Community Care has announced the winners of its first ever media awards, highlighting the best coverage of social work in the national press – and shaming the worst.
In an awards ceremony at Community Care LIVE this morning, The Guardian was named Best Newspaper and Rosemary Bennett from The Times picked up Best Journalist.
In the worst journalism categories, the dubious honour of Worst Newspaper went to The Sun, whose offensive coverage amounted to a “hate campaign” against the profession, according to the judges.
The Daily Mail earned the Worst Coverage award for its hostile and one-sided reporting of an adoption row involving Edinburgh Council.
Campaign for better journalism
The media awards, chosen by a panel of judges from Community Care’s editorial staff, celebrate the best social work journalism in the mainstream press, while holding the media to account for poor standards as part of our Stand Up Now for Social Work campaign.
Winners in full
Best newspaper: The Guardian, “for being the voice of reason on social care issues and highlighting the value of the workforce across children’s and adult services”
Best journalist: Rosemary Bennett, The Times, “for consistently balanced and objective reporting of complex cases and insightful analysis highlighting important social care issues”
Editor’s Special Award: John ‘Smeato’ Smeaton, a columnist for The Sun, for his article titled “Who’d Want to be a Social Worker?”, published 15 January 2009 – “for the insightful comments about the challenging role that social workers face every day and the obstacles in their way. This gritty and pragmatic article shone out against a sea of other negative coverage”
Worst Newspaper: The Sun – “The judges found that the majority of articles about social work in The Sun were negative and a large proportion were inaccurate, misleading or hostile. Many of articles were peppered with pejorative and offensive language that can only be described as a hate campaign against the profession.”
Worst Coverage: The Daily Mail, for its unbalanced coverage of a case involving two children removed from their family and adopted by a gay couple in January and February – “for the failure to present both sides of the case accurately and fairly, for the merging of conjecture with fact, and for employing a consistently hostile tone”
How the winners were chosen
The judges based their decisions on an analysis of 345 articles about social work and social care services in 13 national newspapers over the first quarter of 2009.
Community Care launched its Stand Up Now for Social Work campaign to improve the profile of the profession, which had been damaged by relentless attacks from tabloids and other media outlets in the past six months.
Edinburgh councillor: impact of attacks
An Edinburgh councillor described The Daily Mail’s irresponsible coverage of the adoption case, which included photographs and personal details of an individual social worker, as a “tragedy for all children in need of care”.
Marilyne Maclaren, children and families convener at Edinburgh Council, said the “inaccurate and sensationalised” reporting was destabilising for people involved in the particular case and would also deter potential foster carers and adoptive parents from coming forward.
Victimising staff “wrong”
“Eventually the media move on to other stories, but we will still be trying to provide a safe and secure future for hundreds of children who would otherwise face an incredibly difficult life.”
Maclaren added: “We welcome and support the scrutiny that is in place to ensure that councils discharge their responsibilities to vulnerable children, but I strongly condemn ‘convicting’ individual social workers in the way that one of our staff has had to endure.”
Best and worst
Explaining the decision to introduce the “worst journalism” categories to the awards, Community Care’s senior reporter, Daniel Lombard, said: “Sadly, social workers have come under fire more than any other public servants in the last six months. Community Care decided to take action after becoming concerned at the impact on morale and recruitment within the profession.
“We felt it was important to celebrate the best coverage in the national press, but on the flip side, if social workers can be named and shamed in print for alleged misconduct, why should newspapers be exempt from criticism?”
More research findings from the media analysis will be released in this week’s magazine and at http://www.communitycare.co.uk
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