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Arts & Culture Series: Graduate Success

City student honoured with Hugo Young Award

Ian Johnston, an MA Newspaper Journalism student has been honoured with The Guardian Foundation’s Hugo Young Award.

by Matthew Little (Communications Officer)

City student Ian Johnston (MA Newspaper Journalism), has scooped the 2020 Hugo Young award in an online ceremony with his article titled: ‘If Ireland is to unite, it must reclaim its common past and build a shared future.’

The Hugo Young Award, hosted by The Guardian Foundation, celebrates the legacy of former political columnist Hugo Young who died in 2003, by encouraging authentic voices, new perspectives and good political writing.

Journalism students from across the country were invited to submit a political piece between 900 and 1,000 words about a national or international news topic that they feel passionate about.

Entries were then put to a judging panel of Guardian journalists including Heather Stewart, Political Editor; Katherine Butler, Associate Editor Europe; Polly Toynbee, Columnist; Kira Cochrane, Features Editor and Sonia Sodha, Chief Lead Writer for The Observer.

Ian was nominated alongside City MA Journalism student, Niamh Carroll who wrote her article about how English reductionism has affected her as a person of Northern Irish heritage.

Ian’s win marks the second year in a row that a City student has secured the award after Lucy Knight (MA Journalism 2019) and now Assistant Books Editor at The Sunday Times, won last year.

Upon winning Ian said: “I’m so grateful for this award. I like writing on political culture and identity and I chose to write on this topic because nuanced views in Northern Ireland are so often ignored in favour of extremes.

“I am delighted that the judges enjoyed it and it is a great encouragement for me as a young journalist.”

Irish tricolour and unification

Ian’s winning article explored the prospect of a united Ireland and the Irish tricolour regaining its original meaning of hope for peace between Catholics and Protestants.

Speaking on the inspiration for his article, Ian said: “Ireland was partitioned almost a century ago and I have read lots of comment articles on how unity is more likely than ever.

Ian Johnston (MA Newspaper Journalism) wins the 2020 Hugo Young Award Ian Johnston (MA Newspaper Journalism) wins the 2020 Hugo Young Award

“I have not seen anything written by people like me; moderate Protestants who could be won over to unification, but are worried about the uncertainty it could bring.

“I wanted to address the cultural and political ramifications of unification and am proud that my piece will be published in the Guardian, hopefully encouraging further debate and discussion around this topic.”

Sonia Sodha, Chief Leader Writer at The Observer, said: “Ian’s winning article is an outstanding piece of journalism – it was beautifully written and offered an original and insightful perspective on a very timely issue.

“It was encouraging to read so many great articles; as a judging panel we were impressed by the quality and the range of subjects that writers focused on.”


For more information see The Guardian Foundation’s Hugo Young Award. To read Ian’s article see If Ireland is to unite, it must reclaim its common past and build a shared future.

For more information on journalism at City see here.

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