Coronavirus Journalism Excellence part two: Best journalism of pandemic revealed - Press Gazette

Coronavirus Journalism Excellence part two: Best journalism of pandemic revealed

As the coronavirus pandemic gripped the world, journalists also swung into action to cover the biggest story of their lives.

Press Gazette sought to highlight the best examples with a massive survey of our readers and shared the highlights across various categories for work published/broadcast up to 16 April here:

After running a second round of the survey, below are the examples of Coronavirus Journalism Excellence picked out by Press Gazette readers and our panel of expert judges. The cut off for this second round of entries was early June.

Press Gazette plans to celebrate more great journalism produced during the pandemic with the British Journalism Awards, which open for entries in August.

The following are some of the best examples of journalism about the pandemic which were either missed out in the first round of submissions or were published/broadcast after the first survey cut off date.

Data journalism

The NHS at capacity – Chris Cook for Tortoise, 30 March

Chris Cook investigated how a decades-long obsession with efficiency “ and a disdain for spare capacity” left the NHS poorly prepared for the pandemic. Accompanying animated visuals by Chris Newell bring this point to life by demonstrating how a system that ran with more slack in it would mean fewer waits in medical assessment units and also more empty beds in more wards.

Fake news in the time of C-19 – Ella Hollowood and Alexi Mostrous for Tortoise, 23 March

This piece focuses on how fake news about coronavirus has spread on social media, with data from Italy’s Bruno Kessler Foundation and Google’s Fact Check Explorer. The piece features an interactive ‘Covid-19 misinformation explorer’, containing 235 examples of misinformation reviewed by fact-checkers and captured by Google Fact Check Explorer.

50 Days of Lockdown – Claire Wilde for, 12 May 2020

This piece marked the 50th day of the UK’s lockdown by looking at how  daily lives had changed, as shown by the data trails people leave. It ran across more than 150 JPI Media titles as part of a company-wide series of articles marking the 50th day of lockdown.

Discharges to care homes increased year on year during critical period – Sharon Brennan for HSJ, 4 June

Brennan looked at the data NHS England published on 2 June to support its claim that care home discharges had fallen by 40 per cent from January 2020 to April 16 2020. She found that while this assertion is true it had failed to put it into the context that all hospitals discharges had fallen dramatically, and quicker than discharges into care homes. It also challenged the statement from Boris Johnson that the NHS had not made a “concerted effort” to discharge patients into care homes.

Exclusive news stories

You can risk your life as long as you are doing the right thing‘ – Sally Hayden for The Irish Times, 6 May

In Uganda, anyone distributing food without going through the government can be arrested and accused of “attempted murder.” But allegations of corruption within the government and a lack of help for vulnerable people mean that many are beginning to starve. This article includes an interview with someone who was arrested for trying to help neighbours.

Plans to discharge Covid-19 patients to care homes revealed – Paul Brand, Dominique Heckels and Dan Howells for ITV News, 28 May

ITV News obtained the first evidence of plans to discharge thousands of patients from hospitals into care homes during the pandemic.  Many carers have claimed that those discharges seeded the virus into their homes, with the government having repeatedly denied the claims

Earth’s Angels: Inside ICU at Craigavon Area Hospital – Paraic O’Brien, Amanda Coakley and Josh Ho for Channel 4 News, 28 April

Channel 4 News secured unprecedented access to Craigavon Area Hospital in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Working as a team, Paraic O’Brien, Amanda Coakley and Josh Ho produced this powerful story from inside the ICU and the COVID-19 high dependency ward.

Dominic Cummings ignored lockdown rules to visit parents – Pippa Crerar for the Mirror and Matthew Weaver for the Guardian, 22 May

This joint investigation led the news agenda and prompted the prime minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings to hold an unprecedented televised press conference in the garden of Downing Street on a Sunday afternoon. Cummings kept his job but questions still remain over whether he was right to drive 264 miles to his family home in Durham whilst showing symptoms of coronavirus.

The peak – Edward Docx for the New Statesman, 20 May

This interview with leading intensive care surgeon Dr Jim Down on what it was like to work on the night Covid-19 hospital deaths in the UK peaked was one of the most-read pieces ever to feature on the New Statesman.


38 Days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster – Jonathan Calvert, George Arbuthnot and Jonathan Leake for The Sunday Times, 19 April

This was the first major national press investigation to cast serious doubt over the government’s handling of the pandemic – including the revelation that Boris Johnson skipped five Cobra meetings on the virus and the allegation that early failings could have cost thousands of lives.

Beyond Home Farm – The HC One Crisis – Jack Foster & Fraser Knight for Global Radio Scotland, 19 May

Fraser Knight and Jack Foster tracked down HC-One care home workers and family members across Scotland, and found the same issues described again and again. A culture of intimidation, threats against jobs if workers spoke up, demands staff continue working with coronavirus symptoms and flagrant disregard from management for guidance on isolating sick residents, allowing the virus to spread among vulnerable, elderly people.

The human cost of virus misinformation, by Marianna Spring for BBC News, 27 May

This on the human cost of misinformation by Marianna Spring and the BBC’s anti-disinformation unit tallied up the real-world effects of “fake news” including gut-wrenching personal stories, testimony from doctors and medical professionals, and analysis of social media data.

Perfect storm in care comes as residents refused hospital treatment, Katherine Rushton and Sophie Barnes for the Telegraph, 24 April

This piece captured the growing scandal taking place inside care homes during the Covid-19 outbreak. It revealed how a “reckless” policy of denying hospital treatment to care home resident had fuelled a spiralling death toll

Muslims in UK struggling to carry out burials within 24 hours– Maaiysa Valli and Darshna Soni for Channel 4 News, 22 April

A unique look at how young community volunteers have stepped up to perform the religious procedures around Islamic burials, under the current pandemic restrictions. This piece takes a look at how youngsters have taken over from elders in the community to perform funerals and washing procedures, as elders are in the high risk category of catching Covid-19.


The Integrator: No clear answers in care home blame game -Sharron Brennan for HSJ, 4 June

This well-read comment piece attempted to put the government’s approach to discussing deaths in care homes into context by discussing Brennan’s own data analysis. It is one of the first to talk about how the lack of strong data and the blame game narrative around Covid deaths is not helping the NHS to learn from the deaths that have occurred in order to save lives from a second wave of coronavirus.


How did we get here? Explaining the news – Andy Bell for 5 News, 15 July

This podcast series from 5 News’ Andy Bell sees a journalist with over 30 years experience covering global and domestic news, taking the biggest story of the moment each week and analysing how it came to be, who it affects and where it might lead. First focusing on Coronavirus with an episode published on the 6th February, the day that the first UK coronavirus victim was taken to St Thomas Hospital’s specialist ward in London – Andy spoke with Dr. Nathalie MacDermott, the leading specialist on that very same ward.



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette