We are delighted to announce that the 2015 Philip Geddes Prize for Journalism has been awarded to Robert Walmsley in order to further develop Backbench.
Established by St Edmund Hall College to reward the outstanding work of undergraduate journalists at Oxford University, the Philip Geddes Prize has become a reputable accolade conferred by one of the world’s most highly acclaimed institutions. The prize is named after Philip Geddes, a former student of St Edmund Hall and a promising young journalist of the 1980s. After graduating, Geddes joined the London Evening Standard, before moving to the staff of the Daily Express. In December 1983 he was in Harrods, the Knightsbridge store, when orders were issued for the building to be evacuated. Realising there was a story to be had, he went to investigate. Geddes was killed by the blast from a bomb planted by the IRA, aged just 24.
Granted annually, the Geddes award is also accompanied by a Geddes Memorial Lecture. This year’s address was delivered by Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s Chief International Correspondent. Doucet poignantly commemorated a gifted writer who fell victim to his journalistic instincts. By “running into danger, rather than away from it”, Geddes channelled a fundamental impulse of his profession: to investigate, to ask questions. The lecture was also attended by prominent contemporary journalists, notably Helen Lewis and Jeremy Paxman. Both stressed the peril that writers and reporters still face across the globe, and the need to protect those in danger zones whenever possible.
Describing Backbench as a project with ‘all the hallmarks of innovative journalism at its best’ the Geddes Trust has placed its support in a nationwide network of aspiring writers – a new generation of inquisitive minds with a desire to ask difficult questions.
The £1,000 grant awarded by the selection committee will be used to develop and launch an app for the platform, allowing Backbench to optimise its content for a modern, digital age of journalism.
Indeed, journalism fluctuates, but the nature of journalists does not. We remain articulators of neglected stories; agents of worthy causes, despite the dangers involved. As Lyse Doucet wisely expressed, “no story is worth dying for, but there are stories worth taking risks for”. Philip Geddes took such a risk. We will forever remember and regret the price he paid.