2020 has been anything but normal and sadly the highlight of our calendar, the MJA Awards Ceremony, will have to be a virtual event this year.
Nevertheless, our awards have once more demonstrated that health and medical journalism is alive and kicking. Your entries came in before the start of the Covid pandemic so don’t reflect your excellent reporting on that epochal catastrophe. But they do show the breadth, depth and excellence of UK health and medical journalism. Congratulations to all our finalists and thanks to our sponsors and our hard working judges.
The winners of the awards will be announced live here on our website at 12 noon on Wednesday September 23, 2020. I do hope you will join us for our awards online via this link. And members, if you’d like to join the MJA’s watch party, click here.
Lawrence McGinty, Chair MJA
The finalists of the MJA Awards 2020 are…
Charity Writer or Broadcaster of the Year
For the best written, visual or audio communications for a charity publication or website.
British Heart Foundation magazine Heart Matters: Healing Words
Judges said this entry encompasses all that is important for a charity entry; a powerful case history, identification of a solution to help recovery, ie writing, which worked, third party endorsement and tips to help others.
Blesma Magazine: The bond that survived 75 years of separation
Judges said, a phenomenal human-interest story, which is beautifully and sensitively written. The piece does an exceptionally powerful job of highlighting the charity’s extraordinary work.
The Royal Society Website: Scientists with disabilities
Judges thought this was an impressive set of case histories for The Royal Society website, all the case histories were extremely interesting and readable for the lay audience and certainly provided tangible evidence that disability need not be a barrier to achieving success across a range of scientific disciplines.
Blogger of the Year
This could be posts from a personal blog or posts written for a blogging platform. The judges were looking for evidence of a blogger’s impact, reader engagement, online hits, and reader feedback. Entrants could submit three examples of work.
Health Service Journal online: The Interrogator. A fortnightly blog that provides NHS leaders with insight into how health and care systems are developing across England Blog Posts submitted
Judges admired Sharon for taking a unique approach to blogging that puts her original newsgathering and reporting front and centre of her posts. They could see how her column could become a must-read for her target audience.
Judges praised Laura for pitching her pieces perfectly for her audience. They said she writes both clearly and emotionally so that she can make an important point while also encouraging the reader to feel along with her.
Judges said Lawrence brings real clarity and robustness to his writing on the notoriously inaccessible topic of NHS finances shedding much-needed light on an area of public spending that ultimately impacts everyone but where transparency is in short supply
Judges said Daniel is willing to choose a difficult subject and argue with passion a position that not all readers are going to agree with. In a field where open debate is vital to progress, dissenters like Daniel are essential.
Podcast of the Year
Elisabeth Mahase (clinical news reporter), Duncan Jarvies (multimedia editor)
Judges considered this a powerful podcast – and a brave choice of subject as its intention was to engage a broad audience – which it successfully did. Excellent editing, as well as the content, made the podcast compelling and showed journalism at its best.
Flavia Munn (editor), Richard Hatchett (senior nurse editor)
Nursing Standard: Top tips for nursing students
Judges thought the podcast was perfectly targeted for the audience. The inclusion of nurses with different backgrounds and experiences meant the voices were varied, engaging and gave a real flavour of the challenges of nursing today.
The Second Circle podcast (Series 3: Other Kinds Of Sex): Sex… with HIV
Judges thought this a distinctly upbeat podcast, looking at a challenging subject. Presented through candid and irreverent conversations, results in it being informative as well as entertaining.
Newcomer of the Year
Entrants who have been working in health and medical journalism for under 36 months
Daily Mail: HRT shortage
Judges said Eleanor made a big impact by her skilful handling and development of this important story. Her writing is excellent, addressing difficulties encountered by manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, clinicians and above all the women whose HRT is disrupted.
Judges liked the way Constanza got to grips with a big controversial issue in her first week at Pulse, managing the data with assurance and authority to tell an important story. They said the piece covers a range of complex concerns which she conveys with clarity, backed up by a strong case study.
Judges liked the way Ellie highlighted an important concern as we see more GP consultations shift to a digital setting. They said she handles her interview material well and praised the fact her first ever story was picked up in a national paper.
Regional Reporter of the Year
Health Service Journal: Exclusive: Reviews reveal crisis situation in mental health services
Judges said an excellent, exclusive report written for HSJ, revealing two damning reviews of mental health services in Lancashire. The story was subsequently covered by all the newspapers in the area.
The 9, BBC Scotland: Pesticide
Judges thought this an outstanding piece of investigative journalism, which began life as a regional news piece and went on to be broadcast to an international audience. This journalist has shown great skill and tenacity in bringing the untold story about the life-saving work of University of Edinburgh Professor Michael Eddleston to a global audience.
Judges thought this a powerful piece of local investigative journalism, featuring the moving story of a grandfather from Great Yarmouth and his addiction to opioids, how it affected him and how he overcame it. The story was subsequently picked up by the national press.
Mental Health Story of the Year
Supported by Edelman
News, feature or broadcast package on mental health issues.
Marjorie Wallace, Chief Executive, SANE and a judge for this category said. Having spent most of my career as an investigative writer, I was delighted with this year’s entries, which show that true campaigning journalism still thrives
Paul Kelso (correspondent), Rachel Lucas (producer), Emily Dumas (editor)
Judges thought Paul’s piece a prime example of campaigning broadcasting at its best, highlighting the shocking way in which we fail to treat children and young people with mental illness. The use of poignant case studies, blended with well-researched statistics, achieved its intended impact
Eastern Daily Press: #EDPOpenUp
Judges said that Geraldine once again proves herself in these articles about men’s mental health an effective reporter on an important issue
Judges said that while anti-depressants can form an important part of treatment, Ben’s exposure of their side-effects and downsides should help inform both patients and doctors and make for more considered decisions.
Nick Triggle with data analysis by Clara Guibourg, Ed Lowther and Oliver Price
BBC website, radio and TV news: Hidden mental health waits ‘leave mental health patients in limbo’
Judges thought Nick responsive, reliable and balanced in his coverage and an important contributor in the field of mental health. His good judgement is again on show in this report.
The Dr David Delvin Award for sex and sexual health journalism
Supported by Christine Webber
Awarded for an article, TV or radio programme that gives good information about sex and sexual health for the general reader/viewer. It is in memory of Dr David Delvin made possible by the support of his widow Christine Webber.
MEL magazine: It’s Time to Ditch the Entire Concept of ‘Foreplay’
Judges said Franki brings clarity and humour to stigmatised and difficult subjects, writing with compassion and bringing unheard voices to the fore. This piece explores and challenges the “timetable” of traditional penetrative sex and the role of foreplay deftly and convincingly
Red magazine: I lost my sexual identity to cancer
Judges were impressed with the sympathetic and poignant interview with the case history and the sensitive writing which bring home the devastating impact of breast cancer on relationships
BBC Inside Out BBC Birmingham: the backstreet trade in STi treatments
Judges praised this as “A great stigma busting expose”, an excellent piece of investigative journalism exposing the illegal and unlicensed trade in drugs to treat a stigmatised illness. Not only does Johnathan explain the embarrassment that makes people resort to buying medication online but then does the serious leg work to catch the criminals.
The Herald (Scotland): Botched smear test left me with uncontrollable orgasms…it’s wrecked my life
Judges described this as an unusual and disturbing story exposing the dangers of poorly conducted smear tests and congratulated Helen in encouraging a case history to tell her story frankly
Feature of the Year (specialist audience)
Judges said the standard was not just high but very high. There was lots of painstaking, thorough reporting, and some strong colour writing, laced with human interest in these entries, and about issues that really matter. Any one of the finalists would have been a worthy winner.
The Doctor Magazine: Fighting the Tide
Judges said of this investigation for the BMA into homelessness: Statistics to prove the case, both nationally and locally, were well used. The human interest was strong. And it was not just an account of a rising problem – it was also an account of what to do about it. A fine piece of ultimately uplifting multi-media reporting.
Brendan Borrell (investigative reporter), Apoorva Mandavilli (editor), Kristin Ozelli (editor)
Judges thought this a thoroughly researched and truly horrifying account of the false hope being offered by those selling stem cell treatments for autism in the United States. Reading it makes you shudder.
Judges said: There is just enough human interest to make the issue stark, real and emotive. But that is then backed by a sweeping cross-country analysis of the problem. Tautly written and telling, The Parrots Eat ‘Em All it is a fine example of precisely why people buy The Economist.
New Scientist: Bad Medicine
Judges thought this piece much subtler than just a questioning of the pharmaceutical industry’s obvious interest in swift approval and widespread sales. It acknowledges the demand from desperate patients for the new and effective, and the understandable desire of some clinicians to do something rather than nothing.
British Journalism Review: Trust me, I write about doctors
Judges thought this piece distilled the wisdom of several decades spent in almost all aspects of medical journalism. It spells out the lessons learnt, errors made, pitfalls to avoid, and challenges faced. It is an excellent, and witty, short primer for anyone starting out in medical journalism.
Judges said: Liz’s piece is in a long and honourable tradition of doctors seeking to explain to doctors just what it is like to be a patient, and how little clinicians can know, despite their daily calling. The experience put Liz, despite her knowledge, through the emotional wringer, and her piece does that to the reader.
Feature of the Year (broadcast)
Supported by MSD
Lesley Curwen (presenter), Fiona Hill (producer)
BBC Radio Science production for BBC Radio 4: Stem Cell, Hard Sell
Judges said this made them gasp out loud at times, it was a really interesting programme, well researched and with interesting interviewees.
Katie Goodman (producer), Christina Michaels (producer), Claudia Liza Armah (Presenter) and Nick Frost (Programme Editor)
Channel 5: Mental Health: Breaking The Silence
Judges appreciated that the entry tackled a subject that is still under reported. They thought it an unusual entry as it was studio based with guests and inserted clips, using original visual devices and an excellent selection of panellists.
Dominic Hughes (correspondent), Rachael Buchanan (producer)
BBC 1 TV Six o’clock News: The story of a transplant
Judges said the programme was well researched with a nicely presented case study.
Special Mention for editing: Lee Mears
The Economist: Vaping: what people are getting wrong
Judges were really impressed with the editing of this report, especially the use of historic footage. They thought it was extremely imaginative and creative.
Feature of the Year (general audience)
The Mail on Sunday: Deadly Propaganda of the Statin Deniers
The judges were impressed with this controversial and hard-hitting story..
Judges said this was a beautifully written and illustrated feature blending the perspectives of national leaders with the daily reality of people on the frontline citing staff shortages, failed targets and poor planning.
Kate Kelland, Pavel Polityuk
Judges said this was a well researched story revealing the social, medical and political factors that led to one of the largest outbreaks of measles in the world. They were impressed with the rigour and depth of the feature.
The Sunday Times Magazine: The Hidden Epidemic
Judges were impressed with how well Matt set out the health challenge with compelling statistics and authoritative interviews and quotes. They praised the quality of writing and the strength of Matt’s argument and the hopeful and positive message the feature conveys to diabetics about changing their behaviours.
Judges said this was a difficult subject written with respect and dignity for the empowerment of patients given a terminal diagnosis. A worthy contributor who thoroughly deserved to be on the shortlist.
News Story of the Year (specialist audience)
Judges said this was investigative journalism at its very best. Seizing on random comments on Twitter this wide-ranging follow-up exposed an unedifying culture of sexism; revelations which prompted an independent inquiry that made 31 recommendations for change, all of which are being implemented.
Chemist+Druggist: Pharmacy staff suffer shortages in every major medicine category
Judges described this as a penetrating piece that had a huge impact and forced government action. It exposed the damaging physical and psychological impact on pharmacists of sustained shortages and unmet patient expectations. A specialist publication serving its audience in textbook fashion.
Lawrence Dunhill, Nick Carding
Health Service Journal: Exclusive: Capital billions promised by ministers fail to reach ‘front line’
Judges praised “good, hard graft” as being the key to this compelling story revealing that only a tiny fraction of government claims to be boosting capital spending in the NHS has resulted in money reaching the front line. A tenacious investigation based on forensic analysis of reports and accounts and effect use of freedom of information requests.
News Story of the Year (broadcast)
Supported by Roche
Rachael Buchanan (producer/director) Fergus Walsh (correspondent) Julius Peacock (cameraman and editor) Tony Fallshaw (cameraman) Joanne McDonald (graphics)
BBC Six O Clock News: Separation of conjoined twins Safa and Marwa
Judges described this as a brilliant piece of journalism, particularly in its breadth and depth. It tackled stories across the human as well as the medical, science and ethical issues. It was also a great coup to gain access to the separation of conjoined twins. Beautifully shot, great graphics and precisely scripted.
Charlotte Lomas-Farley (correspondent) Rachel Lucas (producer)
Sky News: Deaths in Care
Judges said this was proper journalism on an unsexy subject sustained over many months. This commitment is increasingly hard to do and reporters and news organisations who do this kind of work need to be recognised.
5 News (Channel 5): Pharmacists refusing to dispense EpiPens due to ‘national shortage’
Judges praised this detailed investigation, backed up by a telling case history, of a scandal – the difficulty facing patients in getting prescription EpiPens. This was dedicated journalism on an issue that had profound implications – literally a matter of life and death.
News Story of the Year (general audience)
Supported by Boehringer Ingelheim
Judges thought this was a really important story and a proper exclusive that all the other papers followed up – no doubt gained by old fashioned determination and contacts.
Judges said this was a valuable and searingly honest insight into this girl’s poor treatment.
BBC website: Seriously ill wait over an hour for ambulance
Judges said this was solid research, well presented and focused on a really important and underfunded part of healthcare that costs far more lives than many realise.
Case Study of the Year
Judges commented that Aasma’s feature does what all case-history articles should do – give us genuine insight into what it feels like to be the person at the centre of the story. The young woman in question has Crohn’s disease and her ‘invisible disability’ leads to criticism and a lack of support and understanding in all manner of situations – not least when using a disabled toilet.
Judges praised these hard hitting case studies on a subject that is rarely exposed in such detail. Well written and well researched interviews that could have a major effect in encouraging young women to think twice before drinking too much.
Dominic Hughes (correspondent), Lesley Day (producer), John Boon (editor)
BBC 1 TV Six o’clock News: Motor Neurone Disease
This BBC News piece by Dominic Hughes on a new research study into Motor Neurone Disease is an example of compassionate and informative reporting at its best. Judges commended the main case study for revealing with painful clarity the huge sense of loss, despair and tragedy the illness brings to its sufferers and their families. The BBC team’s piece provides the viewer with a slim hope that repurposing existing drugs to fight MND may offer some progress in the fight against this devastating condition.
Daily Mirror: The boy in the bed next to Anthony Nolan
Judges admired the way Warren had found this amazing case study who was in the same hospital at the same time as Anthony Nolan, published to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Anthony, the little boy whose mother Shirley founded the first stem-cell donor register. They said it was a fascinating way to highlight changes in the treatment of children with leukaemia and the excellent work of the Anthony Nolan Trust.
Judges considered this an excellent piece about tongue tumours featuring a male radio presenter whose voice was threatened by the illness and the inevitable surgery. It highlights the physical and mental trauma of cancer and provides a powerful message to all of us, particularly men, not to ignore the growth of lumps or cysts.
Supported by Wiley
Judges were looking for complex and emerging science stories made clear for a lay or specialist audience. Matching explanation to audience was vital.
The Economist: Attack of the superbugs
Judges said this was a compelling article. The level of detail was well thought out, inventing patients and their quotes, it brought a new angle to a well-known subject.
James Gallagher (presenter) Deborah Cohen (producer)
Judges said this was a very comprehensive look at a difficult but important scientific topic within drug development. It was well-balanced with a good choice of interviewees and clear presentation.
All the judges agreed it is difficult to find something new about flu and praised Fiona’s effort at coming up with an original story and her ability to explain the science behind the process of developing vaccines well.
New Scientist: The only food advice you need
Judges praised Clare’s skill in explaining both the science and the scientific process which would appeal to her audience. She wrote to her audience’s level of knowledge perfectly and conveyed possible negatives of the scientific process in a positive, engaging way.
Jennifer Whyntie (producer), Anand Jagatia (presenter), Rami Tzabar (editor)
BBC World Service: CrowdScience: Do green spaces make us healthier?
Judges enjoyed listening to this programme which they said had an international vibe with the choice of guests and a topic that appealed to a global audience. They praised the presenter as “entertaining with a great voice for radio”.
Freelance of the Year
Entrants submitted three pieces of work
Judges said Fiona is a skilled journalist who can adapt her writing style for a wide variety of publications and different audiences she can sniff out a good story (no pun intended) and execute it well.
Judges said these were three very strong well-written stories on a wide range of topics. Caroline tackles subjects with great sensitivity and compassion through compelling and beautifully written pieces.
Judges thought Jo’s submissions demonstrated her ability to tackle a diverse range of subjects. Her work is well-researched and accompanied by strong case studies. We particularly liked the variety of expert opinions in all her stories.
Editor of the Year
Supported by Seqirus
This category is for editors of publications, health pages/sections, websites, or sections of larger websites. Entrants had to supply evidence of both their personal impact and their title’s, and the achievements of which they were proudest. Three pieces of work could be submitted.
Judges were impressed by the high standard of writing and imaginative use of pictures. They said the mission statement to focus on people behind the medicine was fulfilled with articles about the GP pioneer of social prescribing, a doctor in a Greek migrant camp and an interview with the medic for astronauts on the Apollo 11 moon-shot.
Judges said this was quality journalism from a small staff with limited resources. They praised the professional and clearly presented investigations into both CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and doctors’ workload. They liked the description of short staffing and long hours contrasted with the thanks and admiration they now received.
Judges felt this magazine looks good and is obviously involved with its readers with over 5000 responding to a questionnaire about working conditions. The results showed how unappreciated they felt with staff shortages of 40,000 and a lack of both resources and emotional support. This was balanced with a lavishly illustrated celebration of Florence Nightingale’s bi-centenary.
Outstanding Contribution to Health or Medical Journalism
Sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Principal Sponsor of the 2020 MJA Awards
This is the MJA’s headline award. The highest honour that can be achieved by any of our entrants.
Journalists cannot propose themselves. They are selected by our judges. After deciding on their finalists and voting for a winner, judges in each of our categories are invited to put forward the names of those they consider worthy of such an award.
Every one of the judges then has the difficult task of choosing from this list the journalist who should be given the ultimate prize.
The award recognises stories that have made waves, campaigns that have changed attitudes, coverage that has set the agenda.
This year there were three entries on the shortlist for Outstanding Contribution. The judges felt that each one was worthy of such a high accolade. These finalists will be announced along with the winner at our virtual awards ceremony at noon on Wednesday September 23, 2020
The MJA Award for Excellence in PR
Supported by the Healthcare Communications Association (HCA)
An award for excellence in PR to recognise the communications teams and PR agencies who understand what journalists really want. This award is judged by a panel of journalists, with the aim of improving the standard of releases and press materials MJA members receive. Find out more.
There is no shortlist for this Award and the winner will be announced at our virtual awards ceremony at noon on Wednesday September 23, 2020.
List of Judges of the MJA Awards 2020
Adam Brimelow , Director of communications NHS Providers; previously BBC health correspondent
David Brindle, Public services editor, the Guardian
Jerome Burne, Health journalist and campaigner
Claire Burroughs, Director of communications, policy and research, Royal College of Physicians
Peter Carter, Independent healthcare consultant and former CEO, Royal College of Nursing
Catherine Collins, Registered dietitian, media spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association
Rosalind Dewar, Media manager, Royal Society of Medicine
Natasha Donovan, Communications director HappytoHealthYou
Genevieve Edwards, Chief executive, Bowel Cancer UK
Paul Farmer, Chief executive MIND
Helene Feger, NHS director of strategy and comms for digital transformation
Richard Frediani, Editor BBC Breakfast
Bonnie Green, Consultant/ patient involvement/engagement volunteer: former health/voluntary sector public affairs
Christine Hancock, Founder and director, C3 Collaborating for Health
Nigel Hawkes, Former science editor and health editor at The Times.
Jon Hibbs, Director of communications and engagement, Barts Health NHS Trust
Nicola Hill, MJA executive committee member
Jenny Hope, Former medical correspondent of the Daily Mail and co-partner of RNA Media training and consultancy in science and health.
Tim Irish, Acting chair at NICE – National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
Anna Jefferson, Head of Media, Care Quality Commission
Paul Johnson, Freelance health journalist
Louise Jury, Director of communications, Screenskills – the industry-led skills charity for UK screen industry
Sophie Lane, Senior communications officer, Sense about Science
Lawrence McGinty, Chair, Medical Journalists’ Association
Glyn McIntosh, Director, Bishopsland Educational Trust, former chief executive QUIT.
Laura Milne, Editorial director, Movember Foundation; former health features editor, Daily Express
Emily Mobley, Media manager, Wellcome Sanger Institute
Clare Murphy, Director of external affairs, British Pregnancy Advisory Service
Vivienne Nathanson, Chair of Nathanson Health Associates
Kerry Noble, Communications consultant in medicine and science
Susan Osborne, Director of communications, The Goodwork Organisation
Nigel Praities, Executive Editor, Pharmaceutical Journal
Mark Purcell, Managing director Jonathan Street PR, health communicators
Daniel Reynolds, Director of communications, NHS Confederation
Jennifer Richardson, Features editor, The BMJ; journalism lecturer, Kingston University
Genevieve Robson, Co-founder and senior writer at Streaming Well, video for healthcare
Lee Rodwell, Health writer and author
Lois Rogers, Former health editor, Sunday Times
Barbara Rowlands, Hon research fellow in journalism. City, University of London.
Nick Samuels, Director of healthcare, Freshwater UK
Kate Sidwell, Voluntary sector communications consultant & PR.
Michele Simmons, Health journalist, editorial consultant and author
Matt Tee, Chief executive, Independent Press Standards Organisation.
Nicholas Timmins, Former public policy editor, Financial Times; senior fellow at The King’s Fund and Institute for Government
James Titcombe, Ambassador Baby Lifeline; Associate editor, Journal of Patient Safety and Risk Management
Liz Vercoe, Former associate editor Sunday Mirror magazine
Marjorie Wallace, Chief executive SANE
Christine Webber, Freelance writer and broadcaster
Kate Wighton, Research media manager, Imperial College London.