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Journalism alumna wins XCity Award for Yemen coverage

Iona Craig swapped horseracing for reporting after City course

Freelance foreign correspondent Iona Craig has been presented with the 2015 XCity Award for her reporting of the escalating conflicts in Yemen, beating 27 other nominees.

The annual award, which includes a £500 prize, honours City alumni who have made outstanding contributions to journalism.

Iona completed a Journalism BA in 2010 after more than a decade in horseracing and has been a freelance journalist in Yemen for nearly five years.

During her time in the country, she has received several awards and contributed to some of the world’s best known publications and broadcast media, including The TimesUSA Today, TIME, BBC, ABC, Sky, Al Jazeera, CBC, NBC, RTE and Channel 4.

She is known for giving a voice to the ordinary citizens of Yemen, including families affected by America’s ‘war on terror’, working alone and often risking her life.

Iona described receiving the award as “amazing” and credited City with helping her transition from “basically being a glorified farmer” to “making the break into journalism”.

She says her City degree, for which she received a first, gave her “all the necessary groundwork” before she travelled to the Middle East. “It was education I certainly needed at that point,” she said.

Iona was on the ground at the outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011 and has since reported on American drone strikes and their effects on the Yemeni people.

She won both the Martha Gellhorn Award and the Frontline Club Award in 2014 for her story on a drone attack that killed 12 people travelling to a wedding in the countryside.

Professor Michael Bromley, Interim Head of the Department of Journalism at City, said Iona was a role model for the “new breed of international correspondent”, describing her as “independent, committed to journalism, multi-talented, global, bearing witness, giving voice to the voiceless, professionally courageous”.

Paul Anderson, the director of the Journalism BA programme while Iona was at City, said: "I really admire Iona's tenacity and courage, her nose for a story and her sense of humour.

“She was a worthy recipient of the Gellhorn prize last year, and I look forward to reading her for many years to come."

Past winners of the XCity Award include the Guardian’s James Ball for his data journalism work on the Snowden files and The Times’ Kaya Burgess for his safe cycling campaign.

Other alumni shortlisted for the award were George Arbuthnott (Investigative Journalism MA, 2009), Nick Duxbury (Magazine Journalism MA, 2007), Tom Warren (Investigative Journalism MA, 2013), and Ryan Ramgobin and Adam Barr (Broadcast Journalism MA, 2014).

Iona has been back as a guest lecturer at City since her graduation and spoken at the British Yemeni Society and Chatham House.

She has also carried out workshops and training for journalists in both Yemen and the UK.

Image: Reenat Sinay

XCity Award

The XCity Award was launched in 2011 by the Department of Journalism to recognise journalistic excellence and innovation by City alumni. The annual award is presented once a year to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to journalism.

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