The 2019 Journalism Awards ceremony took place on the 14th of November, 2019
Judges citation: And so to the Journalist of the Year; someone who has done terrific work over many years, and is no stranger to the heavyweight legal tactics of the powerful who try to prevent the publication of issues that are in the public interest but not theirs.
Like great journalists everywhere, he is joined at the hip with William Randolf Hearst’s classic definition of news:
“It’s something that somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising”.
It’s as simple and succinct and elegant a definition as that.
Earlier this year, this journalist came across a story that someone most certainly did not want printed. And when it was published it had immediate consequences and a profound impact that still resonates to this day.
It started with an anonymous tip-off, but as we all know, a big tip-off only ever lands on the desk of someone who has a proven track record of delivering the goods.
And in this case, they had every right to feel confident in the ability of this highly skilled and tenacious journalist to do just that.
The story he broke last March appeared at first to be more intriguing than spectacular or sensational, but the person who didn’t want it printed was highly aware of the devastating consequences for him if it was published.
So, this individual reached for another legal kosh that is favoured by the rich and powerful and tried to gag the publication, forcing the newspaper’s editor to fight a last-minute High Court injunction, which thankfully the ‘paper won.
Since then, this year’s Journalist of the Year followed that scoop with a raft of stunning revelations that raised huge question marks about governance and transparency at one of the country’s most high profile organizations.
And that’s in addition to the eye-watering details of the financial benefits enjoyed by its chief executive during a time when the organization itself was in financial meltdown.
As we know, the superb body of work by this journalist ultimately led to what was once unthinkable: the shabby downfall of John Delaney and the investigation into the finances of the organization he reigned over so imperiously for many years, the FAI.
In addition to the removal of Delaney and the start of FAI reforms
as a result of this journalist’s work – which was backed all the way by a strong and resolute editor – Sports Ireland have also moved to introduce new transparency guidelines on how they fund sports organizations in this country.
None of this would have happened – could have happened – if the journalism we’re honouring here today could be silenced by the kind of people who don’t want stories about them published, or who don’t like the ones that are.
It’s why journalism matters.
So, ladies and gentlemen of the press, please give it up for this year’s unsurprising Journalist of the Year, the wonderful Mark Tighe of the Sunday Times.
Tim Vaughan, Chairman of the Judging Panel
Judges citation: For a columnist who frequently explores heavy themes like grief, loss and regret, this columnist has a surprisingly light touch. They can move from farce to tragedy in one column, without hitting a wrong note.
Whether writing about absent loved ones, the missed opportunities of youth or the loneliness that can creep up on people as they get older, this columnist always manages to move and engage many loyal readers.
A truly unique voice in Irish journalism, this award is recognition of the consistently high standard of writing on often difficult topics by Hilary Fannin of The Irish Times.
Judges citation: Three extraordinary stories made for a worthy winner of this year's business journalist award. Al; were important, all made riveting reads. Getting them published required good old-fashioned digging, making use of whistleblower legislation and fighting off legal threats.
One dealt with the taboo subject of law breaking by the fishing industry and the blind eye turned by the authorities. Another revealed that Michael Fingleton was doing a property deal in Montenegro when he was supposedly too ill to attend the central bank inquiry. The third was an exclusive interview with Stephen Roche about his financial difficulties.
The winner is Michael O'Farrell of the Irish Mail on Sunday.
Judges citation: It was apparently the social event of the year in Chicago – a cruise down the city river where the passengers included former taoiseach Enda Kenny and Lord Mayor of Dublin Niall Ring - himself no mean entertainer and whose titles include honorary Admiral of Dublin Port.
This story of how four executives at the state-owned port company got through a quarter of a million euro on their credit cards last year, and how the company spent €7 million building a roof garden – wins business story of the year for Fearghal O'Connor of the Sunday Independent.
Judges citation: It was a pleasure to read the nominations in this year’s Campaigning Journalism category. Tackling everything from Children’s Rights, to Illegal Adoptions, to Smartphones and Children, to Insurance Costs, and to exposing corruption and secrets in our sporting and religious institutions, the category reflects the dogged determination of the talented teams in each newspaper and their ability to affect change through public interest journalism .
The determination and commitment of this year’s winning campaign became one of the main stories of the year, which just ran and ran, and has led to major reform.
The winner of the 2019 NewsBrands Ireland Campaigning Journalism Awards is The Sunday Times for their campaign to reveal issues around Transparency and Corporate Governance at the FAI
Judges citation: This year’s winner skilfully weaves her own personal stories into her writing, resulting in always compelling reads. From a heartbreaking column on how she lost her dad to alcoholism, to wondering about how she will explain to her son when he gets older how the current housing crisis was allowed to happen.
What really sets her apart though is her willingness to take the unpopular view. In this case calling out the hypocrisy of the knee jerk rush to judge Liam Neeson after he spoke about racist thoughts he had 40 years ago.
The winner of the popular columnist of the year is Larissa Nolan from the Irish Daily Mirror.
Judges citation: This year’s Crime Journalist of the Year hasn’t just had an outstanding twelve months; they have been at the top of their profession in this most competitive of specialisations for so much of their working life.
That they have achieved this in a newspaper traditionally renowned for the quality of its crime stories makes it all the more impressive – and they have done this by putting their own health and wellbeing at considerable risk.
We all know how hard it is for newspaper to stay ahead of new media and broadcasters – and it’s an even tougher proposition if you work for a Sunday publication.
But whether it’s tracking down criminal masterminds to their secret boltholes, shining a light on the world of the Kinihans and their drug empire, or producing page after page on an infamous Bomb Squad, this year’s Crime Journalist of the Year goes the extra mile, names the names without fear or compromise, and has proven herself again and again at the top of this most competitive genre.
This year’s Crime Journalist of the Year is Nicola Tallant of the Sunday World
Judges citation: Exclusives are elusive and the exclusive tag is often exaggerated…although – as you’ll see in a moment – not with this year’s winner.
Exclusives can be more time consuming and expensive, and they require real energy, dedication and commitment – something that sums up the author of the Newsbrands Crime Story of the Year.
Because this didn’t land on the reporter’s lap; to get this story, they put in the hard miles – literally and metaphorically – to get the interview that everyone wanted.
But this also wasn’t just a commitment to one story; our winner of the Crime Story of the Year has based themselves close to the action to get the real stories from the frontline.
It was that commitment that helped secure a series of exclusive interviews with Isis bride Lisa Smith.
She took ownership of a major story – and that has won the Crime Story of the Year for Norma Costello of the Mail on Sunday.
Judges citation: The winner of this year’s award is someone who has long honed his craft, who relishes his weekly joust with culture high and low and all parts in between, and who manages to entertain, inform and critique without compromising the sharpness of his pen or the honesty of his opinions. As such I’m very happy to announce that the 2019 critic of the year is Liam Fay.
Judges citation: The meeting to select this year’s shortlist was unusually amicable. No one raised their voice; everyone was enthusiastic; and the judges are all still speaking to each other.
Such bonhomie is nowhere to be found in the powerful but unsettling work of the journalist who wins this category. One of his stories is about a man who needs six prison officers to bring him to the shower. Another documents the rise of violence on Irish trains. And his final entry, which starts in the interview room of Finglas Garda station, is surely the definitive account of the murder of Anna Kriegel.
The winner of this year’s prize for broadsheet features is Conor Gallagher of the Irish Times.
Judges citation: Excellent feature writing requires a journalist going behind the headlines to bring readers to the true heart of a story. It demands empathy, skilful writing, and an ability to build trust to conduct often difficult and sensitive interviews in order to weave a powerful tale.
The winner of this year’s Popular Features category epitomises all of these qualities. After 71 days of a notorious murder trial that gripped the nation, she brought readers right into the courtroom, describing in forensic detail those tense moments as a guilty verdict was read out.
And she secured an exclusive interview with the son and daughter of the murder victim, Bobby Ryan, otherwise known as Mr Moonlight, talking to them at length about their torment and heartache as they sat in court, day after day, in the glare of their father’s killer.
For this work I am delighted to announce Catherine Fegan of the Irish Daily Mail as winner of this year’s Popular Features Writer award.
Judges citation: When reading through the nominated journalists work a few trends emerged, but one was dominant; that of borders and the wish of people to move across them because their lives are in danger or they simply want a better life.
There were pieces concerning the border between the USA and Mexico and the appalling treatment of who wished to cross as refugees, there were stories about our own border with Northern Ireland and its future under Brexit, or hard borders between the EU and countries outside the EU. But one border stood out, that between the European Union and North Africa, and the inhuman conditions in which people are being held in Libyan detention centre, the dangers and violence they are facing and the fate of so many children. Those detention centres are maintained in Libya in our name.
For her work with The Irish Times and for highlighting stories that many would prefer were not told, the award goes, for the second year in a row, to Sally Hayden.
Judges citation: Everyone in this room knows how much effort goes into producing the front page of any publication. And effort must go into it as a dull, unimaginative front page can badly let down the excellent content inside.
So much like convincing a customer to try on a new pair of boots, once a person takes a second look at an engaging front page, picks it up and reads it, you are well on the way to that all important extra sale.
The winner of Front Page of the Year goes to a publication that’s noted for its striking front pages. With its winning entry it captured the hopes and dreams of a young woman who represented a generation who only knew peace in our country
“We were the Good Friday Agreement generation, destined to never witness the horrors of war but to reap the spoils of peace. The spoils just never seemed to reach us”. These are the words of the late Lyra McKee and it was for the sensitive portrayal of her short and impactful life that the judges voted this award should go to the Irish Examiner for its front page of 20 April.
Judges citation: Much like a striking front page we all know a good headline when we see one. With just a few words, or even one word it can make us laugh, it can make us cry. It can capture the mood of a nation. And that connection can convince people to buy the publication.
Having the imagination to come up with a good headline is a real skill, a skill that makes the headline look easy, look like anyone could have thought it up. But there are times when a story just screams for a headline to do it justice.
Remember the old saying, ‘oh what tangled webs we weave when at first we practice to deceive’ And tangled webs were woven in style when Ballybrack FC announced its star player had been killed in a traffic accident only for him to turn up alive and well at home in Spain.
It was for capturing the red faces implicated in the story that the judges voted Headline of the Year should go to The Irish Sun for its wickedly funny ‘One Footie in the Grave’ on 28 November 2018.
Judges citation: It’s a well worn phrase but still true: investigative journalism is more important now than ever - and in an industry that is facing more financial pressure - it is a credit to all of the publications nominated and shortlisted that editors continue to push for in-depth and indeed expensive investigations. The judges for this category had a difficult job on their hands to select what they felt were the most noteworthy investigative pieces of the past year.
One outcome of investigations is the impact they can have in holding power to account and exposing to the public how institutions or organisations are run - and all of the nominated stories did this. But this year we saw one investigation in particular play out in our newspapers week after week, and then on our airwaves and our screens.
The winners of this year’s investigative journalism award are Mark Tighe, Colin Coyle, and Paul Rowan for their groundbreaking investigation into the FAI and John Delaney.
Judges citation: 2019 has been another outstanding year for Irish news reporting, and that was reflected in the impressive quality of entry for this category. Yet, one reporter stood above all others for his ability to ``follow the money.'' It's an old journalistic dictum that we've all heard, but have seldom seen bettered in an Irish context by the winning reporter. For months, late on every Saturday night or early on a Sunday morning, we'd hold our breath in anticipation of this reporter's latest revelations on the intrigues at one particular organisation, which lays right at the heart of Ireland's sporting life. Those stories, combined with his crisply written and enlightening insights on a range of other topics, made it a relatively easy task for the judges to chose the News Reporter of the Year as Mark Tighe of the Sunday Times, his second straight win.
Judges citation: The power of the written word is widely known and celebrated for its ability to interrogate breaking news, share exclusive stories and analyse today’s world.
But as the way in which we communicate and consume content through technology has evolved, so too has the way in which we tell stories, share breaking news and craft compelling interviews.
Nowadays, journalists across Irish newsrooms have become adept podcasters - crafting episodic stories, insightful interviews and interest-focused series which truly harness the impact and immersive qualities that this new medium offers.
A brand-new category in this year’s awards, the shortlisted entries for Podcast of the Year attest to this - showcasing the breadth and depth that this medium offers.
And no one embodied these qualities more than the winning entry, who used the power of digital audio to broadcast compelling and incisive interviews which not only captured the attention of audiences, but also set the agenda across major political news.
For this reason, I am delighted to announce that the winner of Podcast of the Year is the team from The Floating Voter; Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan of Independent.ie.
Judges citation: It is not easy being a political journalist.
Politics is always ‘happening’. The next big story could as easily come from a throwaway remark at a doorstep as from weeks of digging, and so, the astute political journalist is always switched on, always tuned in.
And they’re not done when they find the ‘germ’ of a story or the smoking gun.
Context is everything, and the good political journalist—and that includes all those on the shortlist-- must be able to convey to the reader the significance of what he or she is revealing.
This year’s winner has had more than one exclusive—in addition to demonstrating an unerring ability for developing important political stories.
For a body of work which includes uncovering a presidential candidate’s controversial views on the Travelling Community and contributing to the ‘Swing gate’ scoop, the Political Journalist of the Year Award goes to Kevin Doyle of Independent News and Media.
Judges citation: This was a good year for political stories.
In an era of Brexit fatigue and a certain ennui with politics in general, the journalists on this shortlist grabbed the public’s attention with a series of exclusives.
These political stories were not only in the public interest but were of genuine interest to the public.
But a good political story—indeed any good story—should ideally be more than a one-day wonder. It should have ‘legs’, it should spark a reaction.
In exposing something which the people involved might prefer stayed hidden, several of the stories on this shortlist did just that.
One story, however, led directly to the resignation of a Government minister. For his story revealing that the then-Minister for Communications had had private meetings with the final bidder for a major infrastructure project, the worthy winner of the Political Story of the Year Award is Peter O’Dwyer formerly of The Times, Ireland, and now with the Sunday Business Post.
Judges citation: Consistently delivering exclusive content which caters for your readership, exercising meticulous attention to detail, and honing the skills to draw out the best of your well-known interviewees at both exciting and traumatic times in their lives are among the pillars of a stand-out showbiz journalist. He's a stalwart of entertainment journalism in Ireland, and this year and has delivered an abundance of stand-out, exclusive, showbiz interviews... it gives me great pleasure to announce that the Showbiz Journalist of the Year 2019 is Eddie Rowley of The Sunday World.
Judges citation: The word "exclusive" can be bandied about all too frequently with many showbiz stories, but a true showbiz exclusive begins with original thinking, tenacity, a determination to deliver and a sprinkle of well-known names. As questions began to be asked over the financial scruples of one well-known Irish figure, one reporter discovered that his endeavours at raising money for charity with a model on his arm also came at a price. For his exclusive story headlined Fancy Footwork: Model Nadia Forde was paid to dance with FAI chief John Delaney in charity Strictly Come Dancing event, this year's winner of Showbiz Story of the Year is Barry Moran of The Irish Sun.
Judges citation: The good old fashioned scoop. Usually the product of a lot of hard work and a dollop of good luck, the scoop is where everything starts. All else - the commentary, the analysis, the opinion - emanates from the scoop. It's the holy grail for news reporters - and their editors - and a pretty useful tool for selling extra papers too. The best scoops are in the public interest as well as being of great interest to the public, and usually reveal something that somebody out there does not want us to know. By that criteria we have a very deserving winner this year in Mark Tighe’s John Delaney story in The Sunday Times.
Judges citation: What’s different about the winning entry this year is that his body of work eschews the world of stardom and instead draws us into - and tangles us up inside - the stories of lesser talents relentlessly in pursuit of becoming the best version of their sporting prowess that they can be.
Those comparatively modest achievements though become tales within intriguing tales as this storyteller marries their confessions and obsessions into compulsive reading narratives.
In a year where all six of our nominees – name them in alphabetical order Messrs Bogue, Clerkin, Dennehy, Duggan, Hogan and McGrath - were as close to being first among equals as is humanly possible for us mere mortals as judges to decide, the winner breasted the tape first in a photo finish - and he did so for the unrivalled way he chiselled rich nuggets out of material that would have been ordinary stone in another’s hands.
The Newsbrands Broadsheet Sports Writer of the Year is Cathal Dennehy of the Examiner and Irish Independent.
Judges citation: This sports writer seldom plays a curved ball, he doesn’t ever stand on sticky wickets and he certainly doesn’t drop the ball or score own goals.
Yes, with him the gloves are always off – it’s hard to type otherwise, his subject is teed up and his modus operandi is to deliver a column straight down the middle, devoid of fear or favour.
Sport is this writer’s Sistine Chapel, words are his plaything and the mix of his talent and enthusiasm elevates what is written and enlightens those who are reading in equal measure.
Endowed with the ability to paint pictures out of phrases, his mastery of the epigram drips from every sentence, allowing us - his readers - to share a seriously enriched journey under his guiding pen.
This year we especially cherish his wonderful valedictories to a phantom in blue and a polished gem called Ruby while rounding it all of with a lyrical ode to hurling. Ladies and Gentleman, the Popular Sportswriter award goes to Roy Curtis of the Sunday World and the Evening Herald.
Judges citation: The digital revolution has come and gone, and as a result, Irish people are connected with the news cycle – and the world at large - across numerous touchpoints each and every day.
With multiple channels now vying for the attention of audiences across the country, the challenge of creating compelling and insightful stories, imbued with integrity, has never been greater.
Happily, it’s a challenge that all of the shortlisted entrants in this category have not only met, but mastered.
And none more so than the winning entry, which effortlessly leveraged the power and narrative impact of video to bring audiences directly into the lives of people living in the shadow of Brexit.
With a keen eye for the human perspective at the heart of a major political story, it gives me great pleasure to reveal that the winning entry of the inaugural award for the Best Use of Video goes to Simon Carswell and Enda O’Dowd of the Irish Times.
Judges citation: Entries in this new category of Best News Website & App needed to demonstrate excellence in journalism and storytelling, be innovative in design and host original and audience focused content with a value placed on exclusive and premium content over aggregated or syndicated material.
But at the end of the day, what really matters, is that they deliver a positive, engaging and worthwhile user experience.
None of our shortlisted entries could really be faulted on that score and credit must go to all the digital editors involved in delivering such polished and passionate pitches for their sites and apps.
In the end, however it was very difficult to look beyond our winner who throughout the course of the year consistently delivered in-depth, data rich content through planned events such as the local and European and presidential elections, and its compelling and comprehensive coverage of the Ana Kriegel trial.
The Best News Website & App award goes to irishtimes.com
Judges citation: All professions need regeneration. They require new ways of doing things, new concepts and new models. But, perhaps most importantly, they also need new people and new voices.
If journalism is to become relevant to the next generation, it must be led from people of that generation.
That is why the Young Journalist of the Year category is so important.
It is a weathervane for the quality of journalism for the future; a barometer of the new voices that need to be fostered, championed and supported.
Thankfully, the judges were delighted with the quality of the entries in this category.
The shortlist of six could easily have been 10 or 11.
The range and depth of the entries was also important. We had everything from exclusive crime stories to enthralling sports feature, and everything in between.
Ultimately, however, the judges decided to give the award to the journalist whose work had the most profound impact – one both society and what has long been regarded as a pillar of that society.
For a dogged pursuit of a story, juxtaposed by the forensic investigation of the institution and the compassion shown to the victims of abuse with Scouting Ireland, the Young Journalist of the Year is Jack Power of the Irish Times.