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May 15, 2018

Press agency boss who led coverage of baby Charlie Gard’s right to life battle wins top prize at NAPA awards

By Freddy Mayhew

The agency boss who led coverage of the court battle over baby Charlie Gard’s right to life has won a top prize at the National Association of Press Agency Awards.

Alison Smith-Squire took the Feature of the Year at the NAPA Awards for her articles with baby Charlie’s parents, who began a legal battle to save him when doctors said his life support had to be switched off.

Smith-Squire, who runs family press agency Featureworld, said she broke the story after receiving a text from Charlie’s parents in 2017 saying: “Our son is currently in intensive care and the hospital want to end care.”

She scored an exclusive with the Daily Mail for the story and it ran on the paper’s front page for two days, as well as making headlines around the world. She later worked closely with the Gards as they fought, ultimately in vain, at the High Court to keep their child alive.

Smith-Squire faced some criticism at the time as the stories carried her byline, but she was also representing the family as their media agent. Feature World offers free publicity services to those looking to sell their stories as it says it is paid by the publication for writing the story.

Janet Tomlinson of the Daily Mail accepted the award on Smith-Squire’s behalf at the event at the Grange City Hotel, London, on Friday last week.

Other winners on the night included freelance Nick Constable, of Devon-based West Coast News, who won News Exclusive Story of the Year for his interview with a hero fireman who twice entered the Grenfell Tower inferno to rescue residents.

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Meanwhile newcomers Rachel Davis of Swindon-based Calyx and Mojo Abidi of London-based Triangle News won awards in the UK Picture of the Year and the Denis Cassidy Award for Best New Talent categories respectively.

New York based Shanti Das of SWNS won News ‘Spec’ Story of the Year – her second NAPA – whilst Fanco Banfi of Solent News won International Picture of The Year. The entries were judged by a panel of senior journalists from various national newspapers, websites and real life magazines.

Former Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express editor Eve Pollard was guest of honour.

Jon Harris, chairman of NAPA, said: ”There were 117 entries to the NAPAs 2018 and the judges’ were keen to stress how particularly high the standards were this year on both stories and pictures.

”The Charlie Gard story in particular was probably one of the most talked about news events from 2017 and I’m very proud to see it was brought to the attention of the world by a NAPA agency.”

Harris added: ”The reality is, what was presented to the audience last Friday was merely a snapshot of the excellent work agencies like those in NAPA produce every single day for newspapers, magazines, online and broadcast media.

”They work long hours without the benefit of advertising, subscriptions, licence fee or sponsorship to bring major stories to the press yet get comparatively little financially by way of return.

”This scenario seems especially unfortunate when some media groups who complain of lack of funds appear to be able to find vast sums of money when investing in other ventures.

”Press Agencies are sometimes unfairly maligned yet more often than not they are the media organisations which originate the stories which can set the news agenda for weeks to come.

“The entries to this year’s NAPAs are proof of that.”

Picture: NAPA

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