Baker & Tom Warren, BuzzFeed News: WWF’s Secret War
  • Kit Chellel, Joe Light and Ruth Olurounbi, Bloomberg Businessweek: Is One Of The World’s Biggest Lawsuits Built On A Sham?
  • Alexandra Heal, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism/Various Outlets: Nowhere To Turn
  • Frances Ryan, The Guardian: Britain’s Disability Scandal
  • Charles Thomson, Yellow Advertiser: Paedophile Police Informant Investigation
  • Nadine White/Emma Youle, HuffPost UK: SPAC Nation Investigation

This year’s judging panel, chaired by Padraig Reidy, Little Atoms, comprised Julia Langdon, Political Journalist and Broadcaster; Simon Jenkins, The Guardian; Helen Lewis, New Statesman; Francis Wheen, Private Eye; Matt Foot, criminal defence solicitor; Janine Gibson, FT and Emily Dugan, Buzzfeed, who won the 2019 Paul Foot Award.

Padraig Reidy, Chair of Judges, The Private Eye Paul Foot Award, commented: “Reading the dozens of entries that came this year was a timely reminder that beyond the psychodramas of Whitehall, reporters across the country are still dedicating themselves to uncovering stories that are unexpected, unusual and vitally important. Whittling down to a shortlist of six is always difficult for the judging panel, but this year it was especially hard, given the quality of the many entrants.”

Set up in memory of journalist Paul Foot, who died in 2004, the award honours the UK’s most brilliant, talented and determined journalists working in the fields of investigative and campaigning journalism today. The judges have provided more information on the shortlisted entries, below:

Katie J. M. Baker & Tom Warren, BuzzFeed News

WWF’s Secret War

Over the course of a year, the BuzzFeed Investigations team revealed how one of the world’s biggest and wealthiest wildlife charities was complicit in torture and killing by rangers and guards at wildlife reserves and how the organisation's continually attempted to ignore or deflect criticism, including internally commissioned reports. The WWF’s allocation of funds to individuals and organisations suspected of abuses is now being investigated by authorities in the UK and the US.

Kit Chellel, Joe Light and Ruth Olurounbi, Bloomberg Businessweek

Is One Of The World’s Biggest Lawsuits Built On A Sham?

Bloomberg Businessweek’s investigation of a case that went from the dancehalls of Ireland to the High Court in London via the oil fields of Nigeria was an intriguing account that spanned decades and continents, with fascinating protagonists clear explanations of complex scams, and an important tale how London’s status as a hub of global corporate law can lead to UK politicians lobbying on behalf of the shadier end of international business.

Alexandra Heal: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism/Various Outlets

Nowhere To Turn

Alexandra Heal’s shocking investigation revealed how police forces close ranks when a domestic abuse complaint is made against one of their officers, leaving vulnerable women with no recourse to justice and even more fearful than before. Heal’s reporting has led to a “super complaint” being lodged with the Police Inspectorate detailing alleged sexist mishandling of domestic abuse cases perpetrated by officers at 30 out of 43 forces in England and Wales.

Charles Thomson, Yellow Advertiser

Paedophile Police Informant Investigation

Essex local newspaper the Yellow Advertiser's tenacity yielded some astonishing results in exposing how Essex police protected a known predatory paedophile and police informant, and then attempted to stifle the results of an inquiry into the force’s behaviour. The fact this investigation took place even as the paper faced closure (the paper has since relaunched) underlines the dedication of the reporter and editor.

Frances Ryan: The Guardian

Britain’s Disability Scandal

Frances Ryan’s reporting has revealed how thousands of people with disabilities have been affected by years of cuts to welfare. Ryan spoke to women in a range of extreme circumstances, from mentally ill women forced into sex work, to vulnerable people pressured into haggling with social services for legitimately claimed benefits.

Nadine White/Emma Youle, HuffPost UK

SPAC Nation Investigation

Religious movement SPAC Nation was endorsed by politicians and local authorities for its apparently innovative approach to leading young people away from crime. But an in-depth investigation by HuffPost UK found many people who said the church’s charismatic leaders were living the high life, while junior church members were forced to take out loans they could not afford and even give blood for the church’s finances.