THE Paul Foot Award for Investigative and Campaigning Journalism 2013, worth £5,000, has been won by David Cohen of the London Evening Standard for his work on gangs, which was part of the newspaper’s Frontline London campaign.
A Special Investigation Award of £2,000 was given to The Guardian’s Snowden Team for its investigation into the extent of mass surveillance undertaken by GCHQ.
The other four shortlisted campaigns were each awarded £1,000.
Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, said: “The results of the Paul Foot Award are a closely kept secret. Unless you work in GCHQ when you presumably have known for weeks. However what is not a secret is how impressive the entries are this year, how resilient investigative journalism is proving to be and how optimistic this made the judges feel. We tried to reflect the impressive range in subject matter by recognising the coverage of both global and local issues, by honouring stories that involved President Obama as well as those that involved youngsters in London, by giving a prize to a whole newspaper as well as one to an extraordinary single journalist.”
David Cohen’s campaign this year was his toughest yet, as he sought to access London’s violent criminal gangs. The campaign took five months to plan and saw Cohen having to win the trust of gang members, and even help a few of them exit “the roads” via social enterprises supported by small grants from the Evening Standard’s Dispossessed Fund. Cohen struck a fine balance between humanising those he met – a chaotic, hardcore group of young people – without ignoring what they had become.
The campaign had a remarkable degree of success and became truly interactive, as Cohen sought to deliver a hard hitting investigation, as well as champion social change. Following his campaign, three social enterprises have launched, run by former criminal gang members who demonstrated a desire to turn their lives around.
The campaign also prompted politicians to act. Government minister Nick Hurd agreed to release £3.8m of government money to help address the problem, and London mayor Boris Johnson has appointed a Gangs Czar and begun to organise a Gangs Roundtable and Gangs Summit.
The Snowden Files: How GCHQ watches your every move
This investigation, taken from the Edward Snowden leaks, revealed for the first time the extent of mass surveillance undertaken by GCHQ, and the remarkably close relationship the agency has with its US equivalent, the National Security Agency. The Guardian revealed that the National Security Agency funded some of GCHQ’s activities to secure access to, and influence over, Britain’s intelligence gathering programmes.
A team of six spent a number of weeks on a campaign that was exhaustively checked to ensure that it did not threaten our national security. The Guardian revealed how GCHQ covertly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world’s telephone calls and internet traffic, all without any form of public acknowledgement or debate. This became one of the biggest stories of the decade, sparking an emergency debate and several other set-piece debates in parliament around the legal and supervisory framework under which GCHQ operates. The story also had international ramifications – even Barack Obama was forced to respond.
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