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September 18, 2018

Inside Housing news editor ‘still feels mix of anger and sadness’ over Grenfell disaster as title scoops three Specialist Media Awards

By Charlotte Tobitt

Inside Housing scooped three awards at the British Journalism Awards for Specialist Media last night, including one for a reporter whose first official morning on the job was the day of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The trade magazine won Publication of the Year, while news editor Peter Apps (pictured) won Journalist of the Year and business reporter Luke Barratt triumphed in the Built Environment category.

The publication has gained recognition for its ongoing coverage of tower blocks and fire safety, both leading up to and following the Grenfell Tower tragedy on 14 June last year which led to the deaths of 72 people.

The judges said: “Inside Housing is the exemplar of a tough B2B title which knows its patch well and does not pull its punches.

“It led the way on exposing issues around fire safety in tower blocks, sticking with the story both before the mainstream media became interested in it and after it had largely lost interest.

“It has performed a huge service to tower block residents across the country and completely owned the Grenfell Tower story.”

However Apps told Press Gazette he was unable to feel totally celebratory: “What happened is so horrible you can’t just be objectively happy about winning an award. I still feel a mix of anger and sadness.”

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At the time of the Grenfell Tower disaster, Apps had been at Inside Housing for four years, and its news editor for six months.

He said Inside Housing had already chosen fire safety and tower blocks as a campaigning issue following the Lakanal House fire in south London in 2009 which killed six people.

Apps said: “I remember the morning of Grenfell really well. I remember seeing the images of the tower block on fire and knowing, given that I had reported on Lakanal, that this was already a catastrophe that was going to change everything, both in the social housing sector and in the country… We had an intense feeling of responsibility as an organisation.”

Apps added the Inside Housing team felt the “need to hold to account the people who were responsible for it, and provide the rigour”.

He said the young news team “went overnight from being the tiny weirdos who write about Right to Buy” to being a much more well known and respected source.

“We just wanted to hit it and build up sources and get scoops,” Apps added.

“It’s [Grenfell’s] been a bit of an obsession for anyone who’s worked at Inside Housing. I sat there throwing up stories on the web and wondering if anyone’s noticing and it’s nice to get recognition for that.”

Apps was praised by the judges for “consistently and doggedly” leading the way on exposing the scandal around fire safety in tower blocks, and flagging up the issue of flammable panels before the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

He paid credit to everyone on Inside Housing whose work supports the person whose name is on the byline, from designers to sub-editors, saying being named Publication of the Year gave recognition to the whole team.

Judges said Inside Housing had “performed a huge service to tower block residents across the country and completely owned the Grenfell Tower story”.

Inside Housing reporter Luke Barratt, winner of the Built Environment category at the British Journalism Awards for Specialist Media 2018.

Barratt told Press Gazette his first contracted day with Inside Housing – his first full-time job in journalism – was the day of the Grenfell Tower fire.

“It was pretty obvious from the start that it was going to be our biggest story for the foreseeable future – even today it’s still our biggest story,” he said.

“We are still writing about it. It’s something we all take very seriously.”

However Inside Housing was not only recognised for its Grenfell Tower coverage, with Barratt winning for stories including “The court battles over Section 106 delivery.”

The story examined a housing association which had been accused of selling properties on the open market instead of as affordable housing, as they had been designated.

“I exposed that they were working not just in Southwark where they were accused of it but in eight other London boroughs as well,” Barratt said.

“We had really good news last week – the regulator said they were non-compliant. That’s following our investigation.”

Judges said Barratt’s entry stood out in the high-quality Built Environment category due to the “quality of his writing, the depth of his research and the size of the importance of the targets picked for his investigations”.

See the full list of winners at the British Journalism Awards for Specialist Media 2018 here.

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