Inspiring Paul Foot Awards finalists show UK investigative journalism in great shape

Anyone suffering from jaded-journalist syndrome would be well advised to check out the work of the five Paul Foot Award finalists for inspiration.

The days of the lavishly resourced Sunday Times insight team style investigations of the 1970s may be gone. But despite the more straitened circumstances all journalists work in today there are some amazing investigations going on which have made a difference and exposed cover-ups, injustice and scandal.

MPs’ expenses at the Telegraph made 2009 a vintage year for UK investigative journalism, and on the basis of last night’s winnners – 2010 has been just as good.

The winner, Clare Sambrook showed that being a freelance working on your own is no bar to doing in-depth investigative work. She is a cross between a campaigner and a journalist and highlighted the previously secret practice of children being seized and imprisoned because they have come to the UK seeking asylum. Her latest piece in Private Eye details how the Coalition Government is back-peddling on a promise to ban the practice. This piece by her from March reveals the terrible tale of a 14-year-old Afghan boy who was imprisoned because the authorities thought he was an adult while his 17-year-old brother was not.

The work of the Evening Standard’s David Cohen on The Dispossessed – London’s forgotten poor – shows that the fact your newspaper is free is no bar  to producing an amazing investigation. He revealed that four out of ten children in London live in poverty and that thousands of London’s less well-off end up being buried in unmarked paupers’ graves. So far the Standard’s charity fund to help London’s poor, launched as part of the campaign, has raised around £5m.

Eamonn McCann has spent 38 years campaigning to get the British Government to admit the truth about the killing of 13 un-armed civil rights protestors on Bloody Sunday, a goal which was spectacularly accomplished in June this year. He attended nearly every day of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, paying his only way to get to the hearings and staying at the homes of supporters.

Work from the New Scientist’s Linda Geddes has revealed the flaws in relying on DNA evidence to secure criminal convictions because of the statistical blunders that have been made at trials.

The Guardian’s Nick Davies has proven that nowhere is out of bounds for an investigative journalist – even fellow journalists, with his probe into phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World.

And who will ever forget the amazing admission wrung out of former Transport Minister Stephen Byers as part of Claire Newell and Jonathan Calvert‘s  Sunday Times cash-for-influence investigation?

“I’m a bit like a sort of cab for hire” – at anything up to £5,000 a day.

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