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December 11, 2018updated 30 Sep 2022 7:13am

Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr: Award wins are ‘important piece of armour’ against critics who attack me and my reporting

By Charlotte Tobitt

Carole Cadwalladr took home two prizes at last night’s British Journalism Awards, which she described as an “important piece of armour” in the fight to be taken seriously by those who attack her and her work.

The Observer journalist took home the Technology Journalism of the Year prize for the second year in a row for her work exposing the harvesting of millions of Facebook users’ data by the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica.

Cadwalladr (pictured) also jointly won Investigation of the Year alongside Channel 4 News and its correspondents Andy Davies and Kylie Morris.

She introduced Channel 4 News to whistleblower Chris Wylie in October last year, with its investigations team then going undercover at Cambridge Analytica before Wylie’s story was broken online by the Observer, New York Times and Channel 4 News on 17 March.

Channel 4 News aired its undercover investigation two nights later.

Cadwalladr had also shared the story with the New York Times due to its potential impact in the US and has said the collaboration gave the story a feeling of “strength in numbers”.

Buzzfeed UK reported earlier this year that Cadwalladr had hired lawyers to threaten Channel 4 News with an injunction over “serious source protection concerns” and to hold them to a mutually agreed publication date.

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The report revealed an uneasy relationship between Cadwalladr and the broadcaster during their collaboration, but last night, Cadwalladr told Press Gazette that Channel 4 News “did an excellent job on the story”.

The Channel 4 Investigations Team after their Investigation of the Year win at the British Journalism Awards 2018, with Dominic Kavakeb, head of communications at sponsor Transparency International UK. Picture: Press Gazette

Channel 4 editor Ben de Pear, in turn, praised The Observer and Cadwalladr for her “relentless pursuit” of the story.

He said: “The global impact of the Cambridge Analytica scandal is still being felt today – some nine months on.

“This award recognises the tireless work of Channel 4 News’ investigations unit, the brave whistle-blowers, and also the power of media collaborations.

“Full respect to The New York Times but especially the Observer and Carole Cadwalladr for their relentless pursuit of this story.”

Cadwalladr has faced a barrage of personal abuse online during her investigation, including from the Leave.EU campaign group’s Twitter account, former Breitbart editor Raheem Kassam, and Leave.EU co-founder and prominent Brexiteer Arron Banks.

Last month Andrew Neil, who presents Politics Live and This Week on the BBC, called Cadwalladr a “mad cat woman” in a now-deleted tweet, also dubbing her “Karol Kodswallop”.

Said Cadwalladr: “I always thought awards were a waste of time, but actually there are so many people in Britain who have gone to attack this story for very narrow political reasons and so winning awards has been an important piece of armour.

“And I would just like to say: ‘Suck on that Andrew Neil’.”

This year Cadwalladr has also won the Orwell Prize for Journalism,  the Foreign Press Association award for print and web story of the year, and been named joint journalist of the year by the Political Studies Association alongside the Guardian’s Amelia Gentleman (who was also named Journalist of the Year last night).

She said: “This year I feel that I’ve seen journalism at its best and at its worst.

“It’s been such a rollercoaster of a year and at its best I’ve seen journalists come together for the sake of the story and at its worst I’ve experienced a lot of personal attacks.

“This has been a very difficult partisan story to report but I’m still hopeful that journalism can change things and that’s why I’m carrying on reporting – because we know that there was massive illegality in the referendum, we know that the vote was not free and fair.

“We know that we desperately need a public inquiry and journalism must play a huge role in informing the public about what actually happened and the role of the tech companies in facilitating that illegality.”

Cadwalladr said she will continue pursuing the story about how criminality may have affected the Brexit referendum until Britain leaves the European Union in March.

“I’m going to keep going until then and then have a nervous collapse,” she said.

Carole Cadwalladr and the Observer team after she won Investigation of the Year at the British Journalism Awards 2018, with Dominic Kavakeb, head of communications at sponsor Transparency International UK. Picture: Press Gazette

The British Journalism Awards judges described Cadwalladr and Channel 4 News’ work as a “fantastic example of a collaborative investigation”.

“Both organisations showed long-term commitment to this story and both made a contribution appropriate to the genre they were working in,” they said.

“Carole Cadwalladr secured the tell-all interview with whistleblower Christopher Wylie in defiance of a non-disclosure agreement.

“Channel 4 News went undercover to reveal how Cambridge Analytica secretly campaigns in elections across the world.

“Together this investigation had a huge impact on a matter massive public interest: the way technology and social media is being deployed to subvert democracy.”

Picture: Press Gazette

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