Judges citation: Three remarkable pieces of work about three of Ireland's most remarkable business figures formed the basis for this year's award of Business Journalist. The winner's uncanny ability to get people to talk was demonstrated in an interview with Sean Quinn – although the judges noted that the price of exclusive interviews is often a bit of soft-pedalling.
Not so the detailed analysis of Dermot Desmond's dispute with INM over its closure of the Sunday Tribune - which Mr Desmond believed owed him money. The gist was that five million euro would not be too much to spend, rather than accept defeat over half a million. The rich really are different from us.
Finally; a piece more than a year in the making, about Denis O'Brien's purchase of Siteserv is a rare example of “long journalism” in Ireland.
The winner is Tom Lyons of the Sunday Business Post.
Judges citation: For once, there was no difficulty picking what was the Business Story of the Year – only picking the winner.
The story, of course, was the investigation of the “interrogating” of e-mails at Independent Newspapers and the role of former chairman Leslie Buckley.
There was much first-class coverage of the story, including by INM titles.
It first broke in the Christmas Eve edition of the Irish Times in December 2017.
You could tell it was a Christmas issue because above the paper’s main headline - INM chairman queried on ‘data breach’
- was a festive poem, The Falcon Carol, by James Harpur, some of which goes like this:
The falcon flew from dark to dark
Drew silver from the Northern Star
And headed for the crinkled hills,
The rivers, lakes and waterfalls
To find the source of light on earth
The source of light on earth.
The falcon saw a darkened town
A stable glowing like a crown
And knew that he had found the truth
That he had found the truth.
His task now done, the falcon rose
A spark ablaze with joyful news.
On the old principle that first with the news is best, the Business Story of the Year award goes to Mark Paul and Colm Keena of the Irish Times.
Judges citation: This year we introduced a new ‘Campaigning Journalism’ category to highlight the valuable role newspapers play in affecting change in society through powerful public interest journalism.
The deciding factor for the judges in choosing the winner of this category was whether the journalism had made a real difference and this year’s winner has certainly met that requirement.
This year’s winner is a true example of a campaigning journalist who identified a cause that affected vulnerable people who had no voice, relentlessly pursued answers from those in authority and doggedly kept it on the agenda for a sustained period of time – until justice was delivered.
For the best part of a decade and throughout the banking collapse, economic crash, and the recovery, this campaign highlighted the plight of tracker mortgage holders who were wrongly ripped off by the banks. While the mortgage holders are now getting compensation and apologies, this year's winner was widely acknowledged by those affected by the scandal and the TDs taking up the cause.
The winner of this year’s Campaigning Journalism Award goes to Charlie Weston of the Irish Independent. Congratulations Charlie!
Judges citation: This award recognises excellence in Broadsheet Commentary. This year's winner consistently delivers eloquent, indepth and provocative commentary on both domestic and international issues. In an era when few people read beyond a 140 Characters, his opinion piece on Donald Trump's trial run for fascism was read by over one million people across the globe – a true barometer of the quality of his writing and the reach of great journalism.
This year's Broadsheet Columnist of the year is once again Fintan O' Toole from The Irish Times
Judges citation: The job of the popular columnist is a difficult one; they must come up with something original, a new take, on that which the whole country is probably talking about. They must engage the reader with style, and wit and also say something important.
Out winner does just that and adds often his own biography and experience to the mix. For entertaining us, challenging us and informing us, the winner of this year’s popular columnist is Philip Nolan of the Irish Daily Mail
Judges citation: This genre of journalist stands as a breed apart in newspaper newsrooms as they delve into the dark corners of our society to shine a light on what’s happening in the criminal world.
Their watch carries the most danger across the journalistic disciplines as they report, comment and follow the trail of the most volatile and dangerous individuals and gangs in the country.
Invariably, those on the crime beat are not just happy to serve up rivetting reads, they like to come up with exclusives that have their rivals playing catch up in the aftermath of their publication.
After previosuly catching the eye with a strong portfolio of notable stories, this year’s winner excelled over the past 12 months by producing a string of varied and exclusive stories.
Beating off serious heavyweight competitors to get the much sought after interview with the widow of an innocent man shot dead as part of the Kinahan and Hutch feud while on holiday in Spain saw him set the agenda on a story that gripped the nation.
It was part of a commendable body of work that also included leading the way by revealing that a man used as one of the faces in the high profile homeless campaign was in fact a convicted paedophile – a story described in admiration by a rival publication as “one of the old-fashioned scoops of the year.”
For his ability to gain the confidence of those hurt by criminal forces and his instinct to dig-out real groundbreaking stories, this year’s crime Journalist of the Year award deservedly goes to Stephen Breen of the Irish Sun.
Judges citation: In the present world of instant coverage across on-line, social media and digital outlets, it is often the intuitive newshound with a nose sniffing out the extra details that elevates apparent set-piecesituations on the news agenda from a mere recording of facts into a gripping account full of insights into why a crime took place.
In the run up to last Christmas, the horror of how Alan Hawe had butchered his own family the previous year was relived with reference to a suicide note already mentioned in the inquests into the tragedy.
However, it was the actual content of that blood stained note obtained by this reporter which made for shocking reading but which gave the public a rare insight into the mind of a killer contemplating, and to a large degree justifying, what he had just done.
For a front page story entitled - ‘I’m sorry how I murdered them all” - the winner of the Crime Story of the Year is Michael O’Toole from the Irish Daily Star.
Judges citation: The winner of this year's award is someone with great erudition and fine judgement; a critic whose elegant style is always a pleasure to read, whether the subject is Flann O'Brien, the Irish Constitution or the vagaries of human nature. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2018 Critic of the Year is.... Richard Pine.
Judges citation: This award recognises that journalism is enhanced by digital innovation and by collaboration between editorial and technical staff. The Irish Farmers Journal team members put those principles into practice in their coverage of the National Ploughing Championships. A dedicated Ploughing app was launched, daily video round ups were created and shared across several platforms while a special ploughing podcast was recorded and promoted.
They used social media effectively not only to cover news and share the digital assets that they had produced but also to drip feed insider stories from the IFJ’s revered columnist, the Dealer. The IFJ website and app were refreshed with news, views, photographs and other content while different content was created and published the print edition.
For its exemplary multi-media coverage of the National Ploughing Championships, the Irish Farmers Journal deserves to win the Digital Excellence Award.
Judges citation: The Features (Broadsheet) category always attracts a huge entry and is an education for the judges in the range of topics and themes it covers. The writing is invariably first class and the detail and depth of the entries rather that turning people off makes for easy and indeed compulsive reading.
A good feature story should give the reader a deeply satisfying experience. It’s also about bringing them into a story and giving them new insights and information about people and what they are involved in.
With his three entries the winner of the Features (Broadsheet) category cut to the core of stories we were already familiar with. ‘Shot because his Name was Hutch’ is a super piece of writing, with no detail omitted, a story that brings you into the heart of feuding families. ‘Drug Dealing by Rickshaw’ is also rich with detail while ‘The Making of a Garda Killer’ is a chilling piece of writing that a reader won’t easily forget.
It is my great pleasure to announce that Conor Lally of the Irish Times is the winner of the Features (Broadsheet) category. Congratulations.
Judges citation: Brilliant feature writing elevates copy to lyrical storytelling - bringing readers an insightful analysis beyond news-stories while immersing audiences in the experience of the people behind the headlines.
From an ability to weave powerful stories to the dexterous skill required to conduct in-depth and sometimes, difficult, interviews, the role requires empathy, a fierce intelligence and skilful reporting.
This year, the winner of the Features (Popular) category epitomises all of these qualities to deliver the best type of feature writing.
From shining a light on the challenges faced by Irish people with serious illnesses to giving a platform to young people with autism to share their experiences, this writer is a hugely deserving winner.
For this work, I would like to congratulate Aoife Finneran for winning this year’s Features (Popular) Writer award.
Judges citation: Whether it’s a war in the Middle East, migrants travelling across the Mediterranean, the desertification of sub-Saharan Africa, an earthquake in Asia or Brexit, all have repercussions here at home.
The foreign correspondent bears witness and explains the world to us, so we understand why refugees are arriving or what our navy is doing in the med or our soldiers in the Middle East or Africa and often they do that as personal risk to themselves.
Our winner has reported on what is happening to refugees returning to Syria, on the Islamic militant group Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria and the situation with refugees in Sudan. For her reporting in The Irish Times the award for Foreign Coverage goes to Sally Hayden
Judges citation: The front page is the shop window for the printed product, helping to sell those vital extra copies and tempting away those who might normally be loyal to a rival.
But it can have a greater purpose and duty too, especially in times of national scandal or tragedy. And there was no more tragic or scandalous story in the past year than the cervical cancer affair.
So when the late Emma Mhic Mhatuna bravely stepped into the public arena as another victim, she ensured the story would no longer be allowed to be about systems failures but about real people, real women who had been wronged in such an appalling manner.
For capturing the essence of that important story, the judges felt this award should go to the Irish Daily Mail's front page, on May 10 which included the headline: "I Found Out Today I'm Dying."
Judges citation: It is the job of the production staff who write the headlines, to display the work of the other half of the profession in the best possible light. Mainly the function of a good headline is to stop you as you browse, intrigue you maybe, but most importantly get you to read.
On the big occasion, a great headline can capture the mood of the nation be it happy or sad. But every day outstanding work is done by those who spend so much of their time trying to think of great word play to adorn the page. Sometimes a story comes along that just makes it a little easier. Like when our Grand Slam winning rugby team had their homecoming celebration postponed by foul weather, and our former colleague, Minister for Sport, Shane Ross, got his Kearney brothers mixed up and congratulated the wrong one for an outstanding performance. It might sound like one that could write itself, but it didn't. The headline, "Chilly Wrong Kearney" was actually produced by the Irish Daily Star team on March 19, and was the judges' choice for this award.
Judges citation: Citation
This is my second year as independent chair of the Investigative Journalism panel. I can’t adequately convey to you how much the standard and range of journalistic investigations have improved in the past year.
It is great to see, in this digital age, that newspapers are still dedicating time and resources to longer-term investigative journalism that doesn’t have the required hourly, daily or even weekly turn around.
I’m delighted also to see that we in Ireland – despite many justifiable criticisms of our reportage – haven’t bought into what one important man constantly, often unjustifiably, calls “fake news”.
There were three stand-out pieces of journalism on the short list of six which this panel agreed upon unanimously.
But any of the other three works on that list were commendable pieces of journalism also.
We had a difficult choice to make. After a lot of consideration, over and back across all of the independent judges , in the end, the Sunday Independent Investigations team - Maeve Sheehan, Wayne O’ Connor and Mark O’ Regan are the winners of the Investigative Journalism Award for their meticulous, time-consuming and informative Fair Deal investigation into the charges in 330 private and voluntary nursing homes in the Sunday Independent.
I congratulate them for their exclusive investigation.
Judges citation: Newspapers are often about the slow unravelling of a story that helps us understand through context rather than just the latest development. At their best, newspapers bring experience and authority to the reporting. The winner of the News Analysis category has done just that. For ten years she has helped us make sense of that most complicated of institutions, Ireland’s health service. The winner of this year’s News Analysis category is Susan Mitchell of the Sunday Business Post
Judges citation: Political journalism isn’t just about telling the story; it’s about interpreting the signs and analysing the issues so that you paint a full picture – for the ordinary reader as well as the political anorak.
You have to call it as you see and risk the rug being pulled from under you by a twist or a tweet in the time between your analysis and the newspaper hitting the shelves.
To manage this in a time of domestic and international uncertainty takes good political journalism to a higher plane – which is where our winner has constantly steered themselves this year.
Whether it’s an insight into the stability of Government, if the President will seek a second term, or most crucially providing the first indication of what we now know all too well as the Brexit backstop, this correspondent has covered all basis – exclusively, consistently and intelligently.
Which is why this year’s NewsBrands Political Journalist of the Year is Fiach Kelly of the Irish Times.
Judges citation: There are many threats facing newspapers in these ever-changing times; the naysayers will tell you that we no longer bag the big exclusives; that the 24-hour news cycle means the world moves on before the ink is dry on the page.
It’s not true of course, because newspapers invest in journalism and journalists who know the difference between a story and a meme – and they also know how to tell it so that the reader gets the clearest picture.
But another real threat is manipulation of news; the pressure created by advertisers to have the story told their way.
The winner of this year’s Political Story of the Year dealt with both of these issues; firstly with a print exclusive that then took off into the stratosphere – but in the process they also shone a light on efforts to ensure the Government’s message was told in the Government’s way.
Our winner’s exposure of this attempt to buy editorial space for coverage of Project Ireland 2040 ultimately saw the Strategic Communications Unit disbanded – and it has also led to the award for this year’s NewsBrands Political Story of the Year going to Ellen Coyne of the Ireland edition of the Times.
Judges citation: In an age when news reporting is increasingly vital for a properly functioning democracy, it’s reassuring to know that there was a very high standard of entry for this category – reflecting the talent, tenacity and professionalism of Irish journalists. The winner in this category can be justly proud of their achievement, given the breadth and depth of the other entries. The winning reporter’s range of work spanned human interest stories of personal tragedy, an exposé into working conditions at a top multinational, and a political wrangle over an important public health issue. This insightful and important journalism also prompted some significant changes as a result of the exposés – a true mark of effective journalism. Due to his ability to report on a variety of wide-ranging subjects, and his obvious talent in relaying the message in a clear and uncomplicated way, the judges are delighted to name the 2018 News Reporter of the Year as Mark Tighe of the Sunday Times.
– Siobhan Cronin
Judges citation: As Ann-Marie and Lisa know well, over the years there's been a few been debates from time to time about how to define categories in these awards.
But Scoop has never been one of them.
Because if you need to define a Scoop you should really be looking for a different job.
Show me a journalist, or an editor, who never got pissed off when a rival scooped them, and I'll show you someone who should have stuck to counting beans.
This year's winner is one that any of us would have given our left or right arm to get.
And it didn't come from a leak, or a call from a contact, or being in the right place at the right time.
It came from intelligent and meticulous old-school legwork. Digging and looking afresh at a story we thought we knew.
It came from knocking on doors and knocking on many more when the first ones refused to yield.
The result was an extraordinary scoop, which gave us a compelling new perspective on one of the darkest tragedies in a depressingly bleak period of our history.
For, I Was The Boyfriend of Ann Lovett'', the Scoop of the Year goes to Rosita Boland of The Irish Times.
Judges citation: ‘The last 12 months have been a tumultuous and status-changing time in the world of celebrity. The #metoo movement continues to give women and men the confidence to speak out against sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry and expose those believed to be too powerful to be named and shamed.
Social media plays a critical role in allowing alleged victims to share their experiences and potential career-destroying claims to the world.
While online platforms are useful for information-sharing and tip offs, showbiz journalists need to go straight to the source, interview, relentlessly fact-check and verify before ever publishing a story deemed to be of public interest.
When this tenacity combined with brave editorial decisions results in a resignation from a high profile personality, you know you are on to something good, which is why the Showbiz Story of the Year goes to Jennifer O’Brien and Catherine Sanz of Times Ireland.’
Judges citation: This year’s Showbiz Journalist of the Year can certainly be said to be at the very top of their professional game. Many years of earned trust allows this year’s winner bring us the reader into the inner circle of the beautiful, the brilliant, and the celebrated.
From his tender and compassionate piece on his late friend Dolores O’ Riordan, to sensitive and revealing interviews with A Listers Noel Gallagher and Colin Farrell, our winner consistently displays a talent for getting celebrity interviewees to open up and reveal the hidden truth behind the public facade.
For a body of work that is never less than excellent, I would like to congratulate the Sunday Independent’s Barry Egan on being this year’s Showbiz Journalist of the Year.
Judges citation: Great journalists excel at prising information from subjects who normally jealously guard their privacy.
Sonia O’Sullivan is one of Ireland’s most iconic sports stars but has frustrated our best sports writers for many years because of her hesitation to really open up.
This year’s Sports Story of the Year winner managed to get Sonia to talk candidly on all manner of subjects extracting several fantastic news lines from her.
From how she felt used by the IOC and had no idea what was going on there during the Rio Olympics ticket scandal despite being a board member, to her suspicions about how her fellow athletes were systemically doping during her illustrious running career. This piece really had his editor spoiled for choice in picking out the best angle.
For his deeply insightful interview with Sonia O’Sullivan, the winner of the Sports Story of the Year award is Vincent Hogan of the Irish Independent.
Judges citation: Our nominees are in the enviable position where they get to inhabit the great theatres of sport and live that experience with readers who share the same passion and pleasure.
Yet, the best sports stories, the most gripping sports interviews are often to be found long after the final whistle has sounded and the floodlights have dimmed.
From our longlist to our shortlist, our nominees delivered a truly wonderful body of work that went way beyond the theme of sport. They covered life, death, health, happiness, redemption, regret and justice. They shone lights on sports darkest corners and revealed the very human layers that make up our sporting heroes, and our perceptions of them.
In his brilliant pieces with Joe Canning, Conor McGregor and Sonia O'Sullivan amongst many others, our winner sat down with the sporting icons we all know and showed us how little we actually know them at all.
The Newsbrands Broadsheet Sports Writer of the Year is Vincent Hogan of the Irish Independent.
Judges citation: To deliver great sports stories consistently and with a passion and genuine enthusiasm for your subject is the mark of a great popular sportswriter.
Our winner delivered a series of candid, colourful and uplifting interviews that sucked you in from start to finish, taking his subjects away from conventional norms and comfort zones producing terrific tabloid reads.
In his interview with Monaghan footballer Ryan Wylie, our winner used the backdrop of the busy emergency department in the hospital where he works as a radiographer for an in-depth chat. Two weeks before she gave birth Louise O'Hara shared her story of battling against seemingly overwhelming odds to become one of the country's great camogie players.
And if you're going to pop around to horse trainer Jessica Harrington's house for tea, you set the scene by asking her to explain how a naked Kate Moss ended up in her kitchen."
This year's Newsbrands Popular Sports Writer of the Year is David Coughlan of the Irish Daily Star.
Judges citation: “Good journalism”, we’re told, “is eternal”.
Much of the work of the talented writers and reporters shortlisted for the Young Journalist award is unforgettable.
Two major issues of our time feature strongly in their work: vulnerability and shelter.
Many here today witness at close range, the progress of young journalists from desire to make a difference to true agency in bringing about real change. This has been achieved by many on the shortlist. Never were such talented young women and men more needed by the profession and the industry.
Such was the standard of the work of this talented group of young writers and reporters, it was a huge challenge for the judging panel to reach our decision.
One young journalist stood out for the judges. This outstanding reporter combines a creative combination of storytelling techniques in her journalism.
As well as exposing the ruthless exploitation of vulnerable tenants by cruel landlords she tells their story in an innovative way. Amy Molloy’s undercover investigations, using multimedia journalism, bring her readers right into the broken heart, of the lived experience and vulnerability of people, struggling to find somewhere to call ‘home’ in today’s Ireland.
Amy’s innovative approach does what excellent journalism has always done: by asking the right questions, doing the research, putting in the legwork and finding the evidence, Amy Molloy, achieves the noble goal of her profession: She “comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable”.
This year’s Young Journalist of the Year is Amy Molly from Independent.ie
Judges citation: There may or may not be eight million stories in the Naked City as the eponymous film of the 1940s claimed – indeed there may not be anywhere near eight million stories either in the fully clothed country that we live in here in Ireland.
But one thing for sure is that stories don’t fall off street lamps into journalists’ laps – reporter have to go out and dig for them under the constant fear that they are only a slip away from falling foul of our draconian libel laws.
Those driven by the simple principle of the public’s right to know go about their daily work aware of those personal pitfalls but also driven by the greater good for all.
They do so in many diverse ways but ultimately one of the greatest strengths any journalist can possess is a sense of trustworthiness that allows someone to share a story that otherwise might never enter the public domain.
Such newspaper people must in turn live up to the trust placed in them by society. At a time when Trump’s America tries to pin the ills of modern government on fake news and the faults of society on newspapers driven by hidden agendas, it is now more important than ever that the members of the fourth estate live up to the view of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the USA when he declared – “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
As I am sure you will agree, so far today we have seen with the work not just from our award winners but also those short-listed, that Irish journalists continue to shine lights into dark places and unearth thorny issues that too often the authorities would prefer to pretend never happened.
And so to this year’s ‘Journalist Of The Year.’
The person winning this accolade is indeed someone that American Founding Father Jefferson would trust in his vision where society is held to account by a properly functioning newspaper.
Naturally gifted with an uncanny perception and blessed with a trustworthiness bestowed by those who confide their stories in her, this journalist’s work this year helped amplify on one of Ireland’s most unexplained scandals of the 1980s – the death of Ann Lovett in 1984.
In a country still bound in traditional and clerical shackles then, a veil of secrecy was thrown over the heartache of a schoolgirl dying in childbirth at the grotto beside the Catholic Church in Granard, Co Longford.
For 34 years, milestones like anniversaries, 10th, 20th or 30th commemorations were used to mark an occasion rather explain the tragic death of the 15-year-old schoolgirl and her infant son.
That was until May 5th this year when Ann’s former boyfriend, Ricky McDonnell, spoke openly for the first time on the background to and the circumstances surrounding one of the saddest stories in recent Irish history.
The poignancy of the interview, set against the background of a 50th birthday last April that Ann would never see, provoked an amazing outpouring from readers in the Saturday newspaper and across the radio airwaves in their follow ups for days, weeks and indeed months afterwards.
The exclusive interview, as Emily O’Reilly the reporter who broke the original story rightly emphasised, “changed the narrative of Ann Lovett’s death,” and finally helped to explain to us a story that had been largely left in suspension for over three decades.
If journalism can rightly be called the first rough draft of history, this outstanding interview with its understated and simple clarity of expression finally filled in the gaps of an incomplete chapter of the nation’s records.
The journalist of the year for 2018 is Rosita Boland of the Irish Times.