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Let’s hear it for the girls – by Alison Gow

Alison GowSteve Dyson, you are a gent and a scholar but you owe me a drink next time we meet, to make up for the wine I spluttered over myself when I saw your 2016 heroes list.

I read it, frowned, re-read it, checked pronouns and, yes, it was a list of journalists who had done noteworthy things in 2016; one question though – didn’t a woman do anything worth a mention?

HoldtheFrontPage kindly invited me to submit my own 2016 heroes, after I tweeted some female alternatives, and so here they are.

A caveat: Trinity Mirror is the largest regional news group the UK has ever known (and I work for TM), so although a number of the women referenced here work for Trinity, they are included on merit or because others suggested them, not because they are colleagues.

There will be worthy men and women whose achievements have not been highlighted by either list, I’m sure. It would be great to get their names and efforts recorded, so please add suggestions in the comments.

Meanwhile, and in no particular order, here are some of the brilliant female journalists and journalism leaders who inspired me, and others, in 2016:

* Jennifer Williams, Political/social affairs editor, Manchester Evening News: Consistently turning out hard-hitting exclusives and setting the agenda not just for the North West but for the UK. Her devastating reports on shocking failings at two Greater Manchester maternity hospitals made national headlines, and was described as “excellent and persistent journalism” by a local MP. Other standout investigations in 2016 include her work on Manchester’s planning greenbelt controversy, and homelessness in the city.

* The NCTJ’s student journalist of the year and trainee of the year: Sara Oldfield, News Associates, and Charlotte Tobitt, of the Surrey Advertiser. Sara achieved the highest marks across all her exams as well as 110wpm in shorthand.  She is now digital editor of Fabulous, The Sun’s weekly women’s supplement.  Charlotte passed her NQJ in November 2015 with the highest marks out of all UK candidates. She won the Ted Bottomley award for her performance in the media law and practice exam, as well as the Esso award for the best performance in the news report exam. Journalists like Sara and Charlotte are the future of our industry, and to see this sort of quality coming into newsrooms is a great thing.

* Catrin Pascoe, editor, Western Mail: Since it was founded in 1869, the Western Mail has only ever been edited by men. That changed earlier this year, when Catrin Pascoe was named editor of the national newspaper of Wales, and under her editorship the newspaper has continued its tradition of intelligent journalism and iconic front pages. She’s a great newsroom leader, can spot a legal at 70 paces, and takes no sh*t, while remaining funny and approachable.

* Emma Clayton, leisure and lifestyle editor at the Bradford Telegraph & Argus: Emma won the Dementia Journalism of the Year accolade for regional print journalists, for her writings about her mother’s dementia. Writing personal journalism is a rare skill, and it’s a testimony to Emma’s abilities that she was able to tell her own, and her mother’s story, so movingly. Alzheimers Society ambassador Angela Rippon said of her work: “Particularly moving was the way in which she reported the living bereavement that families so often go through”.

* Eleanor Barlow, PA (formerly Liverpool Echo): For two years, Eleanor was assigned to cover the inquest into the Hillsborough tragedy by the Echo. She consistently, in real time, relayed the events of the court to the wider world and was, at times, the only way some bereaved family members could track what was going on. After the inquests ended, Steve Kelly, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, who lost his brother, Mike, 38, at Hillsborough, said: “People could read Eleanor’s reports and feel as if they were there, because they were so well-written.”

* Rachael Grealish, editor, Egremont 2Day: Rachael is Cumbria’s youngest editor, and runs Egremont 2Day, a monthly free newspaper which exists across digital platforms too, and goes to 13,500+ homes in part of the region. Currently Egremont 2Day is a non-for-profit business with surplus profit being donated, yearly, to local charities. The paper is currently funded by advertising and since modernising and moving to a colour print run, commercial demands are growing. Rachael is a caffeine-powered, inspirational journalist who believes passionately in the future of of her paper, and of hyperlocal reporting

* The Scottish Newspaper Society: It’s 2016 and this shouldn’t need to be celebrated but well done to the Scottish Newspaper Society for having more female judges than male ones, for the first time in its history, for the 38th Scottish Press Awards. As society director John McLellan, said: “It’s not before time that we addressed the issue of female representation.” Quite.

* Lancashire Evening Post Lifestyle and Investigations Editor, Aasma Day: Aasma as won awards for the past four years running at the NW O2 Awards, in a number of categories, including Specialist Writer, and is a past Paul Foot Award nominee for her work on the Twilight series, looking into Preston’s underbelly, but in 2016 she took on a wider role, heading up Johnston Press’ new Investigations and Campaigns unit.

* Stephanie Clarke, journalist/photographer, Hyperlocal journalist Stephanie who covered Wednesfield alongside her husband James, died just hours after publishing her final story on the site. She was aged just 36. In her last article Stephanie, who suffered a brain haemorrhage, thanked all those in the local community who had helped pledge funds to improve the local Christmas lights. She had been due to attend the switch-on with her family but, tragically, never made it. Her husband wrote: ‘Steph could always be found with a smile on her face, a head full of ideas and the drive and determination to make things happen’.

People on Twitter also shared their female journalist heroes with me, so here they are:

* Alice McKeegan: Alice’s appointment as head of football with the Manchester Evening News in 2016 meant she became the first woman to run the MEN’s football coverage, taking responsibility for output online and in print.

* Rachel Howells, editor, Port Talbot Magnet: The Port Talbot Magnet closed in 2016 after nearly seven years and 11 print editions. Editor Rachel Howells said in her final sign off: “The Magnet has always relied heavily on its band of volunteers, in the hope of making it sustainable in the long term – but sadly there is little sign of that happening in the immediate future.”

* Chester Chronicle senior reporter, Carmella De Lucia: Carmella’s name was put forward by the family of Erin Cross, aged two, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2012. They say Carmella’s tireless reporting – even while she was off on maternity leave – helped raise enough money for Erin to travel to the US for life-saving treatment.

* Vicky Temple, of GloucestershireLive and Stroud Life, was put forward for her “fantastic education investigations” and praised for writing compellingly about refugees.


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  • December 23, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks Alison, you’re very kind.
    Great achievements by female journalists this year. Very inspiring.
    Happy Christmas!

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  • December 23, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    And hi to Aasma Day of the Lancashire Evening Post.
    A great journalist – and great company on a press trip in Budapest back in 2012!

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  • January 2, 2017 at 12:20 am

    Thanks very much Alison – feel very honoured to be included in your list. Loved reading this piece – very inspirational.
    Well done to all the inspiring female journalists on Alison’s shortlist – and all the many others out there. Some really outstanding achievements.
    Hiya Emma Clayton! Well done you! Top work on your dementia journalism. Very well deserved.
    Ah yes, that was a fantastic trip to Budapest – I had a great time. Seems so long ago now!

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  • January 3, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Good article, much appreciated. However, it’s just a shame that the headline falls into the tired old cliché of referring to grown, competent and talented women as ‘girls’. Less of this in 2017, please…

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