Five weeks pounding the streets of Glasgow interviewing some of the city’s most violent people has earned David Leask the accolade of Scottish Daily Newspaper Society Journalist of the Year.
Leask was working for the Evening Times at the time of his investigation into Glasgow’s gang culture, but is now home affairs correspondent for sister title The Herald.
His inquiry, carried out with photographer Lenny Warren, resulted in about 35 pages of coverage, culminating in a unique map showing the city’s 110 gangs. Leask, 39, who entered journalism relatively late at the age of 30 after a first career as a translator, said: “Each scheme [housing estate] in Glasgow has its own little gang, some going back generations – one dates back to the First World War.
“In total, there are 2,000 members of 110 gangs in the city. Basically we got an Ordnance Survey map out and mapped the gangs, spoke to them and wrote about them. We just did a lot of basic, old-fashioned walking up and down the streets talking to people.”
During the investigation, Warren photographed every single menchie, or graffiti tag, used by the gangs.
Leask warned that Glasgow’s violent gang culture appeared to be moving outside the city.
“Gang culture is spreading further south – this is something happening in some of the traditional working-class schemes and spreading out to the suburbs and well-to-do areas,” he said.
When asked how he had gained gang members’ trust, he said: “It was just down to having no side at all.
“Treat them with respect. These aren’t all evil people. They may have sharpened golf clubs or table legs with nails in them, but if you’re non-threatening, there’s no real danger there if you’re careful. They are threatened by other gangs – not by old geezers.”
Leask added: “We deliberately went out of our way not to editorialise. We just described things as they were. The only complaint we had was that some of the gangs thought we didn’t feature them enough. We were inundated with emails and photos.”
The awards judges said of Leask’s work: “He succeeded in getting under the skin of Glasgow’s street-gang culture and explaining the inexplicable to readers.”
For a full list of winners, see the People section on page 24. See Expert Eye page 23 for a closer look at the Evening Times