Local monthly makes shortlist for Paul Foot Award

A journalist from a free monthly local newspaper is named alongside five national press reporters in the shortlist for this year’s Paul Foot Award for Campaigning Journalism.

Editor of the Johnston Press-owned Rossington Community Newsletter, Jim Oldfield, has been nominated for the campaigning stance taken by his paper against plans to site an ‘eco-town’in the South Yorkshire village.

Also included in the nominees is Press Gazette British Press Awards journalist of the year, Andrew Gilligan, for his investigation into financial irregularities in the mayoral administration of Ken Livingstone.

The £5,000 first prize will be presented on 3 November in London and each of the five runners up will receive £1,000.

  • The shortlisted journalists are:
  • Richard Brooks of Private Eye
  • Camilla Cavendish of The Times
  • Andrew Gilligan of the Evening Standard
  • Warwick Mansell of The Times Educational Supplement
  • Dan McDougall of The Observer
  • Jim Oldfield of Rossington Community Newsletter, South Yorkshire Newspapers

The award was set up by The Guardian and Private Eye in memory of journalist Paul Foot who died in 2004. This year it was judged by Clare Fermont, Bill Hagerty, Ian Hislop, Richard Ingrams, Brian MacArthur (chair), Alan Rusbridger, and Michelle Stanistreet.

The following are excerpts from the judges’ citations::

Richard Brooks, Private Eye

Early in 2007 Richard Brooks discovered, buried away in a memo submitted to a Public Accounts Committee enquiry into the government’s management of shareholdings in various corporations, a highly valuable but largely unheard of fund management company called Actis. Brooks then wrote a series of articles exposing the sale of a key government international development business to the organisation’s own management for a fraction of its value, and the transformation of an effective development body into a money-making machine for executives at the expense of the world’s poor.

Camilla Cavendish, The Times

The outrageous miscarriages of justice which are being perpetrated on children, because unaccountable social workers are removing them from parents in closed courts with virtually no scrutiny, have been raised before. But in a series of articles for The Times, Camilla Cavendish provided a more detailed analysis of the many injustices which result from the Children’s Act 1989 and from the professional cultures which have grown up around child ‘protection’– and in a sustained way which will force the authorities to think again.

Andrew Gilligan, Evening Standard

Andrew Gilligan’s investigation exposed the so-called ‘Lee Jasper affair,’serious financial irregularities in London’s City Hall and the London Development agency, involving a senior aide to the then Mayor, Ken Livingstone. The investigation has so far resulted in six police enquiries, seven arrests and Mr Jasper’s resignation and was credited by some, including Mr Livingstone, with his defeat in the recent mayoral election.

Warwick Mansell, Times Educational Supplement

Warwick Mansell wrote extensively about the Government’s school testing/exams regime, including the first major story on the Sats test marking scandal which led to the late return of thousands of pupils’ test papers and the sacking of test contractor ETS Europe, and the first story bringing together opposition across the education profession to the Government’s league tables/targets/testing regime of school accountability. There was also a follow-up exclusive on problems with the possible successor to the Sats tests.

Dan McDougall, The Observer

In 2007/2008, in his third year as The Observer’s South Asia Correspondent, undercover investigations carried out by Dan McDougall in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have led to the shaming of three of the world’s top five retailers, Esprit, Primark and Gap Inc, all for using children in their supply chains. International exposes that led to all three firms sacking or fining major suppliers, cancelling millions of pounds worth of contracts and launching multi million pound social funds; in Gap’s case a $5000,000 gift to build community centres in some of India’s poorest cities and in Primark’s the establishment of the multi-million pound Better Lives Foundation, promising to invest in social programmes in the developing world. During his investigations into sweatshops over the past year McDougall has himself been beaten and threatened.

Jim Oldfield, Rossington Community Newsletter, South Yorkshire Newspapers

Before Britain at large had ever heard of Eco-towns, The Rossington Community Newsletter was featuring the activities of a group of landowners and speculators to plant one in the village of Rossington – Rossington Eco-Town – apparently against the wishes of 13,000-odd residents. In month-by-month reporting the Community Newsletter has:

  • ‘Outed’one local councilor for helping frame this and other developments while not declaring his interest as a significant landowner, in partnership with former Metro Centre developer and Newcastle United chairman Sir John Hall.
  • Run a village poll which showed the residents to be overwhelmingly against development of their village.
  • Exposed the Government’s short-listing of the Rossington eco-town bid as having a huge number of houses planned for Green Belt land. In the face of the resultant national newspaper publicity, the Government u-turned and said no Green Belt land would be used for Eco-towns…and the Rossington bid was cut from 15,000 houses to 5,000.
  • Continued fighting the resident’s corner. The latest edition exposed a ‘public launch consultation’of the revised bid, at which only supporters of the bid turned up to meet a visiting Government Minister – because no opponents had been told of it! Within minutes of their arrival, the Newsletter contacted opponents and ensured they turned up, to make the consultation representative.

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