MHP + Mischief 30 To Watch: Young Journalist Awards 2020

Keith Gladdis

This is the ninth year that we have organised the 30 To Watch awards, and we’re delighted that the event has grown in size and stature with every passing year.

#30toWatch 2020 - Winners

The last twelve months have delivered an adrenalin shot to journalism.

From pandemics to constitutional crises, Royal resignations to Hong Kong crackdowns, Extinction Rebellion to Black Lives Matter, epoch-defining moments and movements arrived on an almost daily basis. The rapidly shifting agenda forced us to examine fundamental questions about who we are, what we want and who we can trust.

This acceleration of the news agenda is consistent with the forecasts made by MHP’s Networked Age model, launched in 2018, which predicted increased polarisation, a culture war, and an explosion of activism. A hyper-connected digital world has accelerated the pace of social change.

Growing demand for news has unfortunately corresponded with collapsing advertising revenues, VC funding flight and jobs losses. But while Covid-19 put the ad-funded model out of its misery, it also fuelled the growth of paid and donor-funded models, boosting the subscriber counts of brands including The Times, The FT, The Guardian, the Spectator and The NYT.

Like so many aspects of the Covid crisis, this trend threatens to deepen social divides. Brands serving the elite have thrived, while mass market brands have struggled. Making money by listening to and serving the world outside prosperous cities and suburbs is getting harder and, increasingly, the media is accused of being out of touch with the public.

But there is one area where social media has helped to reconnect audiences. Outside London, quality journalism is making a quiet comeback, helped by local brands’ successful use of social media. This year’s 30 to Watch Awards are striking for the high number of entries from regional titles.

Reach Group and Archant are among those that have chosen to invest in investigative journalism, breaking stories that fly on local Facebook groups, generating huge engagement with people who are otherwise starved of stories about their lives. A revival of local journalism is perhaps our best chance of closing the growing information gap between elites and the rest.

“Good news” is another glaring gap in the market. Journalists who gave the government and its experts a relentlessly tough time at the start of the pandemic may have been vindicated by the UK’s subsequent performance, but the public anger towards the media at that time revealed a glaring gap between producer and customer expectations.

Among the journalists I speak to, I increasingly hear that ‘good news is not proper journalism’ and that all institutions exist to be exposed. But audiences need light as well as dark.

As a journalist-turned-communications advisor, I have an obvious bias towards good news, but there are real dangers in serving a relentless menu of outrage. Audiences can switch off and journalists can miss important stories.

For example, while there has been little to celebrate during Lockdown, the rapid response of Britain’s world-class vaccine research capabilities is a clear bright spot.

The encouraging progress made by Oxford and Imperial is not an accident, it is the result of careful planning and investment – collaboration between government and business many years in the making. But it took a pandemic to attract the media’s attention to this good news story.

The race is now on to repair the economic damage wrought by the virus and build back better. To do that, we will need to start looking for success stories, as well as mistakes – and to learn the lessons of both. Great journalism makes us think, not just feel.

Journalists also have a unique opportunity to help break down the echo chambers we have built for ourselves. Too many of us were blindsided by the collapse of Labour’s Red Wall because we were studying Twitter’s tealeaves – and we were shocked by the Windrush Scandal, because it was world we didn’t know.

This year’s 30 to Watch finalists have all served their audiences by serving the truth – relentlessly pursuing facts and shedding light on the most important issues. Reviewing their work with my fellow judges, it was obvious that our winners didn’t rely on Twitter to tell them what the story was, they’ve spoken to sources, visited locations and poured over the data themselves.

Our 30 to Watch winners are explorers as well as storytellers. It’s always been true that the reporters who never left the newsroom never got the good stories. Never more so than now.

There is a big world out there, waiting for its story to be told.

Keith Gladdis, Director, MHP Media Unit

This year’s 30 To Watch

When Stars Are Formed – This Year's #30ToWatch Winners


City & Business:

Culture, Entertainment, Lifestyle:

Financial & Consumer Affairs:


International Affairs:



Best Social Media or Content Activation:

Best Photographer:

Best Campaign or Investigation:

Best COVID-19 Coverage:

Gold winners


  • Rianna Croxford, BBC News

City & Business:

  • Joe Mayes, Bloomberg News

Culture, Entertainment, Lifestyle:

  • Faima Bakar,

Financial and Consumer:

  • Marianna Hunt, The Telegraph


  • Eleanor Hayward, Daily Mail

International Affairs:

  • Lizzie Porter, Freelance


  • Natasha Clark, The Sun


  • Marianna Spring, BBC News

The Judges

MHP + Mischief’s 30 To Watch Awards are judged by leading journalists from across the industry – many of whom are former #30ToWatch winners.

#30toWatch 2020 - Our Judges
  • Anne Alexander – Senior Political Producer – ITV Good Morning Britain
  • Neil Callanan – London Bureau Chief – Bloomberg
  • Peter Campbell – Global Motor Industry Correspondent – Financial Times
  • Tara Evans – Digital Consumer Editor – The Sun
  • Robert Guest – Foreign Editor – The Economist
  • Kat Lay – Health Correspondent – The Times
  • Finola Miles – Producer/ Programme Editor – ITV News
  • Danny Reynolds – Deputy Picture Editor – Metro
  • Michael Sawh – Freelance Tech Journalist
  • Isabella Silvers – Integrated Associate Editor – Hearst
  • John Stevens – Deputy Political Editor – Daily Mail
  • Felicity Thistlethwaite – Executive Editor Digital – Stylist

If you have any questions about MHP + Mischief’s 30 To Watch: Young Journalist Awards 2020 please email