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Journalist with ‘excellent nose’ for story wins top democracy reporter award

Gurdip ThandiA journalist with an “excellent nose for a good story” has won top prize at the 2020 Local Democracy Reporter Awards.

Gurdip Thandi has been honoured with the Reporter of the Year Award for his work for the Birmingham Mail and Birmingham Live.

Gurdip, pictured, joined the BBC-funded service shortly after its launch in 2018 and mainly covers Walsall for the Reach plc sister titles.

Stories which impressed the judges included an exclusive about a council leader who revealed a past suicide attempt and a scoop about hundreds of tasers which did not work being bought for police officers.

Other winners this year include Rachael Burford, of London’s Evening Standard, Joe Burn, of Stoke daily The Sentinel, Jessie Mathewson, of Newsquest North London, Leigh Boobyer, of Gloucestershire Live, and Tanya Fowles, of Northern Ireland’s Impartial Reporter.

The awards were announced online this evening due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In an opening message to those viewing, BBC Director General Tony Hall said: “I have championed the Local News Partnerships scheme and the Local Democracy Reporting Service from the very beginning because I profoundly believe in local journalism.

“And over the past two-and-a-half years you have proved time and time again why the stories you are finding matter so much.”

He added: “If there was ever a time to re-emphasise the value of the work you do, it is now; when the country continues to grapple with the biggest crisis of our lifetimes.

“Over the past three months, you have written and delivered more than 8,000 stories related to the COVID crisis; stories that have helped us keep informed about what is happening where we live, in our towns and in our communities.

“So, from me, from everyone at the BBC and all our partners, a huge thank you for your commitment and dedication these last few months.

“And thank you for your continued and vital coverage of the day-to-day workings of councils and other public bodies.”

The full list of winners is as follows:

Best Use of Freedom of Information
Winner: Rachael Burford – London Evening Standard
Highly commended: Chris McKeon – Liverpool Echo

Best Broadcast or Use of Multimedia
Winner: Joe Burn – The Sentinel and Stoke-on-Trent Live
Highly commended: Maria Zaccaro – Southern Daily Echo

Best Use of Social Media
Winner: Jessie Mathewson – Newsquest North London
Highly-Commended: Lucy Ashton – The Star, Sheffield

2020 Special News Award: Acknowledging coverage of the COVID-19 crisis
Winner: Leigh Boobyer – Gloucestershire Live
Highly commended: Richard Whitehouse – Cornwall Live

Story of the Year
Winner: Tanya Fowles – Impartial Reporter
Highly-Commended: Leigh Boobyer – Gloucestershire Live

Local Democracy Reporter of the Year
Winner: Gurdip Thandi – Birmingham Mail and Birmingham Live
Highly-Commended: Sarah Hilley – Ayrshire Post and Leigh Boobyer – Gloucestershire Live