2020 winners: Tim Harford named Wincott Journalist of the Year; Lifetime Achievement Award for BBC’s In Business

by Tony Major
Tim Harford

In a very strong field of entries, the judges gave serious consideration to two strong bodies of work. The first, a brilliant, full technicolour Bloomberg investigation of how a group of Essex traders drove down the oil price and made off with profits of $700m.  The team behind this was Liam Vaughan, Kit Chellei and Ben Bain . 

The second featured a deeply reported and original set of features by the Economist on the inner workings of the Big Tech companies, from Amazon, Alphabet and MIcrosoft in the US to Ant Group and the digital payments revolution in China. 

This was journalism with global reach led by Tamzin Booth, Simon Rabinovich, Ludwig Siegele, Matthew Valenicie, ecxellently marshalled by Patrick Foulis, Business affairs editor.

Both these entries were highly commended and indeed potential worthy winners. 

But in the end, the judges’vote went to Tim Harford who had a vintage year operating across multiple media, from his columns and features in the FT to his three flagship programmes made for the BBC. 

Tim’s range and versatility – who else could explain data and microeconomics in such an arresting and lucid style – made him essential reading and listening throughout 2020 and the judges choice for Journalist of the Year.

Lifetime achievement award

Over the years, Wincott has honored the giants of business journalism, often great commentators in the image of Harold Wincott himself.  But in this extraordinary year, the judges decided to do something different but still in tune with the Wincott Foundation’s support for quality business journalism.

They opted to give a Lifetime Achievement Award to In Business, the BBC’s flagship business news and features programme for almost 40 years.  

Sadly, the BBC’decided to end the programme in 2020.  So this really is a Lifetime achievement award!

In Business was presented for 25 years by Peter Day and he established it as essential listening for a wide audience, not just business specialists. 

The programme has always been alert to the big business trend, from the potential of Spotify and streaming, to AI in health care and the rise of China. 

This year’s featured entries included a post-Brexit programme on the UK up for Sale, features on home working in the pandemic, SMEs coping with furloughs, labour shortages and lockdown from a berry farm, a haberdashery to a good old English pub.

Data Journalism, Young Journalist, Nations and Regions and Personal Finance

Wincott’s new award for data journalism, jointly sponsored by the Royal Statistical Society, was a great success, with a broad range of entries from 20 media organisations.

In this highly competitive field the judges decided Ed Conway of Sky was a deserved winner for his great skill in interpreting data and challenging discrepancies in official information on the pandemic.  

Judges highly commended Chris Cook of Tortoise for an innovative piece of work tracking the progress of the lockdown  and the Financial Times visual and data journalism team for its magisterial analysis of the pandemic and its progress around the globe.

Michael O’Dwyer of the Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph and Louisa Clarence-Smith of the Times were joint winners in the Young Journalist category. Michael delivered some sharp reporting in a Lloyds Bank investigation while Louisa stood out for her strong writing on the property sector.

Oliver Telling of the Investors Chronicle was highly commended for the depth and breadth of his writing.

In the Nations and Regions category, the BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight programme on Brexit and the Irish Sea Border took the top prize. Judges said John Campbell’s explainer was engaging and forensic in its approach. A runaway winner. The team behind the programme included reporter John Campbell and producers Paddy Fee and Pippa Cook.

Martyn McLaughlin was highly commended by judges for his remarkable series of Trump- related stories for the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday. 

Dean Sobers of Which? Money was named Personal Finance Journalist of the Year for his well researched and original articles, ranging from travel insurance to ATM theft. Katie Morley of the Daily Telegraph was highly commended, impressing judges with some terrific reads and her amazing success as a consumer champion.

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