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Campaigning regional journalism honoured at first Media Freedom awards

Campaigning regional journalism has been honoured at an inaugural national awards scheme celebrating public interest journalism.

The Society of Editors has announced the winners for its inaugural Media Freedom Awards, which featured three specific categories aimed at regional titles – Campaign of the Year, Investigation of the Year and Journalist of the Year.

The Scotsman’s Conor Matchett, pictured, triumphed in the Journalist of the Year category for his work on investigations into care home deaths during Covid-19 and “a questionable deal involving a smelter and hydroplant”.

Portsmouth daily The News won Campaign of the Year for its bid to stop the construction of cross-Channel power cable Aquind, which critics say would cause “havoc” in the city and threaten the local environment.

Conor Matchett Award

Belfast’s Sunday Life was awarded Investigation of the Year for its probe into South East Antrim UDA.

In all three categories, Newsquest journalists and titles were highly commended – with investigative reporter Charles Thomson and his long-running probe into the Shoebury Paedophile Ring being named runner-up in the Journalist of the Year and Investigation of the Year categories.

The Glasgow Times was highly commended in Campaign of the Year for its ‘Beat The Squeeze’ push to help readers beat the cost-of-living crisis, while the Shoebury Paedophile Ring investigation was also highly commended in the overall Freedom of Information Award, losing out to the Daily Mail for the top prize.

Speaking to HTFP, Conor said: “This award was a big shock, particularly given the strength of the other entries who equally deserved to win.

“It makes all those hours poring over FOI documents and submissions more than worth it.

“The stories I submitted are all about holding the Scottish Government’s feet to the fire for what is often an overly secretive approach to information and it is great to have that work and effort recognised.

“A massive thanks to the Society of Editors for the award and to those at The Scotsman who have supported me and given me a wonderful platform for these stories.”

Mark Waldron, editor of The News, said on Twitter of his newspaper’s victory: “Now back to the courts this month to fight again.”

The prizes were handed out in a ceremony at London’s Globe Theatre last night. A full list of winners can be found here.