Times journalist Deborah Haynes has won the inaugural Rat Up A Drainpipe award for her investigation into the plight of Iraqi interpreters who had received death threats for collaborating with British forces.
Haynes, who was presented the award by BBC correspondent Andrew Marr at the Society of Editors gala dinner last night, was praised for her stories on the persecution the translators faced when the forces withdrew.
It prompted foreign secretary David Miliband to offer sanctuary to the interpreters or provide an alternative cash payment if they stayed in the region.
“Here is somebody who dug out a difficult story, pursued it in one of our great national newspapers again and again and caused no doubt intense embarrassment in Whitehall as a result and who has actually changed things and made things better,” Marr said last night.
Accepting the award, Haynes said: “Although policy has been changed it’s still woefully insufficient and people are suffering. There’s still a lot of stories there to be told.”
The new Rat Up A Drainpipe award aims to recognise journalists who have rocked the boat and broken genuine exclusives – and was set up in honour of the late Independent political editor Tony Bevins, who died in 2001.
Marr told the Society of Editors last night that the newspaper industry needed to do more to “market itself” and explain “why newspapers matter”.
He said: “We have all been brought up in a world where it was obvious that journalism mattered. We didn’t have to talk about it – they would buy our product. That seems to be beginning to end. That seems to be in trouble.”
Marr also made an impassioned plea for newspaper owners to protect their reporters from any cost-cutting initiatives and focus their cuts on other parts of the business.
“Please, trash the supplements, trash the columnists, fire the editorial writers but don’t fire the frontline reporters. Those are the people we depend on,” he said.