By Laura Furness, Head of Funding for The National Lottery Community Funds Fulfilling Lives programme
Our National INSIGHT Awards, now in their fourth year celebrate examples of positive and outstanding practice. A new addition to the awards in 2019, the Insight Through Journalism Award recognises and celebrates the best representation of the interlocking nature of multiple disadvantage across TV, radio, print and online. In this guest blog Laura Furness, The National Lottery Community Fund shares her experience of judging this year’s new award.
I am one of the panellists judging the Insight through Journalism award – we had the unenviable task of narrowing almost 20 nominations down to one winner and two runners up. Making judgements and assessing information, should be my bread and butter, but goodness it was hard. We were looking for pieces which were sensitive, honest, had impact and genuinely involved lived experience and we had a pile of incredible reports, articles, videos and podcasts to go through.
Before we started, we agreed the importance of working with journalists – we’re pretty much in agreement that we can’t do this alone, but we haven’t nailed the relationship with those people who can really get peoples messages heard, about their lives and experiences and learnings. We went through some of the submissions, all was going well, we were in agreement (almost unanimous) on a few things.
And we then got to the article about ‘Bruce’. Now Bruce, by all accounts, had had a tough time over a number of years, but Bruce was a person with things to say about things he’d done. Andy Meakin told us about Bruce, the subsequent article, and we discussed it along with the others. Andy then told us that Bruce had very, very sadly lost his life. And to be totally frank – it floored me.
The proudest and toughest element of my job is every time something slaps me in the face with the reality that we’re here because of people. People like Bruce. People who have had awful things happen to them. They’ve experienced abuse, or grief, or trauma, or neglect. They’ve lost people, people that they’ve loved. Sometimes they are the person who have been lost.
We talked a bit in that panel about the horrendousness of the perspective that multiple disadvantage is a ‘lifestyle choice’, and it was a reminder that working with journalism, be it through mainstream media or other platforms, is one of the ways we can address this and reduce stigma. It’s one of the ways we avoid the perspective of ‘lifestyle choice’ and start to see the true reasons folk may be where they are. And in starting to see these true reasons, surely more options are open to us to give people the chance to make things better. Because Bruce, and all the other Bruces, were loved. He could do things; he had skills and talents and could have had a whole world of options ahead of him. He would be someone’s brother, son, Dad, uncle, friend. He would have made people laugh, feel special, feel grateful, he would probably have had some great memories of whatever meant the most to him. But now they’re lost.
We need to work together, to make systems better and to stop the stigma that can stop people accessing the services that could save them. It’s really crucial to see how journalism, with kindness, empathy, honesty and helpful accounts of people’s lives can help us in making things better, to change the world, to stop people from dying and help people live. Because that’s what we all want, right?
About the Author:
Laura Furness has been the Head of Funding for The National Lottery Community Funds Fulfilling Lives programme since 2015. Laura previously worked at the Cabinet Office and for 10 years, and worked within drugs services in the criminal justice and voluntary sector.