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April 30, 2020updated 07 Nov 2023 5:42am

Coronavirus Journalism Excellence Survey: The best exclusive news coverage of the pandemic so far

By Dominic Ponsford

Press Gazette received more than 600 nominations for our survey asking people to highlight the best reporting on the coronavirus around the world.

The aim of the Journalism Matters: Excellence in Reporting Coronavirus project is to showcase some of the crucial work being done by journalists during one of the most challenging times ever for our industry.

The survey asked for nominations from all sections of the media, not just in the UK, but around the world, across eight categories:

Below, in the first of a series of articles, is some of the best exclusive news reporting of the pandemic so far.

If you would like to nominate a story that we have missed, or which has been published after the cut-off date for round one of this project on 16 April, please click here to do so (we plan to do a second round of judging).

Work was judged on originality, journalistic skill and rigour, innovation and serving the public interest. View the full list of judges here.

Please feel free to share this work on social media using the hashtag #journalismmatters.

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Coronavirus Journalism Excellence: Exclusive news


Coronavirus: Inside the red zone of Italy’s hardest hit city, Sky News – 22 March 2020

Stuart Ramsay, Dominique van Heerden, Garwen Mcluckie and Simone Baglivo

Stuart Ramsay’s piece from Bergamo hospital in Italy revealed to the world for the first time the crippling effect coronavirus has on hospitals and medical workers. This was the most-read piece ever published by Sky News.

Coronavirus: Inside an ICU fighting Covid-19, BBC One TV news – 6 April

Fergus Walsh, Adam Walker and Nicki Stiasnty

BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh and cameraman and editor Adam Walker were given exclusive access to the critical care unit at University College Hospital for this seven-minute report.

Inside the ‘red-zone’ intensive care unit where NHS staff and patients are battling coronavirus, ITV News – 6 April

Emily Morgan

Emily Morgan gained access to a British ICU ward (The Royal Bournemouth Hospital) treating dozens of Covid-19 patients.

Can we rely on Covid-19 death figures? Channel 4 News, 13 April

Ciaran Jenkins, Lucia Walker and Josh Ho

A whistleblower told Ciaran Jenkins they fear Coronavirus is sometimes entirely left off death certificates in care homes and in the community, meaning the true number who die from the virus may never be properly recorded.

News agencies

Special Report: Johnson listened to his scientists about coronavirus – but they were slow to sound the alarm, Reuters (UK), 7 April

Stephen Grey and Andrew MacAskill

This exclusive Reuters report revealed that the UK Government’s medical experts feared for two months that the coronavirus outbreak would kill hundreds of thousands of citizens, but didn’t tell ministers and only suggested lock-down measures in mid-March.

Pressed by Trump, U.S. pushed unproven coronavirus treatment guidance, Reuters (USA) – 4 April

Marisa Taylor and Aram Roston

In mid-March, President Donald Trump personally pressed federal health officials to make malaria drugs available to treat the novel coronavirus, though they had been untested for COVID-19, two sources told Reuters.

Families say goodbye over Skype and doctors are in tears, Covid-19 medic says – PA, 9 April

Jane Kirby

Issues around lack of testing, lack of personal protective equipment, lack of access to the dying for their loved ones, all have emerged as a result of PA’s Jane Kirby using her contacts and her skill to interview people who really know what the true situation is. All of those issues have subsequently been raised at the daily Downing Street briefings, ensuring that ministers and NHS managers are held to account.

National press

Exposing the coronavirus care home catastrophe, Daily Mail – 17 April

Tom Kelly, Susie Coen and Sophie Borland

The Daily Mail discovered that industry experts calculated the ‘hidden epidemic’ of the virus in care homes had already claimed 4,000 lives, even as government figures said the figure was just 217. Piers Morgan the Mail front page to confront Care Minister Helen Whately live on TV about the scandal.

Dialysis machine shortages lay bare wider threat from Covid-19, Financial Times, 6 April

Peter Foster and Clive Cookson

Leading London hospitals are running short of vital equipment in intensive care wards, including blood dialysis machines needed to treat patients suffering from coronavirus-related kidney failure, according to a leaked memo reported by the FT.

UK patient zero? East Sussex family may have been infected with coronavirus as early as mid-January, The Telegraph, 25 March

Paul Nuki and Sarah Newey

A family from East Sussex may have been Britain’s first coronavirus victims, catching the virus in mid-January after one of them visited an Austrian ski resort that is now under investigation for allegedly covering up the early outbreak. If confirmed by official tests, it would mean the outbreak in Britain started more than a month earlier than currently thought.

Three nurses forced to wear bin bags because of PPE shortage test positive for coronavirus, The Telegraph, 8 April

Bill Gardner

Three NHS nurses who were forced to wear bin bags due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) have all tested positive for coronavirus, The Telegraph reported.

Fury as Scots chief medic Catherine Calderwood flouts own Covid-19 lockdown rule visiting 2nd home – Scottish Sun on Sunday, 5 April

Oliver Norton

The Scottish Sun on Sunday exposed Scotland’s chief medical officer defying her own government’s advice during the virus lockdown after travelling to her second home. The story was picked up by news platforms around the world. It resulted in an apology from Calderwood and her resignation.

Newborn baby in London has coronavirus as UK cases soar to 820 and 11 dead, The Sun, 14 March

Shaun Wooler

This story reported the news that a newborn baby in England had tested positive for coronavirus, the world’s youngest confirmed case.

Abu Dhabi charges NHS millions in rent for super-hospital in ExceL London, The Sunday Times, 5 April

Oliver Shah, Caroline Wheeler, Sabah Meddings and Gabriel Pogrund

This front page exclusive revealed the owners of the Excel centre in east London were charging the NHS £2m – £3 million a month to house patients of Covid-19 at the temporary Nightingale Hospital, unlike other venues in the UK such as Birmingham’s NEC. The revelations caused a backlash  with the owners Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (Adnec) publicly ditching their plans to charge the NHS on the same day the story came to light.

Exposed: the doctor who got £2.5m in a week from ‘coronavirus tests’, The Sunday Times, 22 March

Sunday Times Insight Team

This story caused the General Medical Council to send out a stark warning, that no doctor should try to “profit from the fear and uncertainty caused by the pandemic”, as well as from the Competitions and Markets Authority telling all traders not to exploit victims of the pandemic with “unjustifiable prices”. Two weeks after the original news story, a follow-up revealed the doctor’s scheme collapsed and he was forced to pay back many of his customers as his supplier was unable to meet the demand.

Coronavirus: Weakest patients could be denied lifesaving care due to lack of funding for NHS, doctors admit, The Independent, 26 February

Shaun Lintern

Back in February Shaun Lintern exclusively revealed that patients could be denied life-saving care in the event of a severe coronavirus outbreak in the UK. Under the so-called ‘three wise men’ protocol, consultants would be forced to ration care and treatment in favour of those most likely to make a recovery

Britain has millions of coronavirus antibody tests, but they don’t work, The Times, 6 April

Chris SmythDominic Kennedy and Billy Kenber

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, had already admitted that a crucial part of getting the UK back to work again would be to use antibody test. This exclusive story from The Times revealed that none of the antibody tests ordered by the government is good enough to use, with an reliable test potentially months away.

The all-female robotics team in Afghanistan who made a cheap ventilator out of Toyota parts – The National (UAE), 9 April

Ashleigh Stewart

Five girls in Afghanistan, aged between 14 and 17, have joined the fight against the coronavirus, designing a cheap ventilator that runs off the motor of a Toyota Corolla.
UK missed three chances to join EU scheme to bulk-buy PPE, The Guardian, 13 April

Daniel Boffey and Robert Booth

The UK missed three chances to join EU scheme to bulk-buy PPE. A much-followed exclusive at the very height of the row over PPE, revealing a crucial government failure.


Coronavirus: ‘High risk’ list misses off thousands of people, BBC News Online, 7 April

Sue Paz

This story explored how thousands of people had been missed off the government’s high-risk list for Covid-19 despite meeting the criteria. Among them have been transplant patients, people with asthma and some with rare lung diseases.

The UK Could Have Had Thousands Of Extra Coronavirus Tests Weeks Ago, Buzzfeed, 2 April


An “appalling” breakdown in communication between Public Health England and the government’s animal health agency may have reduced the UK’s coronavirus testing capacity by tens of thousands per week, according to internal documents and two scientists who work for the agency.

Regional press

Police under investigation over alleged failures to obey coronavirus distancing rules, Ham and High, 8 April

Charles Thomson

Police in Haringey are under internal investigation over allegations they “showed flagrant disregard” for social distancing rules.

Police called as ‘up to 100 mourners’ defy city’s six-person funeral limit in coronavirus lockdown, Birmingham Live, 2 April

Jane Haynes

This story triggered fury from police chiefs, anger from party activists and frustration. The MP ended up with an official police warning and is still awaiting inquiry outcome by the Labour party. Calls for funeral restrictions to be lifted as a result of the incident were knocked back.

Tears and heartache as city nurse reveals what it’s like inside hospital fighting coronavirus, Birmingham Live, 1 April

Nick Horner

This was an exclusive interview with a nurse at a Birmingham hospital, who had been told not to speak to the media. It was handled sensitively and anonymised but provides an insight to how frontline medical staff are coping in the fight against CoViD-19, the effects on them, their colleagues and their families, and the pressure on the NHS.

Specialist media

Onsite coronavirus cases ‘kept secret’, scared workers told to ‘f**k off’, Construction News, 31 March

Zak Gurner-Purkis

Coronavirus outbreaks on projects are being hidden from onsite staff and safety concerns are being ignored, Construction News revealed.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, several scared workers said complaints have been brushed off or ignored by management.

NHS trusts suspend life-saving organ transplants, HSJ, 2 April

Sharon Brennan

This was the first article in the UK to reveal the devastating impact coronavirus has had on patients waiting for transplant, with nearly all of these procedures now cancelled. Amongst all the focus on people who have contracted Covid-19, it was an important story to highlight the impact the crisis is having on non-Covid patients.

Trusts criticise ‘completely chaotic’ covid-19 supply response, HSJ, 19 March

Katherine Hignett

The HSJ has published a series of exclusives revealing widespread concerns in the NHS over the supple of PPE.

Majority of GPs do not have sufficient coronavirus protective equipment, Pulse, 12 March

Eleanor Philpotts

Much of the focus of PPE has – rightly – been on the hospital workers who are treating Covid-19 patients. However, GPs have been seeing potential coronavirus patients with far less PPE, and at times inadequate equipment. Pelse led the way in highlighting this with a series of exclusive stories.

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