Kuba Shand-Baptiste has been named as the first winner of the Barbara Blake-Hannah award for an up-and-coming journalist from a BAME background.
Shand-Baptiste was nominated for her work on the Voices comment section of The Independent. She has since joined The Conversation as society and arts editor.
Blake-Hannah, 79, was the first regular black on-screen TV news reporter in the UK in 1968, but was sacked by Thames TV because of racist letters sent in by viewers.
She broke the news that Shand-Baptiste had won the prize via a video call from her home in Jamaica.
She said: “I’m so honoured to have this award presented by Press Gazette in my name and I’m so pleased to let you know you are the first wearer of this title.”
Shand-Baptiste said: “Coming from you especially this is fantastic. I did not expect this, I thought you were going to ask me how to spell my name or something.”
She told Press Gazette: “I got into journalism because there was nothing else I could do but write and it has always been my passion.
“I saw that the industry was notoriously difficult to get into if you didn’t know anyone and if you didn’t have any contacts.
“I’ve been introduced to lots of other black journalists, in particular black women journalists who’ve taken me under their wing and given me indispensable advice. I just felt like I wanted to do that for as many people as possible and working at Voices I feel like I’ve had that opportunity to sort of pass the baton on and let people take up the mantle and take up space in the industry in ways that I hadn’t really seen.
“I never, ever thought I would be awarded in any way. So thank you so much. This is amazing.”
The award was created after journalist Bree Johnson-Obeng interviewed Blake-Hannah for Sky News this year. She got in touch with Press Gazette with the idea of creating an award to recognise Blake-Hannah.
This chimed with efforts Press Gazette was making to improve the diversity of journalists entering the British Journalism Awards.
Helped by sponsorship from Google, Press Gazette made entry to the 2020 British Journalism Awards free for any female and/or BAME journalists who did not have an employer willing to sponsor their entry. The initiative resulted in around 200 supported entries being submitted to this year’s event.
Johnson-Obeng said: “I am so happy that the British Journalism Awards have agreed to make a new category for black, Asian and minority ethnic talent. I feel like it is long overdue but better late than never.
“It’s always challenging to be black but especially this year when we have seen tensions rise to the forefront with the death of George Floyd. I hope this is the start of something great for black people in journalism.”
In Shand-Baptiste’s awards nomination, The Independent said: “Kuba has been a tireless campaigner for not having writers, including herself, placed in easily-definable boxes. Kuba possesses a lightness of touch that allows her to turn her hand to almost any subject – and yet offer the reader something thoughtful, insightful or just plain funny – and often all at once.”
The winner of the Barbara Blake-Hannah Award receives a week-long trip for two to Jamaica courtesy of the Jamaica Tourist Board.