JOIURNALISM: Praise for outstanding work of Scottish women journalists in Nicola Barry award

Pictured above: The late Nicola Barry
Laura Smith (centre) with the award presented by Nicola’s husband Alastair Murray (Picture: Jeff Holmes)

Laura Smith is presented by Nicola’s husband Alastair Murray. Picture: Jeff Holmes

By Democrat reporter

“In a truly outstanding field, her work was exceptional, authoritative, humane and deeply passionate.”

That was just some of the praise for the work of Laura Smith of The Sunday Post – this year’s winner of the Nicola Barry Award.

The category at the Scottish Press Awards is sponsored by Women in Journalism Scotland in memory of one of Scotland’s most respected journalists, who died in 2017.

It recognises women journalists for their work in issue-led reportage or commentary – a field in which Nicola excelled.

All the entrants were praised by judges for writing about important human issues and on dark challenging topics which many people sometimes prefer not to face.

But it was Laura’s “exceptional” work on youngsters’ mental health, birth companions and caring for vulnerable children which stood out. 

She said: “I am delighted and pleasantly surprised, as the calibre of the other women that were nominated was so high.

“I am very honoured it was the Nicola Barry [pictured left] award as she was obviously a trailblazing journalist and really focused on humanitarian and social justice issues. That is what I have always been keen to do.”

One of the main pieces Laura was nominated for was a special report into children and young people’s mental health – and the failures in care services.

“That was written during the pandemic, but it was on issues that had been prevalent for a long time and I think the pandemic really really shone a light on it – like a lot of areas,” she said.

The other articles she submitted covered support for pregnant asylum seekers and refugees and an interview with the woman who led of a review of Scotland’s care system.

Laura added: “The last 18 months has been tough, and it was great to see at the Press Awards people are really committed and managed to produce really important and high quality work, even though they were working in bedrooms and with toddlers and kids running about.

“You’re still making a bit of impact even if it is from your living room- even if you might not feel like that when you are bashing out a story on the keyboard with no-one to talk to.”

The runner-up in the Nicola Barry Award was Catriona Stewart of The Herald, who was praised by the judges for writing about migrants and the pandemic with “warmth and colour”.

She said: “I was really taken aback to be shortlisted for the Nicola Barry Award this year, never mind win an award. I was up against three colleagues whose work I greatly admire, Shona Craven, Kirsteen Paterson and Helen McArdle, as well as the impressive Laura Smith, so I’m pleased with the recognition but also take my hat off to the others on the shortlist.”

Catriona submitted three columns on immigration for the awards – tackling issues including online racism, offshore detention of asylum seekers and migrant labour.

She said she chose to focus on immigration as it has been such a vital topic in the middle of the pandemic and the “grinding muddle of Brexit”.

“Despite the work of Women In Journalism Scotland, and despite the issue long being a hot topic, the balance of the sexes at the Scottish Press Awards is skewed heavily every year towards male reporters, particularly in certain categories such as politics and sport,” she added.

“The Nicola Barry Award is an important step in addressing this balance and I would really encourage women journalists to enter the category next year. It’s vital that women’s work is visible at high profile industry events.

“We know that women can feel reluctant to enter, for a variety of reasons, but just take the plunge – there’s nothing to lose and every possibility of a win.”

Our congratulations also go to all those shortlisted for the Nicola Barry Award – Shona Craven of The National, Helen McArdle of The Herald and Kirsteen Paterson of The National/Sunday National.

WIJ Scotland would also like to say a huge thank you to all the judges of the award – Nicola’s husband Alastair Murray, who was the chair, Jean Rafferty, Sandra Ratcliffe and Jan Patience.

Leave a Reply