News

The winners of the 2020 Geddes prizes have been announced

(L-R) Kathy Willis, Celia Haddon, Harry Hodges, Ella Baron, Christopher Wilson, Jack Womack, Freddie Hayward, Peter Cardwell, Isaac Pockney, Paddy Coulter, Wes Williams and Michael Crick

The judging panel of Geddes Trust chairman Peter Cardwell, the Geddes Fellow Professor Wes Williams, trustee Harry Hodges, and Kate Devlin, chief political correspondent of the Times, were given the task this year of sorting through the many entries, interviewing the most promising candidates and finally settling on the winners of this year's Geddes Prize, Clive Taylor Prize and Ronnie Payne Prize.

Freddie Hayward of St Peter's College is the winner of the Philip Geddes Prize for the most promising journalist at the University of Oxford.  The judges were impressed with his breadth of articles, experience and potential to be a first-class reporter in a short space of time, having already written for the New Statesman, Daily Telegraph, Reuters and others.  Freddie will report from the controversial Beirut Pride march, starting what the judges believe will be a career focused on some excellent writing from the Middle East.

Jack Womack of Balliol College is the winner of the Ronnie Payne Prize for foreign reporting.  Jack's wit, panache and sometimes hilariously poisonous lines leap off the page, and Norman Mailer and Truman Capote both mentioned at various times by the judges in their r deliberations. Jack will use his prize funding to go to Louisiana to investigate the effects of an island disappearing due, apparently, to climate change.

And Isaac Pockney of Hertford College is the winner of the Clive Taylor Prize for sports journalism.  Both Isaac's lyrical writing and beautiful photographs mark him as a huge talent and, like Freddie and Jack, a worthy winner.  Isaac will go to New York to document both in print and in photographs why the sport of hurling is so important not just to the Irish-American community, but beyond.

The trust were delighted to welcome all three to tea with St Edmund Hall's principal, Kathy Willis, as well as Ronnie Payne's widow, Celia Haddon and emeritus trustee Christopher Wilson ahead of the 2020 Geddes memorial lecture. This year it was given by the broadcaster and writer Michael Crick on "Impartiality: the devil's right of reply". It was a rip-roaring lecture in which Michael took no prisoners among his former colleagues at Channel 4 news and his use of visual aides was particularly poignant as he showed attendees a video of Philip Geddes during his student days flooring Richard Nixon, by then a former US president, during a speech at the Oxford Union. The trust are hugely grateful to Michael for the time and effort he put into his outstanding lecture and would urge anybody with an interest in the state of the modern media to watch the video here. A selection of images from the event are below.

The winners of the 2019 Geddes prizes have been announced

(L-R) Peter Cardwell, Helen Lewis, Celia Haddon, David Arronovitch, Kathy Willis, Paddy Coulter, Harry Hodges and Wes Williams congratulate this year's winners Libby Cherry, left, Emily Lawford, centre, and Alice Bruce (photo credit: St Edmund Hall)

On Friday 22 February Geddes Trustees Peter Cardwell and Paddy Coulter were joined by St Edmund Hall’s Geddes Fellow Wes Williams and Kate Devlin, chief political correspondent of The Times, to interview the candidates shortlisted for the trust’s three prizes. 

The winner of The Geddes Prize for student journalism and £2,500 is Emily Lawford of St Hilda’s College. For the project funded by the prize she is planning to go to the West Bank to follow Palestinian workers as they cross the border into Israel each day as well as working for an independent news agency in Bethlehem, which has faced censorship from Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. It is a key area of interest for Emily who has already travelled to the region and whose portfolio included an interview with a Palestinian-American activist who campaigns against sexual harassment in the West Bank as well as a story written for the Telegraph about a missing snake and a review of the Oxford Revue's Edinburgh Fringe show.

The winner of the Ronnie Payne Prize for foreign reporting is Libby Cherry of Corpus Christi College who submitted a portfolio that included an interview with a Chinese dissident central to the Tiananmen Square protests 30 years. She will spend five weeks researching and writing a piece on the implications of the EU’s controversial Copyright Directive, which the judges considered could possibly be published in the FT or the Guardian. 

The winner of The Clive Taylor Prize for sports reporting is Alice Bruce of Mansfield College, who will spend her prize money publishing a magazine about women’s sport for Oxford students and included match reports on everything from the England rugby team to the Blues netballers.

All three were able to collect their awards from the 2019 Geddes Lecturer David Aaronovitch at an afternoon hosted by the Principal of Teddy Hall Kathy Willis ahead of the lecture. David’s speech is available to watch below, courtesy of the St Edmund Hall YouTube channel. The trust would like to thank St Edmund Hall, and in particular the hard work of Gill Powell, for hosting the event and all of their help in documenting it.

The 2019 Geddes masterclass

The Geddes Trust, which will award £6,500 worth of journalism prizes to Oxford students in late Hilary, is hosting an evening for students interested in journalism.

 

Where: St Edmund Hall

When: Friday 25th January at 6.30pm

How do I sign up? Email gillian.powell@seh.ox.ac.uk.  Places are VERY LIMITED so email without delay.

 

The format of the evening is as follows:

 

Getting into journalism panel

Recent winners of The Geddes Prizes now working at The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, the New York Times and BBC Newsnight give their advice on how to break into journalism.


How Not To Get Sued, with Charlotte Harris
Charlotte Harris, one of the leading libel solicitors in the country and a partner at Kingsley Napley will give a workshop on how not to get sued, and dealing with sources and staying on the right side of the law.  Charlotte’s client base includes MPs, celebrities, PR experts, sports agents, sports people and other individuals subject to media attention.  The Geddes Trust is honoured to host her in Oxford.

Schmoozing and boozing

In the greatest traditions of journalistic events, there will be free wine (and soft drinks) and nibbles.  Schmooze with the Geddes Trustees, former winners and panellists for tips on entering this year's prizes and further tips on the best ways to network your way to a job in journalism.

 

This is an event not to be missed, but places are VERY LIMITED, so email gillian.powell@seh.ox.ac.uk to reserve your place as soon as possible.  First come, first served.  You do not have to be involved with student journalism to take part.

Details of the 2018 Geddes Lecture to be given by Laura Kuenssberg released

The 2018 Philip Geddes Memorial Lecture will be delivered by BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg. She will be speaking on Tuesday 6 March (eighth week) from 5.30pm in the North School of the Exam Schools. All are welcome to attend.

After studying at Edinburgh University and in America, Laura began her career in journalism working for local radio and television in Glasgow. She joined the BBC in 2000 and began covering politics for the corporation in 2003 and became Chief Political Correspondent in 2009. In 2011 she left to become business editor of ITV News before returning in 2014.

In 2015 she was announced as the successor to Nick Robinson as BBC political editor. A highly regarded journalist within the BBC and the wider media she has also attracted controversy, becoming source of anger for Left-wing online trolls who deemed her to be biased. This led to the decision for her to attend the Labour Party's 2017 conference with a bodyguard, a situation that drew wide comment including from the Prime Minister in the weeks that followed.

The Geddes Trust is delighted to welcome her as one of the country's most senior, well-respected and high-profile journalists to give this year's lecture. 

Details of the 2018 Geddes Journalism Masterclass released

Sky News political correspondent (and former OxStu editor) Tom Rayner and New Statesman head of podcasts Caroline Crampton are this year's guests at the Geddes Journalism Masterclass, open to all students at Oxford.

 

Where: St Edmund Hall

When: Sunday 21st January at 6pm

​ (Sunday of 2nd week of Hilary)​

Places are *extremely limited* so please sign up via ​gillian.powell@seh.ox.ac.uk as soon as possible.

 

Hour One: Building your career with podcasts, Caroline Crampton, New Statesman

Hour Two: Getting into broadcast journalism, Tom Rayner, Sky News

Hour Three: Schmooze & Booze with the speakers.  

 

Once you get your foot in the door of journalism, how do you stay there and thrive?  Caroline Crampton, head of podcasts at the New Statesman, will talk about the ways in which you have to change and adapt to new formats and technologies as you go along, and in particular how podcasts can serve as a way for young people with lots of ideas and skills to build their own audience.


In the second hour, Sky News political correspondent and former Editor of The Oxford Student Tom Rayner will talk about his life and career, as well as getting into broadcast journalism.

Speakers info:
 

Tom Rayner joined Sky News in 2007 and has since reported on major stories right across the world, from Antarctica to Afghanistan.  His first role at Sky was specialist Home Affairs producer, focusing on terrorism and policing in the UK.  As the Arab uprisings of 2011 spread from Tunisia, to Egypt, Libya and Syria, Tom worked as a field producer on some of Sky’s award-winning coverage from the region.  In 2012 he became Middle East News Editor based in Jerusalem.  In 2014 he took up the role of Middle East Reporter, with one of his first assignments being the 50-day Gaza War.  In early 2016 Tom launched a new foreign bureau for Sky News in Bangkok, becoming South East Asia Correspondent.  In summer 2017 he returned to the UK as Political Correspondent, based in Westminster.  Tom attended Wadham College, Oxford between 2003 and 2006, studying Modern History and editing The Oxford Student.  He then received a post-graduate diploma in Television Journalism from City University in London.


Caroline Crampton is head of podcasts at the New Statesman, having previously been an assistant editor and the web editor at the weekly magazine. In addition, she has written for publications including the Guardian, the New York Times and the London Review of Books, and appears as a broadcaster on BBC Radio 4 and Sky News. Her first book, a work of non fiction about the natural world, will be published by Granta in Spring 2019.

Women's rights in Russia - report from 2017 Ronnie Payne Prize winner Marianna Spring

Marianna at an exhibition on Pussy Riot and women in Russia at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow and reporting from Paris in September

When I spoke to Celia Haddon about her husband, Ronnie Payne, at the brilliant Geddes Lecture in March, she told me about his admirable reporting on important issues abroad during turbulent times. This year, I have aimed to do just that. However, fulfilling such an aim would not have been possible without the brilliant opportunities to report abroad afforded to me by the Ronnie Payne Prize.

As well as securing a casual contract as a reporter at the Guardian this year and publishing a number of articles because of this, I have been able to work specifically with the International News desk and foreign correspondents at the Guardian as the result of receiving this prize, and to investigate the situation of Russian women, and the issue of domestic violence many of them face.

I set out with the intention of furthering the reporting I had done during my year abroad and of investigating the complex and concerning situation of Russian women, inspired by those I met whilst living in Yaroslavl’. Conversations with them, along with the recent news regarding domestic violence laws and work discrimination, made it clear to me that Russian women were beginning to challenge their position in society.

Thanks to the help of trustee Sandra Barwick, as well as Alexandra Topping, a reporter who I have worked with at the Guardian, I found a news focus for my story: the issue of violence against women in Russia. Following amendments in February, which had decriminalised some forms of domestic violence in Russia, this topic was especially relevant and important, and allowed me to channel this concern for the treatment of women, who have had to fight for their rights in a different way to European women as a result of the ‘equality’ imposed during the Soviet era. The Guardian’s International News Editor gave me the go ahead to investigate the effects of the amendments, and the new bill that activists were trying to get through the State Duma, and so I set to work.

I used my prize money to fund a trip to Moscow as planned in the Easter vacation in order to speak with a number of women, who I met during my year abroad, and also activists who have been campaigning for new protection bill on domestic violence prevention. These conversations (during which my Russian proved to be very useful!) revealed to me the scale of the problem of domestic violence in the country, the risk of it worsening following the amendments in February, and the work of brave young women in particular who wanted to change that. These activists pointed me in the direction of others who were campaigning, as well as those Deputies in the State Duma who were against the amendments. I continued to call and speak with activists, victims of domestic violence, law-makers and Deputies for a number of months and throughout the Summer, as well as speaking to those who backed the amendments, in order to best understand the current situation in the country.

When looking for the best hook for my story, I was hoping this would be the debate, and perhaps even the passing, of the bill in the State Duma would come about, but this has stalled. After discussions with assistant International News Editor Enjoli Liston and Lexy Topping, I decided to structure my story around the affects of the amendments, and the worsening situation for women who are now having to pay the fines of their abusers. The news article was published online and in print in the paper on Tuesday December 19th of this year: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/19/russian-victims-domestic-violence-abuse-forced-pay-perpetrator-fines. I hope that my reporting will draw attention to the issue. It is some of the most important news reporting I’ve done, as well as my first exclusive for the Guardian.

I am in Russia again for New Year, where I plan to do more reporting, and to continue interrogating the situation of women in Russia. The International News Desk at the Guardian are keen to hear more stories on Russia from me, and I plan to write a more detailed series of profiles of Russian women who have been affected by domestic abuse, as well to continue reporting on domestic violence in Russia.

Any money that I did not spend on trips to Russia, I used to report in Paris with the Guardian Paris corespondent, where I also met journalists from BBC news and ITN, as well as with Le Tarn Libre, the local paper in the South West of France, where I wrote a news feature piece “Regards sur Albi” (featured below as it was only in print). In addition to this, the prize helped me to report on the First Round of the French Election debate on the Guardian’s Live Blog: https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2017/apr/04/french-election-2017-france-all-presidential-candidates-take-part-in-live-tv-debate.

I would not have been able to make these trips, or pursue these opportunities, were it not for the prize money, and the prize has without doubt enabled me to pursue my dream of foreign corespondency. I want to express my gratitude to Ronnie, to Celia and to the Geddes Trust, who have enabled all of this. I hope that I have done and continue to do Ronnie proud, reporting on important issues abroad during turbulent times, just as he did.

Panthers at play - report from 2017 Clive Taylor Prize winner Vincent Richardson

Spartanburg, South Carolina doesn’t get a huge number of visitors. Besides a nearby car plant and a couple of small colleges there really isn’t much there to visit. During the two-and-a-bit weeks I was there I could have counted the number of non-American accents I heard on one hand; most of the visitors had come from inside the state.

That being the case, for a few weeks in the summer, the Carolina Panthers come to town bringing press, fans and family with them. This is because the team hold their annual preseason training camp at Wofford College, a small private college near the town centre. This year, thanks to the Geddes Trust, I was lucky enough to be able to watch as the Panthers prepared for the upcoming season.  

The opening event of Training Camp was the ‘Kickoff Party’, a practice in the Wofford College stadium accompanied by music, dancing and, somewhat unexpectedly, speed art. While the surrounding attractions weren’t what I’d gone to Spartanburg for, the atmosphere they helped to create was a thoroughly enjoyable one, and holding open practices in this way is certainly something that British sports team should explore.

Without press credentials for the first week of my stay, I was restricted to watching practices from the hillock next to the practice fields, where each day I was joined by several thousand other fans. While my attention was mostly on larger trends throughout the two weeks, I did post daily summaries of the practices on a blog page shared with a friend.

During the time not spent at practice, I worked on a series of articles examining those larger trends, as well as a piece looking at the Panthers’ then-recent firing of General Manager Dave Gettleman. The latter piece has since been published by the Oxford Student (see links below), as was one of the more general pieces on scheme analytics.

However, with the acquisition of a press pass for the second week of practice, my attention turned to more detailed analysis of individual players, aided by closer access to the practice field and player press-conferences. The highlight of this was an interview with Panthers’ defensive end Efe Obada, which has again since been published in the Oxford Student.

Obada was born in Nigeria but grew up in Brixton and is one of a few UK players trying to make it in the NFL via a trial involving the Panthers and the rest of the NFC South. This interview allowed me to not only get a player’s perspective on training camp but also to ask some questions about the growth of the NFL overseas and the potential for a franchise to move to the UK.

I was also awarded a press pass for the annual Fan Fest; a practice held in the team’s stadium in Charlotte in front of a crowd of over sixty thousand. Regardless of the journalistic impact, standing pitch-side under the lights on a Friday evening was unlike anything I have hitherto experienced.  

In total, I was able to attend a total of eleven practices between Spartanburg and Fan Fest, more than enough to allow me to complete the piece I had aimed to write when going out there; namely on examining how the Panthers had adapted their offensive scheme in order to greater incorporate running backs as receivers in the passing game, a perceived point of emphasis following the acquisition of rookie Christian McCaffrey in that year’s draft.

What I still lacked at this point, and something that I had hoped to develop whilst in Spartanburg, was a publication looking for the more detailed analytics pieces I aim to write going forwards. Whilst I had got to know a number of the reporters from the Charlotte Observer during my stay, most notably Joe Person and Jourdan Rodrigue, they had made it clear their focus was more on context pieces than technical or strategic breakdowns.

However, Jourdan very kindly introduced me to Josh Klein, editor of the Riot Report, a Panthers-specific analytics publication. Having talked to him during fan fest, I was asked to submit a sample and, after sending in my piece on running backs in the passing game, I was fortunate enough to be offered a position as an analyst for them.

This involves writing a weekly column as well as some additional pieces from time to time. I have now been writing my column for about four months and, whilst fitting this in during term time has not always been the easiest of tasks, it has been really enjoyable to be able to write the style of pieces I have always wanted to do. As the publication is a fairly new addition to the broader Roaring Riot organisation, readership has fluctuated fairly significantly so far, but pieces looking at play design and player analysis have proven to be very successful leading to the publication looking for me to cover the 2018 NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in March.

Despite the southern summer heat, tropical storms and American beer, my experience in South Carolina was not only enjoyable but also allowed me an insight into sports journalism in the US that simply could not have been gained otherwise. I can only thank the Geddes Trust in helping me to fund my trip, and I hope that my continued work for the Riot Report exhibits the humanity and analytic insight that has carried me thus far.

2016 Ronnie Payne Prize winner Ella Baron wins Young Cartoonist of the Year

Ella beat a strong field to win in the under-30s category at the Young Cartoonist of the Year. Judged by Martin Rowson (The Guardian),  Christian Adams (The Evening Standard), Steve Bell (The Guardian), Peter Brookes (The Times,) Dave Brown (The Independent), Mac (The Daily Mail), Matt (The Daily Telegraph) , Nick Newman (Private Eye) and Oliver Preston (Chairman of The Cartoon Museum) and run by the British Cartoonist Association this is a prestigious competition for up and coming illustrators.

 

Ella told the St Edmund Hall website:  “The Young Cartoonist Competition is judged by the current cartooning greats. There could be no greater boost to my confidence than to find out that they rate my work. The competition deadline was on 24 September, and I based my winning entry on the speech Theresa May gave in Florence two days earlier.

 

"My cartoon was a parody of Forster’s Room with a View, which conflated the uptight British governess Bartlett with Theresa May. I used Forster’s image of Bartlett slamming the shutters against the wonders of Italy as an allegory for Brexit. To satirize how May painted Britain’s breakup with Europe as the start of a beautiful new partnership, I drew her taking shady actions that contradict her optimistic words.

Ella's winning cartoon

“Since graduating this summer I’ve spent my time dispatching huddles of Baron cartoons to languish in the spam folders of as many editors as possible. I’ve also miraculously had cartoons published in The Guardian and The New Statesman. As I take shaky steps into the realm of professional cartooning, it's very comforting to know that The British Cartoonists' Association think I’m heading in the right direction.

“As the Under 30 competition winner, I was invited to The Cartoon Art Trust’s Annual Awards. Cartoonists tend to be solitary creatures but last Thursday I found myself in a room full of them! It was invaluable to have my career queries answered by cartoonists at the very top of their game as well as truly special to meet the incredible characters behind the cartoons that have so inspired me. I’m incredibly grateful for the advice and encouragement everyone gave me. Doors are already opening as a result of the competition and I've never felt more determined to keep drawing!

“It was winning the Ronnie Payne Prize that first gave me the confidence to pursue the cartooning dream so I must give sincere thanks to the Philip Geddes Trust, and in particular Celia Haddon, Helen Lewis and Peter Cardwell. Last but not least, thanks must be given to dear Theresa May who really was the inspiration behind my winning cartoon. I hope, and not for our country’s sake, that this will be the beginning of our long working relationship….”

Peter Cardwell, Chairman of The Geddes Trust added: “Huge congratulations to Ella on this outstanding award. It is absolutely wonderful that Ella already has two major awards under her belt at such an early stage in her career, and I know I speak for everyone involved with Geddes in wishing her all the very best for the future.”

Ella won the Geddes Trust's Ronnie Payne Prize for Foreign Reporting in 2016, the second year in which the prize had been opened. The judges were impressed with the enthusiasm and talent displayed in her daring and provocative cartoons, a selection of which can be seen below.

 

She went on to use her prize money to visit refugee camps in southern Europe, a selection of those pictures can be seen below.

When you’re desperate and dependent, with no rights and no resources, you spend a lot of time queueing. I sketched refugees queueing for their only daily meal, for the cracked basin in the playground, for the open-backed van that is a mobile clinic, for pre-registration to the government camps and for registration. I composed those sketches of squat life into this image of the transnational story that ended there. It is my impression of the bigger picture.

This is a testament to one family trapped in the anonymous column previously pictured. As a European, I’ve always seen borders keeping people out. A man from Aleppo described the borders as "penning his family in hell". He has succeeded in reaching Greece, but living in a derelict hospital with no right to work, is not the life this professional pharmacist hoped to build. He can’t bring his family out the war-torn wasteland of Aleppo, so I sketched them from photographs he showed me.

Alan Kurdi was an individual who became a global icon; alone, face down and faceless, he could have been anyone’s son. But washed-up refugees was last summer’s story. Now, the little bodies beyond Alan’s spotlight are living, sleeping refugees I sketched this summer. These are the children that survived the sea to settle less photogenically on the streets and in the squats. Countless others died.

These scenes were sketched from the playground of the school squat. It is home to about 600 refugees who escaped Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq to settle in abject poverty on a prosperous Athenian high street. On the city-side of the fence, life moves on as Greeks go shopping or commute to work and school. Life on the other side is on hold; some refugees are waiting for applications to be processed or border rules to change, others have just run out of money, energy and hope.

The guy in the newsagent across from the school squat kindly gave me 100 lollipops for the 200 kids there. It was chaos; little hands clawing at my bag and clothes and at each other. For me this was the most visceral encounter with the scale of the crisis but I constantly felt overwhelmed and frequently defeated. It often seemed that helping one person only attracted more people wanting help.

This girl with tangled hair told me she was missing her mum. I knew the horde of hands in the previous image each had an individual story. But faced with the reality that I could not process that much suffering, let alone alleviate it, I just combed and plaited this kid’s hair. I know we both felt better for it.

Refugees lose their home and jobs, their countries and their rights. Many of them do this so as not to lose their family. I sketched this little knot of squatters late one night near Archanon Road. I guessed they were Syrian, but I could see clearly that they were a family, holding tight against turbulent times.

2017 Geddes Lecture video released
Geddes prize winners announced

The Philip Geddes Memorial Prize: Tony Diver, Christ Church College

Tony has forged a career already which would be the envy of many, as a News Editor of Cherwell and a frequent contributor to national publications including The Daily Telegraph, the BBC, the Radio Times, Buzzfeed and others.  Tony already has a commission from The Economist for his Geddes Prize project, the money allowing him to go to India to investigate whether Leprosy eradication programmes have been effective.

The Ronnie Payne Prize for foreign reporting: Marianna Spring, Pembroke College

Marianna has been involved with journalism since an early age, working in Oxford, Russia and France and she has reported for The Guardian, Private Eye and the Moscow Times. Her prize money will allow her to go to Russia this summer to undertake a series of articles about inspirational women.

The Clive Taylor Prize for sports journalism: Vincent Richardson, Brasenose College

A former sports editor of The Oxford Student, Vincent impressed the judges with his love of applying analytics to sport, as well as his huge enthusiasm for American sport.  His prize money will allow him to undertake an internship with a sports media company in California.

The 2017 Geddes lecture: Ian Hislop in conversation with Helen Lewis
In a change from the usual format the 2017 Geddes Lecture will feature Ian Hislop in conversation with Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman. The event is at 5.30 on Friday 3 March in the North School of the Examination Schools. All are welcome.

Ian Hislop was a contemporary of Philip Geddes at Oxford. He edited the satirical magazine Passing Wind before graduating from Magdalen College in 1981. Upon leaving Oxford he began working for Private Eye and was appointed its editor just five years later.

 

Since the show first aired in 1990 he has been one of the team captains on the satirical news quiz Have I Got News For You. He has also presented numerous documentaries for the BBC both on television and radio.

Helen Lewis won the Geddes Prize in 2004. She has been deputy editor of the New Statesman since 2012.

Details of the 2017 Geddes Masterclass announced

The Geddes Trust, which awards thousands of pounds worth of journalism prizes to Oxford University students each year, is hosting an evening for students interested in journalism.

 

Where: St Edmund Hall

 

When: Sunday 29th January (Sunday of Third Week) at 5pm

 

How do I sign up? Email gillian.powell@seh.ox.ac.uk.  Places are VERY LIMITED so email soon.

 

The format of the evening is as follows:

Writing eye-catching copy Fleet Street will love 

 

Award-winning journalists who've worked on The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Evening Standard, the New Statesman and The Spectator in news and features will be hosting a workshop to make your writing the best it can be and get you that job after Oxford.  This hour-long workshop will focus on story construction, selling your ideas, how to write the best intros and how to stand out. 

 

Then...

 

Jimmy Savile and the Fake Sheikh: Newsnight, Panorama and how to do investigations with Meirion Jones, Investigations Editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism

 

In this part of the masterclass, investigative journalist Meirion Jones, who worked on Newsnight and Panorama on investigations into anything from Bogus Bomb Detectors and rigged American elections to the Fake Sheikh, will detail how to carry out a good investigation. Meirion won the Daniel Pearl award for revealing how multinational Trafigura dumped toxic waste in Africa, and the London Press Awards Scoop of the Year for his part in the Jimmy Savile revelations. He is now Investigations Editor at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.  The Geddes Trust is honoured to host Meirion in Oxford.

 

Then...

 

Schmoozing and boozing

 

In the greatest traditions of journalistic events, there will be free wine and nibbles.  Schmooze with your masterclass hosts, and talk to the Geddes Trustees for tips on entering this year's prizes, getting into journalism and the best ways to network your way to your first job.

This is an event not to be missed, but places are VERY LIMITED, so email gillian.powell@seh.ox.ac.uk to reserve your place as soon as possible.  First come, first served.  You do not have to be involved with student journalism to take part.

My visit to Athens' refugee squats
by cartoonist Ella Baron, winner of the 2016 Ronnie Payne Prize

When you’re desperate and dependent, with no rights and no resources, you spend a lot of time queueing. I sketched refugees queueing for their only daily meal, for the cracked basin in the playground, for the open-backed van that is a mobile clinic, for pre-registration to the government camps and for registration. I composed those sketches of squat life into this image of the transnational story that ended there. It is my impression of the bigger picture.

This is a testament to one family trapped in the anonymous column previously pictured. As a European, I’ve always seen borders keeping people out. A man from Aleppo described the borders as "penning his family in hell". He has succeeded in reaching Greece, but living in a derelict hospital with no right to work, is not the life this professional pharmacist hoped to build. He can’t bring his family out the war-torn wasteland of Aleppo, so I sketched them from photographs he showed me.

Alan Kurdi was an individual who became a global icon; alone, face down and faceless, he could have been anyone’s son. But washed-up refugees was last summer’s story. Now, the little bodies beyond Alan’s spotlight are living, sleeping refugees I sketched this summer. These are the children that survived the sea to settle less photogenically on the streets and in the squats. Countless others died.

These scenes were sketched from the playground of the school squat. It is home to about 600 refugees who escaped Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq to settle in abject poverty on a prosperous Athenian high street. On the city-side of the fence, life moves on as Greeks go shopping or commute to work and school. Life on the other side is on hold; some refugees are waiting for applications to be processed or border rules to change, others have just run out of money, energy and hope.

The guy in the newsagent across from the school squat kindly gave me 100 lollipops for the 200 kids there. It was chaos; little hands clawing at my bag and clothes and at each other. For me this was the most visceral encounter with the scale of the crisis but I constantly felt overwhelmed and frequently defeated. It often seemed that helping one person only attracted more people wanting help.

This girl with tangled hair told me she was missing her mum. I knew the horde of hands in the previous image each had an individual story. But faced with the reality that I could not process that much suffering, let alone alleviate it, I just combed and plaited this kid’s hair. I know we both felt better for it.

Refugees lose their home and jobs, their countries and their rights. Many of them do this so as not to lose their family. I sketched this little knot of squatters late one night near Archanon Road. I guessed they were Syrian, but I could see clearly that they were a family, holding tight against turbulent times.

In September 2015, the photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying face down on a Turkish beach made headline news across the world. That image cut through political complexities and personal reservations and was able to be just deeply sad. I’m a cartoonist, and armed with a biro and a belief in the evocative power of images, I spent this July working in the underground refugee squats of Athens.

 

Last summer, the desperate exodus across the Aegean Sea captivated the world. This summer, thousands of disillusioned refugees caught in political limbo are offering a jaded media less romantic photo opportunities. Greece has become a grim holding pen and no one is watching. In a derelict hospital home to over six-hundred refugees, I asked a Syrian man where he was headed. He shrugged hopelessly and carried on swatting flies. When I asked him why he’d come his answer was to show me the bullet scars on his infant son.

 

In Athens the refugee squats are clustered in Exarcheia, the historical hotbed of radical Left-wing resistance from the student riots of the 1970s to the recent anti-austerity protests. The neighbourhood is home to a community of volunteers and activists that range from die-hard anarchists to those who simply see the Western establishment as flawed. The squatters are mainly from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. The volunteers are from all over the world. Together they have turned derelict buildings into communities struggling to sustain themselves outside international rules.

 

These nests of crumbling corridors offer underground refugees a safer alternative to sleeping rough. It also gives them an autonomy denied by dictatorial regimes, terrorists and the official asylum system. No country, no rights, no protection under the law, no money, no media visibility, no reliable access to food, medicine or clean water. But dignity, nonetheless. It hit me in strange ways in strange places; when an old Palestinian woman admonished me for wearing odd socks; seeing a mother lovingly arrange her family’s meagre dinner on a cracked plate; the two sisters who spent an hour and all the teeth of their comb plaiting my matted hair.

 

NGOs are not allowed to operate in the squats due to their illegal status. There are no red cross tents or UN helmets, no official looking men with clipboards and no forms to be signed. The refreshing lack of bureaucracy comes with a flourishing black market in aid donations. Baby formula mysteriously evaporates from the stores whilst the head honchos of the squat stoically keep rolling cigarettes. Cramped conditions, insufficient supplies and no prospect of improvement breeds depression and dispute. Theft, fights, domestic violence, rape, child-abuse, self-harm; these things happen and can’t be addressed. You can’t report a crime to the authorities if they don’t recognize the existence of the people involved and the place it is committed.

 

Our bodies are sanctified by citizenship, something I only recognized by witnessing “invisible” refugees bloodied and bruised. While I was there, an Afghani father living at The School Squat lost his two-year-old child. He cried at the burial because, he said, “I am sad but satisfied to have finally put my son in a bed where he is safe and will be safe forever.” I once saw a tiny girl in a red pinafore squatting behind The School bins gnawing at a bone. And from just beyond the playground fence, tourists stroll past on shopping sprees and you can hear police sirens and ice cream vans.

 

It is difficult to photograph squat life; illegal refugees are concerned that if they apply for asylum elsewhere in the EU photos of them in Greece will provide evidence for deportment; political asylum seekers are afraid photos may be used to trace them; some refugees are simply embarrassed because they’re wealthy, educated people who don’t want to be identified with such poverty. Besides, even the best photographer in the world can’t convey narrative like a cartoonist. So cartoons work where photos can’t at depicting these sensitive situations in a way that anonymises the individuals without anesthetising their story. The figures aren’t identified but they’re not just figments of my imagination (that would be contrived). When I draw them I know exactly who they are, so if the cartoon works it can communicate the real emotions of real people, without invading on their privacy.

 

I have no authority to propose grand solutions to the refugee crisis ­– hopefully there are far more qualified people doing that. These cartoons don’t make “clever” political points, they’re just an honest response to the refugees I met, and what it was like to try and fail to help them.

 

More information is availabe from The Guardian's website.

Visit to the Newseum in Washington DC
by Chairman of the Geddes Trust Peter Cardwell

On a visit to Washington DC in September 2016, I was privileged to undertake a tour of the Newseum, a seven-level, 250,000 square foot museum with 15 galleries and a further 15 theatres.  It’s a fascinating, engaging and important museum detailing the history of the media.

It also commemorates journalists who have died in the pursuit of a story; most recently journalists killed in Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen. On one of the floors, a huge memorial to many journalists dominates a wall. I was delighted, and moved, to see that Philip Geddes is included in this memorial.

Philip Geddes’s name of course stood out to me, but what was striking was just the sheer number of journalists around the world, throughout history, who have died in the pursuit of truth.

I also had a brief discussion with John Gardner, the Newseum’s Senior Manager for Visitor Services, who I thanked on behalf of the Trustees for including Philip Geddes on the remembrance wall.

The Newseum’s stated mission is "to help the public and the news media understand one another better" and to "raise public awareness of the important role of a free press in a democratic society."

I know the Geddes Trustees and staff of St Edmund Hall will join me in thanking the Newseum for remembering Philip Geddes in the pursuit of this mission.

2016 Geddes Prizes awarded

Left to right: Professor Keith Gull, Paddy Coulter, Harry Hodges, Alys Key, Anushka Asthana, Christopher Wilson, Ella Baron, Peter Cardwell, Sandra Barwick and Celia Haddon

Competition for the 2016 prizes was fierce with a large number of entries many of which impressed judges Peter Cardwell, Helen Lewis, Prof Wes Williams and Prof John Kelly. Chairman of the Geddes Trust and of the judging panel Peter Cardwell said: “Overall the standard was impressive and we believe student journalism is in good health in Oxford”.

 

The 2016 Philip Geddes Memorial Prize was won by Alys Key of Somerville College. Her submission included articles on everything from fashion to current affairs as well as a brilliantly produced guide to Somerville college for new undergraduates. While the judges enjoyed the variety of her work they were particularly impressed with her project Alys intends to use the prize money to fund the publication, design, reearch and writing of a new guide to student journalism to be made available to students across the country.

 

The 2016 Ronnie Payne Prize for Foreign Reporting, the second time it has been awarded, was given to Ella Baron of Merton College. The judges were impressed with the enthusiasm and talent displayed in her daring and provocative cartoons, a selection of which can be seen below (click to see full size). Her project is to form a piece of journalistic work around migrant and refugee communities.

Journalism in Mumbai
by Carola Binney, winner of the inaugural Ronnie Payne Prize

 

The Ronnie Payne prize money took me to India, to intern at the Mumbai edition of Hindustan Times, India’s second most widely read English-language newspaper.

 

Based on the Lifestyle desk, I was set the intimidating first task of compiling the weekly ‘Weekend Fix’ list of cool events and openings in the city: I soon knew far more about Mumbai’s art, music and restaurant scene than I do of Oxford’s (although that isn’t saying much). 

 

Learning to write ‘Indian English’ was a steep learning curve. There are distinct differences - including in the use of commas and when to use ‘are’ or ‘is’ - but they are so subtle that I found it hard to get my head around them. Learning to adapt my writing style to suit a foreign audience was one of the most valuable and most challenging aspects of my time in Mumbai, and at first felt like going very much against the grain. By the end of my internship my copy was returned slightly less covered in corrections, but my linguistic flexibility paled in comparison to Mumbaikers’: when taxi drivers gave each other directions, in the midst of a stream of Hindi would be a crystal clear “second left”. 

 

The highs of my two weeks at Hindustan Times included being sent to cover a TED Talks event and getting a health feature included included in the paper’s national pages, which have a readership of almost 3.8 million. The lows included spilling my drink on the Swedish Consul General during an interview about educational opportunities for Indian students in Sweden - but at least my piece still made it into the paper.

 

I travelled by auto-rickshaw, the yellow-and-black 3-wheelers that buzz around the city like bees, and worked the bizarre Indian newspaper office hours: 1-9pm. I wore a sari, danced at an Indian wedding and discovered the joys of Mumbai’s street-food: the explosion of spicy sweetness when you eat a water-filled pani puri makes the Delhi Belly (almost) worth it. 

 

I packed five pairs of shoes but went to work in flip-flops: the monsoon rains and the heat made anything more substantial a recipe for soggy, sweaty disaster. I flouted Lonely Planet’s advice and became one of the 7.5 million commuters carried to work each day by the city’s suburban rail network: people hang out of door-less doorways on moving trains, which are often at two-and-a-half times their intended capacity. As the train pulled up at Elphinstone Road, I was carried from the ladies’ carriage onto the platform in a wave of sweat and brightly coloured saris.

 

I intended to stay at Hindustan Times for a month, but when I was invited to return to Muktangan, the educational charity I had done some copy-writing for in the two weeks between arriving in Mumbai and starting my internship, I decided to go. I felt I would be able to have a bigger impact and more freedom in a smaller team in which my English language writing skills were in shorter supply.

 

I stayed at Muktangan for a month, writing new copy for their website as part of a complete online overhaul (which will go live soon). I enjoyed using my journalistic experience in a new way, and especially appreciated the chance to work on multimedia and visual projects: I produced a new brochure for the charity, doing everything from the copywriting to the layout, and was involved in discussions with the website designer about how to make the site more interactive. 

 

At Muktangan, my proudest achievement was the video I made outlining the charity’s work, which the fundraising team have been using in pitches to potential corporate partners. Having never made a film of any kind before, and working on a non-existent budget, I created the video using only free online software, the voice recorder on my iPhone and a willing colleague as my narrator. You can watch it here.

 

Driving through a foot of monsoon flood water on my way from the airport, my first impressions of Mumbai weren’t good - no where has ever grown on me so much. The city is vast, dirty and deafening, but the friendliness of so many of the people made it feel manageable: from the colleague who took me to her Zumba class to the stranger who saw me failing to get a rush hour taxi and gave me a hair-raising lift to the station on the back of her moped, the people I met gave a very big city a small-town vibe. I had a wonderful and eyeopening summer: thank you to the Geddes prize committee and Celia Haddon for making it possible.

Details for the 2016 Philip Geddes Memorial Lecture announced

 

Anushka Asthana, currently political correspondent for Sky News but just appointed to The Guardian as Political Editor, will deliver a lecture entitled:

 

Breaking into the boys’ club: why British politics needs more women

 

The lecture starts at 5pm in Milner Hall, Rhodes House and is a ticketed event – so please email me to register,gillian.powell@seh.ox.ac.uk.

 

The Geddes Lecture has been held annually since Martin Bell, an independent MP and former journalist, gave the first in 1998;  it has attracted some of the best-known names in British print journalism – Dominic Lawson, Roger Alton, Sir Peter Stothard, Matthew D’Ancona, Lionel Barber, Geordie Grieg; and British TV and radio – Jeremy Paxman, Jon Snow, Nick Robinson, Martha Kearney, Alan Rusbridger, Lord Patten of Barnes, Evan Davis and Lyse Doucet – and we are delighted that Anushka has agreed to contribute her thoughts on the state of British journalism (and politics) today.

Thirty-second anniversary of the Harrods bombing

Every year on December 17 a ceremony is held to commemorate the anniversary of the Harrods bombing that claimed that lives of six people, including Philip Geddes, and injured 90 others. This year on the 32nd anniversary of the IRA terror attack members of the Geddes Trust were proud to pay their respects alongside members of Philip Geddes' family, St Edmund Hall domestic bursar Jayne Taylor and friends, relatives and colleagues of those others who lost their lives. Following a reading wreaths were laid at the foot of the stone monument that stands outside the department store, the last post was sounded and a two minutes silence observed.

 

The ceremony was a deeply moving occasion as we remember a remarkably talented young journalist whose life was tragically cut short and all those others who were killed or suffered life-changing injuries. The trust's chairman Peter Cardwell described it as "an honour" to be able to attend alongside relatives who knew and loved Philip. 

The Development of Backbench
By Robert Walmsley (2015)
 

From early on I saw the Geddes Prize as an opportunity to work on a lasting journalistic project. Backbench is a student-run website which provides a platform for young people across the country to write opinion pieces for the first time. Aspiring writers, typically at sixth form or university, contact us with an article they would like to submit and then we work with them to publish it on our website.

 

I first got involved with the website in 2012, during its early months, when we had only a few writers. Now, we have published hundreds of pieces by over a hundred different writers. This meant that when I first heard about the £1,000 offered with the Geddes Prize, I knew that I would like to invest the money in expanding our readership by developing a mobile phone app for Backbench.

 

Up to the point where we won the Geddes prize, Backbench had been run without a budget and out of our own pockets so the £1,000 provided to us by the Geddes Trust meant a lot to us. Indeed, without funding we would never have been able to fund the development of the app by ourselves.

 

Our motivation for proposing the project to the Geddes Trust was that we knew to continue to build our audience, we needed to embrace the smart phone revolution. The problem became clearer when we discovered that 35% of our website hits came from people using either a phone or tablet, even though our website was not optimised for reading on these sort of devices. We were also aware that a great deal of our web traffic came from people finding our articles on social media. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook, which are increasingly accessed through mobile devices. We had previously tried using the social magazine app Google Currents to host Backbench on smartphones. However, this failed to catch on, with Google scrapping Google Currents altogether in November 2013.

 

This experience convinced us that we needed our own platform. We wanted to provide our content in a way which was reliable, independent, and Backbench-approved. All of this led us to conclude that we needed to develop an app specifically for people’s phones and tablets – a space on our reader’s devices where they would be able to access our articles and social media accounts in an integrated way.

 

Our challenge lay in the fact that, although as a team we possessed a lot of editorial experience, we didn’t possess much knowledge of programming. For example, I had edited the University of Oxford newspaper Cherwell, but had no background in software development. In the end, the solution we found was to use app design software called GoodBarber to streamline our design choices, whilst leaving extensive room for customisation. We favoured this over finding a developer to build the app with for a couple of reasons. For one, we felt that this approach would allow us to choose the design of the app, without relying on a developer to interpret our ideas. Price was also a major consideration for us – by my estimate we would be able to pay for the development and hosting of the app for several years using GoodBarber, whereas by using an independent developer we would not have been able to afford even half as much.

 

We finally began work on the app on July 14 2015 and hoped to complete an initial app design within four weeks. Our aim when developing the app was to make it simple and easy to use, whilst also drawing attention to particular sections like the Westminster Hub, where we post our content focusing on Westminster politics. Our founder Sam Bright also had the idea of choosing the best articles on the site to appear on the app.

 

Our anticipated launch date was Monday 31 August, but this ended up being delayed until Friday October 23 2015. In my view this happened for a couple of reasons – foremost of which was we had been redeveloping the Backbench website in parallel with developing the app, which had taken longer than anticipated and thus delayed the app as well. Another major factor was that many of us involved in Backbench also had to juggle this with preparing for our final year of university.

Despite the delay in launching the app, I feel that this paid off in the end as we were able to launch an app that we were truly satisfied with. Indeed, since we have launched the app we have received almost entirely positive feedback and it has been downloaded as far away as Hollywood, California. All in all, we felt that in developing the app, we were able to live up to the aims of the Philip Geddes Memorial Prize’s by creating a platform on which people will be able to more easily access the work of young journalists. 

 

The free app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or for Android through the Google play store.

 

You can visit the Backbench website here, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Geddes Prize winners 2015 announced

Left to right: Graham Mather, Wes Williams (Professor of French Literature), Christopher Wilson (founding Geddes

trustee), Lyse Doucet, Keith Gull, Robert Walmsley, James Elliot, Carola Binney and Sam Maywood

The Geddes Prize is awarded to Robert Walmsley of Balliol College. He is one of the founders of Backbench, a student-run website which encourages students to write about current affairs and gives them a platform to develop their writing and their ideas. He plans to spend his prize money on new App platforms to help deliver his website. Chair of the Philip Geddes Memorial Prize Graham Mather said: "We are all delighted to be making possible this innovative bridge to encourage new student journalists. Robert's own journalism is of high quality, both on news stories and in longer, thoughtful commentary pieces."

 

The inaugural Ronnie Payne prize is awarded to Carola Binney of Magdalen College. Her work has already been featured in The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph. She intends to use the prize money to fund an internship at The Hindustan Times in New Delhi, an English-language newspaper with a readership of 3.8 million, where she will work on the online and weekend desks. Mr MAther said: "Her work is beautifully written, imaginative and thought-provoking drawing on a powerful and questioning intellect. We are sure her internship in India will broaden the scope of an already very talented young journalist."

 

The Clive Taylor Prize for sports journalism has been awarded to Sam Maywood of St Edmund Hall. His sports journalism is attractive and accessible and the judges commended him for finding his own niche - reporting on Oxford rowing and the Boat Race which, despite their prevalence in the national press, often go unrecorded by student media. They were also impressed with his plans to complete an internship at a national paper having already done so with a local newspaper and the BBC. His project though will be focused on a very different area, Anglo-Soviet scientific exchanges of the 1960s. Mr Mather said: "He is a wide-ranging, inquiring and stimulating journalist who we think will go far."

 

The St Edmund Hall Prize was given to James Elliott. His work so far has focused on campaigning issues, occupations, the far right and cuts. He intends to use the prize money to investigate on the grassroots elements of the ruling Syriza party in Greece.

Philip Geddes' name included in the list of journalists who gave their lives in pursuit of their craft at the Newseum in Washington DC.

 

In May, nearly thirty years after his death, Philip Geddes' name was added to the Journalists' Memorial in Washington DC.

The Memorial commemorates 2,244 reporters, photographers, broadcasters and news executives from around the world who gave their lives in pursuit of their calling.  Its all-inclusive list of names goes back to 1837.

Philip's name was introduced alongside that of Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times journalist killed while covering the Syrian conflict in 2012.  Tribute was paid to them by Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, who was himself kidnapped and held captive for five days in Syria.

"Journalists take risks," he said, "in order to understand the world and how it changes.

"We go to where the cracks are."

Engel added that the honoured journalists died "doing what they loved.  They died in the line of duty with their boots on and their pen in hand."

 

Read more here.

Geddes Prize winner Emma Brockes (SEH, 1996)

 

a New York-based correspondent for The Guardian, has received universal praise for her best-selling memoir, "She Left Me The Gun" (Faber), a combination of dedicated journalism and inspired writing.

 

Read the Guardian book review here

Read the New York Times book review here

Press awards for Guardian and Observer journalists
www.guardian.co.uk

 

By Ben Quinn, Wednesday 9 May 2012

 

The Guardian's Egypt correspondent, Jack Shenker, has won the best print article award in the news category at the One World Media Awards for his report on how dozens of African migrants attempting to reach Europe were left to die in the Mediterranean by western military units.

 

Shenker last year revealed the story of the boat, originally crammed with 72 sub-Saharan African migrants, which set sail from the shores of Tripoli bound for the Italian island of Lampedusa – only to wash back up on the north African coastline 15 days later with barely anyone left alive.

The news award jury said that the piece "tells one of the great untold stories – the plight of migrants".

 

"It was well-researched and well presented, with chilling and authentic voices," they added.

 

A piece for The Observer by Will Storr won the press award for an investigation that was described as "the first major piece of journalism to highlight and examine the issue of the rape of men in the Congo as a weapon of war".

 

The jury described the story as "investigative journalism at its best," Storr travelled to Uganda with Christian Aid to report on the Refugee Law Project, which deals with the issue of sexual attacks on men who fled from the conflict across the border.

 

The awards, which are in their 24th year and aim to reward the most outstanding media coverage of the developing world, were presented on Tuesday at Kings Place in London by the Channel 4 News anchor, Jon Snow.

 

Felicity Lawrence, a special correspondent for The Guardian, was one of two nominees for the journalist of the year award, which was won by Jamal Osman, a Somali-born journalist working for Channel 4.

 

Lawrence has recently reported from Europe, Africa and the Americas in a series of investigations which, the award jury said, showed "how corporate power, tax justice, labour rights and environmental degradation connect the western consumer with the lives of the world's poorest".

 

There were also nominations in the press category for Mark Townsend, the Observer's home affairs editor, and Declan Walsh, the Guardian's correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2011.

 

Townsend was nominated for his exploration of Britain's sex trade and the young women and children who are its victims, for which he detailed the case of a Nigerian teenager who went missing from a council care home in the UK.

 

Walsh was nominated for a piece published in G2 on the under-reported war being waged by the Pakistani military in the western province of Balochistan, which was a combination of first-hand reports and analysis.

 

In the sustainable development category, the Crowded Planet series produced by Guardian's environment team, led by environment correspondent Fiona Harvey, got nomination.

 

The series, which presented articles from China, Zambia, Tanzania, Japan, the US and India, examined the issues the surrounding the seven billion global population milestone.

My experiences working as a journalist in Ghana

By Camilla Turner (2011)
 

This summer I travelled to Ghana to work as a freelance journalist, after winning the Philip Geddes Memorial Prize.

 

I chose Ghana as I thought it would be fascinating to work as a journalist somewhere with radically different cultural, social and political mores to those of England. While researching where to go, I discovered Accra’s vibrant and liberal press community, which had been growing since the birth of the Fourth Republic in 1992 and the relaxation of Ghana’s media laws. The wide range and variety of English language newspapers seemed to present a plethora of journalistic opportunities for aspiring freelancers .

 

But my earliest observation about the media in Ghana was their lack of use of internet, an immediate and radical departure from their Western counterparts. Of the many newspapers with office headquarters in Accra, few had an online presence, and those which did had only skeleton websites. This made it near impossible to organise a placement at a newspaper in advance: few newspapers gave contact details on line and my emails and phone calls went unanswered. 

 

Undeterred, I arrived in Accra, and from one of the many stalls selling papers in the bustling city centre I noted down the addresses of all the newspaper offices .    

Equipped with my CV and cover letter from the Geddes Trust, I went round the various newspaper offices in Accra, starting at TheDaily Graphic, Ghana's largest circulation and longest established paper. Desperate for an on the spot "yes", I left the Graphic offices slightly disheartened after being told "We'll call you later in the week" by the Human Resources officer.

 

My next stop was The Daily Dispatch, a much smaller privately owned paper, run out of one tiny office. The response here was much more positive: upon my arrival, the Deputy Editor immediately invited me out for lunch with the editorial team. Despite having already eaten lunch, I politely gulped down a very large bowl of "fou-fou", a traditional Ghanaian dish of soft dough, meat and fish in a soup.  

 

My unfaltering appetite must have impressed them. The Editor said I could start work the next day. At The Daily Dispatch, I learnt a lot about Ghanaian media culture, and hence, popular interest. The front page lead each day was politically themed, often an overt attack on a political party, and this was not uncommon for Ghanaian papers. In fact, in the week while I was working at the paper the furore with which the media was splashing headlines about the main political parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the Peoples' National Congress (PNC) in the run up to Ghana’s general elections, culminated in the calling of an emergency conference of politicians and journalists.

 

I quickly learnt that most newspapers took a firm stance in supporting either NDC or PNC, with a strong tendency to launch personalized attacks on individual politicians in the opposing party. The recent trend for these personal political attacks to be along ethnic lines was seen as particularly worrying, and this was the prime reason for the calling of the emergency conference. The ethno-political divisions of Rwanda which had led to the genocide of 1994, when hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were killed at the hands of the Hutus, served as a constant reminder to all African nations of what an escalation in ethnic tensions can lead to.

 

Many at the conference voiced the importance of press regulation, and the responsibility of the press not to polarize opinions, especially along ethnic lines. It was fascinating to see how in Ghana the explosion of ethno-political attacks had led to calls for closer regulation and professionalism in journalism – while meanwhile in England the revelations of phone hacking at the News of the World were making headlines which would later led to similar demands for tighter press regulation.

 

A few days into my time at The Daily Dispatch, I got a call from The Daily Graphic, saying they had approved my papers and would like me to begin my placement there the next week. I was working there when the next major media controversy to sweep Ghana came: this time the issue was homophobia. This storm had been brewing since The Daily Graphic published a report alleging that 8000 homosexuals were “registered” by an NGO as living in and around the city, and that the majority were infected with HIV. This sparked a wave of homophobic demonstrations and a torrent of media abuse in the newspapers and on the radio.

 

In addition to my day to day work based at the newspaper offices, which included going to various conferences and events and writing up reports, I wrote an expose of the spate of machete attacks on western volunteers working on human rights and hospital projects in Accra for The Daily Graphic. Along with two friends, I also carried out an extensive investigation into the widespread phenomenon of football trafficking and the associated human rights abuses. This was published as a lead feature in the sport supplement of The Daily Graphic.

 

Living and working in Accra gave me a fascinating insight into the workings of the media in a foreign country, by seeing the matters which are reported on, how they are reported, and the reception from the public. It also allowed me to pursue my own stories and investigative work in a completely new social, cultural and political environment. I would not have been able to embark upon, or even been able to consider working as a journalist in Ghana without the sum of money awarded to me by the Geddes Trust. I am very grateful to the Philip Geddes Memorial Award.

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