NUJ champion celebrated in Solent student awards

Students at the University of Portsmouth, Solent University and Highbury College – Verona Parker, aged 29, from Winchester; Marcus Wood, 19, Bristol and Isaac Farnworth, 22, Reading – have been awarded this year’s Bob Norris Award for Achievement in Journalism from the Solent Branch of the National Union of Journalists

THREE high-achieving journalism students from the South Coast have been recognised in a prestigious awards scheme, which was created in memory of a former journalist and champion of journalists’ rights.
The students, one from each of the three main institutions providing journalism training in the Solent region – the University of Portsmouth, Solent University and Highbury College – were nominated by their respective lecturers for making exceptional progress, achieving highly, or for contributing significantly towards their year group.
Each student will receive a certificate, a bespoke trophy created by The Maker’s Guild Portsmouth, and a monetary award in recognition of their achievement.

Bob Norris

The awards scheme was launched by the Solent branch of the National Union of Journalists in tribute to their cherished late colleague and former chairman, Bob Norris, in 2020.
Bob’s widow, Pauline Norris, a former journalist and Chair of the Solent NUJ of Earnley, Chichester, said of the winners: “Now in its second year, I am delighted to see that the calibre of young journalistic talent coming out of today’s universities and colleges is as high as the inaugural year of the Bob Norris Award for Achievement in Journalism. As society begins to return to normal following the pandemic there has never been a more important time to celebrate and welcome new talent into our field, as well as support the critical work of the union which continues to help our other colleagues facing crisis or misfortune.
“All of the winners have been extremely worthy of their awards. I am particularly impressed and touched by the unique challenges these young professionals have overcome in their own ways. Bob would have been proud of them.”
Verona Parker, from Winchester, who is studying Journalism with Media Studies at the University of Portsmouth, said of her award: “I feel overwhelmed but in a good way. With everything that has happened over the last few years politically, socially, and within my personal life, I have felt increasingly motivated to dedicate my writing to these pressing topics, particularly the rights of transgender people and other minorities.”


Marcus Wood, from Bristol, who won his award for his achievements on the NCTJ Level 3 Diploma at Highbury College, said: “Having spent a year in lockdown hearing a lot of sad national news, I turned to local news to find uplifting and positive stories, many of which really resonated with me. Following these stories inspired me to go into journalism and hopefully be able to highlight and uplift voices in my community.”
Isaac Farnworth, who enjoyed working in communications teams at tennis events such as Roland Garros and the Queen’s Tennis Championships as part of his Sports Journalism studies at Solent University, said: “Winning the Bob Norris Achievement Award is a lovely surprise and a great honour. It’s something I will cherish as I come to the end of my studies. It means a lot, and I think it’s important as it recognises and proves that despite living with a serious mental health condition, it is still possible to produce some great work while also looking out for those around you.”

In support of Issac’s nomination, his lecturer, Will Cope, Course Leader, BA (Hons) Sport Journalism, Faculty of Business, Law & Digital Technologies, Solent University, Southampton said: “Isaac’s educational journey has been far from straightforward. When at secondary school he had to deal with some complex mental health issues, which for some people would have proved insurmountable.

“Despite this, he successfully progressed to his chosen BA (Hons) degree in Sports Journalism at Solent University. Isaac managed to overcome two national lockdowns due to Covid-19, which was a challenging time for everyone’s mental health, complete a demanding course and produce some fantastic work all whilst still being a caring, supportive, and respectful student, peer, and friend.”

Anne England

Speaking at the University of Portsmouth awards ceremony, Solent Branch Treasurer Anne England – pictured below, at the Portsmouth University ceremony – said: “My union colleague Bob believed that education was the key not only to journalistic excellence and the pursuit of truth, but for the promotion of journalistic diversity and social justice.
“A former Assistant General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, he campaigned tirelessly for journalists’ rights, believing that the critically important role of journalists in freely documenting events, the historically important or the small and human; shining a light on dark practices or wrongdoing, or simply celebrating the joyful things in life, deserved to be recognised, protected and fairly rewarded.
“He was also deeply committed to the proper training of those journalists: he served as a director on the Board of the National Council for the Training of Journalists for almost 30 years and was its Chairman from 1995-97. He also lectured on ethics in journalism, and recruited student journalists to the union.
“He would have been thrilled that the Bob Norris Award for Achievement recognises students who may not necessarily be the top performers in their year group, but who have achieved notable
performance during their time at university.
“This could be someone who has made exceptional progress, or achieved well despite some form of difficulty, or who has contributed significantly towards the year group through support
meetings/activities etc.
“Our awards recognise that being a successful journalism student isn’t necessarily just about academic achievement. It’s about personal accomplishment – whether this is about overcoming
difficulties, helping to enrich the lives of others through support or community action, or campaigning for truth and justice in whatever form, however small.
“Our two winners today embody the spirit of the awards scheme.

“James Connolly is our winner for 2020. The university selected him not just because of his excellent performance on the course , but also thanks to contribution to the wider community through his involvement with the Royal Navy, his exceptional contribution helping to support his family, and the elderly community where he lives, in a difficult year, and yet continuing his university studies.

“Verona Parker  is the 2021 winner. Her tutor said that, like Bob, she is a passionate supporter of social justice. Through her outstanding journalism and academic work, she offers critical and nuanced perspectives that challenge outdated norms and promote the interests of marginalised groups. This is epitomised by her outstanding dissertation that examined how the British press perpetuates a hostile attitude towards transgender people.”

EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: The Globe’s Fareham correspondent, Kirsty Dawson, graduated from Highbury College this summer as a mature student. Because of the quality of her work and high academic standards, she has now started work in Winchester as a multi-media journalist with Newsquest, publishers of the Southern Daily Echo. Kirsty has been a tremendous asset to news coverage in Gosport and Fareham for almost two years. We will be sad to see her go but wish Kirsty every success for the future and congratulations on her marriage to Matt next Monday, July 26.