Since launching in 2012, the British Journalism Awards have recognised over 1,000 journalists and 40 organisations as finalists.
Now in its tenth year, making it on to these shortlists has always been a major achievement – with only around 20% of entrants making the cut.
With less than a month until this year’s event, Press Gazette has analysed a decade of shortlists and winning entries to uncover the event’s key trends and biggest winners.
Following our previous analysis of the awards data to 2019, we consider someone to have won an award or made it onto a shortlist, if they were nominated individually, or as part of a team where no more than six people were named.
Outlets meanwhile are considered as a group – with The Times, Mirror and Mail titles, for example, combined.
Women are less represented but increasingly a force to be reckoned with
In 2021, more females than ever before have made it onto the shortlist. Forty-three per cent of all shortlisted journalists this year were women – more than 2020 when 38% of finalists were women.
For the second year running Press Gazette has made the event free to enter for women and those from minority background who do not have a news organisation willing to pay for their entry. This year 37 of the awards judges are male and 34 female.
(To our knowledge there have not been any gender non-binary shortlisters in the British Journalism Awards).
Looking back at the data, the gender balance on the shortlists has improved since 2012 when just 24% (one in four) names on the shortlist were women.
Male journalists have scooped up 135 awards since 2012, compared to 52 women. Last year, 18% of winners were women. Male journalists take home one award for every seven appearances on a shortlist; for women it’s eight.
For some "beats" such as arts and entertainment, or for interviewer of the year, the awards have achieved gender parity. In sports, business/finance/economics and politics, however, it’s overwhelmingly men that are recognised.
This year, all but one of the journalists shortlisted under sports were men with the Telegraph’s women sports reporter, Molly McElwee the exception. However, there were more women (43%) shortlisted for their political reporting in 2021 than in any previous year.
'Traditional newspaper' titles dominate
Although splitting news organisations into categories is not as meaningful today as it once was (there are few news organisations that just operate in one medium), we roughly divided named outlets into:
- Local news organisation
- Foreign news organisation
- News magazine
- Specialist publication
- TV or radio
- Independent investigative team
- And news agency.
We found that the broadsheets (and their digital properties) continue to dominate the awards with 462 appearances on a shortlist (38% of all shortlistings), including 84 wins (51% of all wins).
Second most successful have been TV and radio outlets - driven in part by the success of the BBC at the awards. TV/radio outlets account for 222 (18%) of all shortlists, and 26 (16%) of winners.
But while broadsheets have historically done best at the awards, their dominance is declining, reflecting the changing media landscape. This year, broadsheets accounted for 33% of all shortlists - their lowest ever showing. Analysis shows that 2015 was a turning point and there has been a marked fall in the share of shortlists going to broadsheets since then.
Tabloids and TV/radio outlets have meanwhile increased their share. One quarter (25%) of shortlisted organisations in 2021 are TV/radio outlets - their highest share ever. While digital native outlets still account for a small minority of appearances on a shortlist (5% in 2021) - this is more than double 2012’s figure of 2% of appearances.
When it comes to individual organisations, The Sunday Times and Times (grouped together as The Times) top the table for both number of appearances on a shortlist and number of awards won.
Whether through the journalists working for them or as an organisation as a whole, The Times has appeared on a shortlist 156 times in the last decade (15% of all shortlistings naming an organisation). It is followed by the BBC (126 shortlists) and the Guardian/Observer (116 shortlists).
The Times has won 34 awards over the years (21% of all awards). Second place are the Guardian and the Observer (26 awards), while the BBC is third with 12 awards.
When it comes to what organisations excel at there are, however, differences. The BBC is the single-most named organisation on shortlist for local journalism and investigations, while the Guardian and Observer have been the most shortlisted titles for comment and arts journalism. Perhaps unsurprisingly, business, finance and economics shortlists are most likely to feature the Financial Times.
Looking back at the picture over the last decade reveals that while the big players have consistently dominated the awards, the pecking order among these household names is changing. Although the Times and Sunday Times remains the most named publisher on a shortlist overall since 2012, for the last two years the BBC was the most shortlisted organisation, having emerged strongly as a contender since 2015. In 2019 the shortlists were topped by the Guardian and Observer and in 2017 and 2018 by the Financial Times.
When it comes to winners, The Times’ dominance has been similarly challenged in recent years by the Guardian and Observer which walked away with the most prizes last year although unlike with the shortlistings, The Times has maintained its coveted spot as most successful organisation in terms of wins in 2018 and 2019.
Sunday Times’ investigative Insight team is the most celebrated
Sunday Times stalwart, Jonathan Calvert – editor of the paper’s investigative Insight team – has the most wins (seven) and the most appearances on a shortlist (16 in total). Reflecting the typically collaborative nature of investigations, all but one of his shortlists appearances and wins have been with at least one other journalist, most often with Insight deputy editor, George Arbuthnott, the journalist who ranks second for number of wins and shortlist mentions. Former Times colleague Heidi Blake, now at Buzzfeed, is the third most awarded journalist. Among the Insight team’s renowned investigations have been the Fifa Files and the Doping Scandal both of which netted them British Journalism Awards.