A journalist who has shone a light on spurious attempts by criminals to keep their identities secret has been named Local Democracy Reporter of the Year.
The BBC has given the annual award to Tanya Fowles, who works for Newsquest’s Enniskillen-based weekly the Impartial Reporter under the taxpayer-funded scheme, with judges praising her “skill, eye for detail and persistence”.
Tanya also works as a freelance court reporter and HTFP has reported on numerous instances in recent months of her work challenging bids by court defendants, including convicted paedophiles, to have reporting restrictions imposed on their cases.
She was presented with her award last night as part of the annual Local Democracy Reporting Service Conference, which has been attended by almost 150 local democracy reporters from across the United Kingdom over the course of yesterday and today.
Category judge Lynne Anderson, deputy chief executive of the News Media Association, said: “Tanya’s journalism ticked all the boxes of the judging criteria – and then some.
“Her reporting displays skill, an eye for detail, and a healthy dose of persistence to get her stories over the line.
“Her coverage of sexual abuse and drug use at a child safeguarding facility was a brilliant example of journalism shining a light into dark corners to bring out the truth and hold those in power to account.”
A total of six prizes were handed down to journalists working on the scheme and a full list of winners can be found below.
The awards were presented by Jackie Weaver, who is best known for appearing in an online video of a chaotic meeting of Handforth Parish Council.
Best Use of Freedom of Information
Winner: Donald Turvill (Edinburgh Live)
Runners-up: Katie May Nelson (KM Group); Eddie Bisknell (Derby Telegraph)
Award judged by Tim Burke, BBC Politics England editor
Best Broadcast or Use of Multimedia
Winner: Eddie Bisknell (Derby Telegraph)
Runners-up: Anna Whittaker (Notts TV), Hannah Neary (MyLondon)
Award judged by Chris Van Schaik, BBC Academy
Best Use of Social Media
Winner: Anna Whittaker (Notts TV)
Runners-up: Sarah Booker-Lewis (Brighton & Hove News), Alex Seabrook (Bristol Post)
Award judged by Miriam Phillips, programme Leader for BA Journalism at Bournemouth University
The George Makin Award – presented in memory of former Birmingham Mail LDR George Makin
Winner: Hannah Brown (Cambridge News)
Runners-up: Anttoni James Numminen (Scarborough News), Rhi Storer (Birmingham Mail)
Award judged by Will Gore, head of partnerships for the NCTJ
Story of the Year
Winner: Carmelo Garcia (Gloucestershire Live)
Runners-up: Joseph Timan (Manchester Evening News), Daniel Mumby (Somerset Live)
Award judged by Dawn Alford, executive director of the Society of Editors
Local Democracy Reporter of the Year
Winner: Tanya Fowles (Impartial Reporter)
Runners-up: Gurdip Thandi (Birmingham Mail), Eddie Bisknell (Derby Telegraph)
Award judged by Lynne Anderson, deputy chief executive of the News Media Association