A series of investigative stories for Exaro puts top reporter in running for leading award

By Mark Watts | 26 March 2014

“The judges were also keen to recognise the journalistic innovation of Exaro”
– Jean Seaton, director, Orwell Prize

Exaro’s David Hencke has been nominated in this year’s Orwell Prize in the journalism category. The prize is recognised as Britain’s most prestigious award for political writing.

Hencke was nominated for his role as lead reporter on a series of investigative pieces for Exaro: two that exposed secret recordings of the media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, and of News International’s then chief executive, Tom Mockridge; and four relating to allegations of child sex abuse against senior politicians and other VIPs

Murdoch was secretly recorded making a series of explosive comments at a meeting with journalists on The Sun who had been arrested for paying police and other public officials for information for stories.

Mockridge, as one of Murdoch’s key lieutenants, told a separate private meeting with Sun staff that the media group faces total costs from phone hacking of £1 billion.

Hencke has also led Exaro’s reporting as it has investigated historical allegations that an ex-cabinet minister as well as other MPs and VIPs sexually abused children.

The reports highlighted for the Orwell Prize include the disclosure in January last year that detectives had carried out a raid to seize documents related to Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London, which Exaro later established had operated as a paedophile brothel.

As further major revelations were unearthed, Hencke wrote a personal piece about how he had wanted to expose the story for more than five years, and was finally having the opportunity to do so at Exaro.

While working on the wide-ranging investigation, Hencke found himself in the unique position of being able to comprehensively disprove similar, false allegations against another former Conservative cabinet minister.

A fourth piece on new leads in the paedophile investigation also features in Hencke’s nomination for the Orwell Prize.

Hencke is one of 15 journalists who are longlisted for the award, which is given in the name of the celebrated author, George Orwell.

All the other nominees represent mainstream media outlets. Four journalists from The Guardian, another, two from The Daily Telegraph and two from The Financial Times are also on the longlist.

Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Prize, said: “As always, the judges for the journalism prize were immensely heartened by the sheer quality of journalism entered.

“By focusing on individual journalists, voices and stories became clearer. The judging process really disproves the gloom that surrounds contemporary journalism. The judges were also keen to recognise the journalistic innovation of Exaro.”

In the book category, 14 titles are longlisted. Winners for both categories are due to be announced in May.

Exaro was shortlisted in the British Journalism Awards 2013 for breaking the ‘best story of the year’ for exposing Murdoch.

And Hencke was named ‘Political Journalist of the Year’ at the previous year’s British Journalism Awards for a series of stories that unveiled the ‘Whitehall tax scandal’.

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