It has been extraordinary year for health and medical journalism, and this was reflected in the depth and breadth of entries for this year’s Medical Journalists’ Association Awards.
As you would expect, every aspect of COVID-19 features in our shortlists — along with an extraordinary range of topics from cancer drugs and the marketing of infant forumulae, to telehealth and transgender medicine.
And the big names hoping to pick up trophies at our Awards ceremony in September include the BBC’s Clive Myrie, Fergus Walsh and Nick Triggle; Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday health editors Justine Hancock and Barney Calman and brilliant investigators including Shaun Lintern, Deborah Cohen and Tom Whipple.
With thanks to our sponsors who support this celebration of excellence also to our expert judges. Pandemic permitting, we still hope to be able to hold a physical awards’ ceremony at the Barber Surgeons’ Hall on September 22.
And the finalists are…
Charity Writer or Broadcaster of the Year
The BMJ. The BMJ appeal 2020-21: Without good nutrition, children’s health outcomes worsen, as do their life chances
Jane approached the subject of food poverty from a new perspective, which was really captivating and clearly engaged the healthcare professional audience. This piece is very cleverly written with tangible impact for such a worthwhile cause.
Matthew Lam: Editor, Charlott Repschlager: Research/writer, Lauren MacRae: Editor
Worldwide Cancer Research website. Drugging the undruggable
Matthew’s article was both interesting and uplifting and shone a much-needed light on the colossal process involved in R&D and how one person’s perseverance and tenacity championed.
Wellcome Sanger Institute blog. Sequencing COVID-19 at the Sanger Institute
Additional Acknowledgements: Beth Elliott (Connecting Science) helped to organise the project, conduct interviews and supervise photography. Dan Ross was the photographer on the project
This article is genuinely fascinating and very compelling. The personal anecdotes and powerful imagery make this a very human story, one that leaves the reader in no doubt that research is a huge team effort involving porters and postmen, not just the scientists.
Podcast of the Year (entrants submitted three episodes for judging)
Sue Mitchell: Producer, Dr John Wright: Reporter, Winifred Robinson: Presenter, Richard Hannaford: Sound Production
BBC Documentary Unit. The NHS Front Line
Week 1 on the covid wards
Week 5 on the covid wards
Week 8 on the covid wards
This series was compelling and immersive. The series captured the horror, fear and strangeness of the unfolding pandemic. It took the listener to the frontline with powerful, well-observed details.
Swati Raina: Producer and Editor, Dr Katy Munro: Content Lead and Host, Dr Jessica Briscoe: Host, Charlotte Burr: Producer, Valentina Pacifico: Editor
National Migraine Centre. Heads Up Podcast
Sleep, migraine and cluster headache
Migraine and self management strategies
Migraine in midlife and beyond
This was a no-frills, very warm and accessible discussion that explained issues with great clarity and authority. It found exactly the right voice for its audience.
Abi Rimmer: Co-lead BMJ Wellbeing, Cat Chatfield: Co-lead BMJ Wellbeing, Duncan Jarvies: Multimedia Editor, BMJ
The BMJ: BMJ Wellbeing Podcast
Wellbeing – how one junior doctor found a way to support frontline staff
Wellbeing – coping with Covid fatigue
Wellbeing – some advice for telehealth in secondary care
This podcast focused on an innovative and highly effective approach to supporting colleagues, presented in an engaging way with real impact.
Newcomer of the Year (36 or fewer months in journalism)
The Mail on Sunday: Revealed: How thousands of patients died of coronavirus they caught in hospitals
A comprehensive and dogged investigation into one of the most complex questions involving COVID-19.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The baby brands turning Indonesian Instagram into free formula ads
A thorough examination of unethical practice involving formula baby food in Southeast Asia.
New Scientist: NHS England criticised over missing ethnicity data for covid-19 jabs
Topical expose of COVID vaccination data relating to Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups in the UK.
Mental Health Story of the Year – Supported by Edelman
The Doctor Magazine: Deadly Delays
Well researched piece of investigative journalism on bed availability continuing pressures on mental health services.
BBC Future: What we can learn from ‘untranslatable’ illnesses
Unusual and thought-provoking piece on cultural influences and people’s perceptions of mental illness.
Ashish Joshi: Health Correspondent, Rachel Lucas: Producer, Chris Curtis: Cameraman, Elliott Crawford: Editor
Sky News: The second pandemic: Britain’s mental health crisis
Excellent long piece, in-depth consideration, lived-experience voice. Wide ranging across the scope of mental health services.
Daily Mail (Good Health section): Meet the mental health nurse battling her own demons
Admirable portrait of an individual making a real difference, tackling stigma, and speaking out.
Rachel Younger: News Correspondent, Emily Pringle: Freelance Producer, Kris Mesie: Shoot Edit
ITV Evening News and website: How covid restrictions are fuelling a postnatal depression crisis
Insightful piece on perinatal mental health. An excellent use of lived experience voices. Highlights issues that pregnant women are experiencing during Covid that we don’t often hear about, and we should.
The Dr David Delvin Award for sex and sexual health journalism – Supported by Christine Webber
BBC Future: Why transgender people are ignored by modern medicine
Zaria took a fresh and empathetic approach to the challenges faced by transgender people, with original research and thoughtful use of case studies.
Refinery29 UK: How Can We Know So Little About Clitorises?
Sarah championed a little discussed yet critical part of women’s anatomy, exploring medical understanding of the clitoris in the context of social and cultural approaches to women’s bodies.
BuzzFeed News: High on Hate
Patrick’s shocking and emotive article makes effective use of primary research to give a voice to a group who are often not afforded one, tracing the dark colonial roots behind a high-profile court case.
Feature of the Year (specialist audience)
The Economist’s 1843 Magazine: The NHS in peril: how Britain fought the first covid-19 wave
A compelling, moving, account of what it was like within the NHS in the first three months of the pandemic. Fear, guilt, anger, anguish, and at times even exhilaration. If anyone ever writes a better account, it is this they will have to top.
The Doctor Magazine: At what price?
A challenging and extensive examination of whether the forced harvesting of organs for transplant is continuing in China.
BMJ: The scandal of modern slavery in the trade of masks and gloves
Access to PPE has been a key issue in coping with the pandemic. Jane Feinmann’s account examines how far NHS may be acquiring it from firms producing it in conditions that amount to modern slavery.
New Scientist: Genomic medicine is deeply biased towards white people
A troubling well written, well researched, and well-argued account of how DNA sequencing is heavily biased towards people of European descent and the problems that brings.
The Economist: Suddenly, hope
A riveting, comprehensive, elegant, and global account of how the vaccines to combat covid-19 were developed.
Feature of the Year (broadcast)
Gill Dummigan: Writer, presenter, and editor, Alex McCartney: Camera
BBC North West Tonight: The Hospital
The Hospital, broadcast over five nights by BBC North West Tonight, was very well done due to the access Gill obtained, the speed with which she created the pieces, and the time allocated to the programme. Gill must have fought very hard for this piece.
James Gallagher: Presenter, Beth Eastwood: Producer
BBC Radio 4/BBC Sounds: Inside Health Pulse Oximetry
These Inside Health programmes investigated, with incisive interviews, many of the significant questions of the Covid pandemic — lateral flow tests, oximeters, and the concerns of GPs — backed up by penetrating explanation.
Ashish Joshi: Health Correspondent, Rachel Lucas: Producer, Andy Lumb: Camera, Charlie Joseph: Editor, Leila Hudson: Researcher
Sky News: The Second Wave: Florence’s Story
A stunning human-interest story that painted a revealing portrait of the birth of a Pandemic baby called Florence — a report that let the participants speak for themselves, an increasingly rare quality in today’s television
Faye Kirkland: Reporter, Bernadette Kitterick: Producer, Adam Walker: Camera and Editing
BBC World News: Prince Fosu inquest: Man died ‘in plain sight’ at detention centre
An important story with far reaching consequences. It shines a spotlight on mental health care not just in immigration detention centres but across all government institutions. Good interviews, well written and treated with sensitivity.
Fergus Walsh: Medical Editor BBC, Alison Priestley: Producer & Director, Oana Marocico: Assistant producer, Diana Martin: Executive producer
BBC1: The Race for a Vaccine
This Panorama pulls back the curtain on the real people and the work behind the creation of a Covid vaccine. It shows the process, warts and all (including mistakes and challenges) that led to the eventual success.
Feature of the Year (general audience)
Madlen Davies: Chief global health correspondent, Angela Onwuzoo: Reporter, Sam Mednick: Reporter, Ben du Preez: Impact producer, Chrissie Giles: Global health editor
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Guardian, Punch newspaper (Nigeria), Daily Nation (Kenya): Lack of oxygen leaves patients in Africa gasping for air
An important story exposing a different angle on the well-covered topic of covid-19, the judges were impressed by the huge impact of this piece. A well-crafted introduction sets out the stall for this long read before drawing the reader in with a personal story. Full of shocking detail.
The Sunday Times Magazine: Eye of the storm
This entry shows the journalist to be a master multimedia storyteller, with a strong introduction and lots of moving detail. While stories and pictures of UK hospitals flooded with covid-19 patients have become commonplace 15 months on, this piece was an impressively early eyewitness account and eye opener for its audience, with great access to its subject.
Madlen Davies: Chief Global Health Correspondent, Rosa Furneaux: Reporter, Ben du Preez: Impact Producer, Chrissie Giles: Global Health Editor
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism & The Independent: The next Covid crisis: a vaccine apartheid endangering us all
An important story told with exhaustive detail and great clarity — with impressive wider pick-up. A great introduction presents contrasting human interest stories.
Financial Times: Will the UKs love for the NHS survive the pandemic?
A great question to pose — and the resulting piece thoroughly and engagingly answers it. Themes are well developed, drawing the reader masterfully through the arguments.
The Times: The year science went viral: twelve months in my life as the Covid correspondent
With a cleverly constructed narrative, and beautifully written with delightful turns of phrase, this piece offers a masterclass in how a light touch can pack a punch. Complicated scientific concepts are clearly and concisely explained for a lay audience. The engaging interweaving of the personal and political offers a unique take on the (only) story of the year.
News Story of the Year (specialist audience)
Gareth Iacobucci: Chief reporter, Rebecca Coombes: Head of journalism
The BMJ: Covid-19: Government plans to spend £100bn on expanding testing to 10 million a day
This exclusive published in September 2020 by Gareth and Rebecca revealed Government plans to roll out covid-19 tests on a mammoth scale – the so-called Moonshot programme – after obtaining two leaked documents. Through detailed investigation and a series of important interviews the pair explained the consequences and seemingly lack of substance to the plan which was shelved a month later.
Michael Le Page
New Scientist: Threats from new variants
We are living everyday with mutated forms of the coronavirus but Michael was reporting as early as January this year of the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed by the so-called South African variant. His interrogation of UK experts as to how the virus is detected, its transmissibility and possible containment explained the challenge in a compelling way, and we felt his work deserved to be applauded.
The Economist: Britain to be first to license a fully tested covid-19 vaccine
Natasha’s piece is as an excellent scoop from a publication which is not normally in the business of breaking news. Natasha managed the rare feat of prizing advanced information out of a regulator, to be the first to reveal that the MHRA had taken the internal decision to approve a Covid vaccine. It was a great effort to beat the nationals to it on a subject matter at the front of everyone’s mind.
Research Professional News: UK’s £120m vaccine network ignored Covid-like virus threat
Written in a non-jargon, non-sensationalist way, this beautifully crafted piece explained to the reader why as a country we were unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic despite published work in a leading journal and WHO recommendations to include COVID 19 on a list of priority diseases. Mico is to be applauded for patiently piecing together a complex story based on scientific evidence and informed judgement.
Health Service Journal: Leaks reveal two-thirds of private hospital capacity went unused by NHS
This is a story of leaked documents and private sector contracts explaining why two-thirds of private hospital capacity went unused by the NHS. The author foretells in the narrative the crisis we face today of operation backlogs and long waits for treatment. A credible finalist.
News Story of the Year (broadcast)
Hannah Barnes: Producer, Deborah Cohen: Correspondent
BBC Newsnight: Staff concerns ‘shut down’ at child gender clinic
Strong investigative journalism raised serious clinical care and safeguarding concerns about young people being treated for gender dysphoria by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. The issue was handled with clarity and sensitivity with good use of re-enactment to bring witness statements and testimonies to life and has helped to bring about change to practice.
Victoria Macdonald: Health and Social Care Editor, Millicent Teasdale: Producer, Job Rabkin: C4 News Investigations, Guy Basnett: C4 News Investigations, Ed Howker: C4 News Investigations
Channel 4 News: Revealed: PPE Stockpile was out of date when coronavirus hit UK
This was proper investigative journalism that revealed scandalous details on an issue that everyone was talking about – PPE – in a way that explained how long-term failures to safeguard stock led to shortages and out-of-date supplies. A quite dry analysis of data and documents was presented imaginatively.
Sam Piranty: Producer, Clive Myrie: Presenter, David Mcilveen: Camera Operator, Jacky Martens, Exec Producer, Paul Royall: Commissioning Editor
BBC News: Royal London Hospital with Clive Myrie
It was a true team effort that produced an incredibly moving and insightful report on the realities of coping with the pandemic within a busy ITU. There were many similar remarkable entries but this combined the human cost, both on patients and their families and the staff from the mortuary to the ITU, with details of medical treatment and strong public health messaging. There was sensitive interviewing, beautiful camera work and deft editing – as said, a true team effort.
News Story of the Year (general audience) – Supported by Roche
Dean Kirby: Northern Correspondent, Cahal Milmo: Chief Reporter
The i newspaper: PPE Chaos Revealed
This report demonstrated a forensic approach which uncovered the desperation of trusts in trying to keep their staff safe in the eye of the pandemic storm. The journalists starkly revealed the utter chaos caused by a lack of a functioning central approach to PPE procurement and supply. Furthermore, their evidence demonstrated how the reality for NHS Trusts was in direct contradiction to the official Government line.
The Independent: Renowned surgeon Derek McMinn ‘hoarded thousands of body parts over 25 years’
This was a remarkable and tenacious investigation, and it was evident that Shaun was committed to bringing his shocking revelations to the public. The piece also raised important questions of the safety, lack of regulation and transparency in private healthcare.
Nick Triggle: Health correspondent, Rachel Schraer: Reporter, Phil Kemp: investigations team, Wesley Stephenson: data journalist
BBC Website: Inside test-and-trace – the world-beater that went wrong
An expose of a catalogue of error and omission of the NHS Test and Trace revealing a shocking list of detailed evidence. This was an excoriating account of the failures of the system, as well as including countless interviews with those who had to deal with the multi-layered fallout from the failings.
Case Study of the Year – Supported by Medtronic
Daily Mail: The doctors still crippled by Covid six months after they caught it
A really terrific piece, based on multiple, powerful, first person accounts that were ‘hard to get, hard to get them to talk, hard to get them to agree to photos’. The piece was completed under a tight deadline and had a big impact.
Ruth Evans: Producer, Camera, Director, Layla Wright: Producer & Presenter, Kim Rowell: Executive Producer
BBC Stories Team for BBC Three: False Hope: Alternative Cancer Cures
This film was a brilliant and captivating piece of investigative journalism. It gave a fascinating insight into how easy it is to be seduced by bogus cures and the tragedy and heartbreak they can bring.
Refinery29 UK: “It Was Easier Just To Stay Home”: Living With Faecal Incontinence
This case study addressed an important topic, but one that is hard to get someone to talk about and hard to get published. Alicia’s story was told frankly yet sensitively and empathetically.
The Independent: ‘They have stolen his youth’: Mother’s anguish for autistic son still locked up by NHS 14 years after he was first taken to hospital
A shocking case history of a young man with autism and the appalling ‘care’ he received for 14 years locked away in a restrictive hospital setting. This felt particularly poignant because Ryan’s story was told by an intermediary and his mum’s anguish was as much the case study as his autism.
The Mail on Sunday: Are thousands of women in agony because male doctors refuse to believe they have endometriosis?
A very strong case history of a woman whose life was essentially ruined by endometriosis. This piece reveals starkly an underlying sexism and arrogance in the medical profession.
BBC Future: What I learnt in Oxford’s vaccine trial
We often hear about clinical trials, but few will know what it’s like to participate in one. Richard’s description of his hopes and fears, set against the background of the pandemic, were a compelling and very honest account. We like to think it inspired others to consider enrolling.
BBC Future: Exponential growth bias: The numerical error behind Covid-19
Colourful examples, fascinating, timely, A different perspective on Covid, Not read anything else like it all year, Clever hook, good examples, I learned about exponential growth bias despite hating maths!
New Scientist: How To Give Your Vaccine A Boost
Helen’s article on how to boost the success of your Covid jab gave a new angle on vaccines that we had not seen covered elsewhere. Helen consulted a broad range of researchers before explaining how certain lifestyle choices at home can improve how your body responds to vaccination. Readers were left feeling positive about the simple contributions they could make to improving their own health as well as helping to tackle the pandemic. We found ourselves sharing Helen’s tips with friends and family.
Freelance of the Year (Entrants submitted three pieces of work for judging)
The Times: Salt: It’s more dangerous thank you think
The Guardian: Why is miscarriage so shrouded in mystery?
Women’s Health Magazine: Life under siege: women and autoimmune disease
Memorable phrases and a mastery of language lifted these features above the ordinary.
BBC News Online, BBC Radio 4 – Six O’Clock News, BBC World News: Prince Fosu inquest: Man died ‘in plain sight’ at detention centre
The Times: Surgery on intersex children may stop
BBC One: Panorama, Britain’s Coronavirus Gamble
Three important investigations, well-researched and told.
The Times: You don’t need to be old to have a senior moment
Daily Mail: Caring dogs giving dementia patients a new leash of life!
Daily Mail: Why shark liver, bark and piles of sand may be vital for delivering the Covid vaccine
The feature on vaccine production was a noteworthy example of how to make a complex scientific process accessible for the general reader.
The BMJ: Covid-19: Should the UK be aiming for elimination?
The BMJ: Covid-19: Pre-purchasing vaccine – sensible or selfish?
The BMJ: Covid-19: When to start invasive ventilation is “the million dollar question”
In a range of pieces looking at different issues raised by the pandemic, technical details were made accessible and understandable.
The Limbic: Mending the gender pay gap in medicine: Mending the gender pay gap in medicine: “It is not going away on its own”
The Pharmaceutical Journal: The true impact of the UK’s hormone replacement therapy shortages
The BMJ: How cancer services are fighting to counter covid-19’s impact
Good examples of comprehensive research and interviewing skills combined with clarity of communication.
Editor of the Year (Entrants were submitted three pieces of work for judging)
Barney Calman, Health Editor, The Mail on Sunday
The Mail on Sunday: We MUST find out why so many black and Asian Britons are dying
The Mail on Sunday: Has COVID killed off the FLU
The Mail on Sunday: Why are GPs STILL refusing to see patients face to face
Bringing together expert content that challenges readers in a way that is both engaging and entertaining and always with attention-grabbing headlines.
Catherine de Lange, Coronavirus Editor, New Scientist
New Scientist: The enduring grip of covid-19
New Scientist: The evolving virus
New Scientist: Vaccinating the world: Hope v Realism
A new position producing in depth, factual and well-researched articles. The article on mutations was a particularly important contribution.
Chrissie Giles, Global Heath Editor, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism & The Independent: The next Covid crisis: a vaccine apartheid endangering us all
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Guardian & Punch: Lack of oxygen leaves patients in Africa gasping for air
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Suddeutsche Zeitung & Il Fatto Quotidiano: Crisis at the commission: inside Europe’s response to the coronavirus outbreak
A new team producing some really hard-hitting international content written with all the pace and skills of a thriller writer.
Justine Hancock, Good Health Editor, The Daily Mail
Daily Mail Good Health section: Key that lets in Covid
Daily Mail Good Health section: No wonder doctors think their long Covid treatment is misguided
Daily Mail Good Health section: When signs of dementia could actually be depression
A super consistent editor on top form, commissioning a range of subjects to meet turbulent times. Especially informative feature on treating long Covid.
Richard Van Noorden, Features editor at Springer Nature
Nature: The race for coronavirus vaccines: a graphical guide
Nature: Special report: The simulations driving the world’s response to COVID-19
Nature: A guide to R — the pandemic’s misunderstood metric
At a time we were being asked to “follow the science” Nature led the way. Exceptional clarity of explanation and great graphics revealed the confident editing required to tell the stories readers need to hear.
Outstanding Contribution to Health or Medical Journalism – Supported by Bristol Myers Squibb, Principal Sponsor of the 2021 MJA Awards
This award is not by self-entry but chosen by the judges from entries across all categories. Those put forward for this award and the winner are only announced at the awards ceremony itself.
The Medical Journalists’ Award for Excellence in PR
This award is still being judged – watch this space for news of the finalists.