Q+A with the judges of the One World Media Awards

If you could ask award judges anything, what would it be? To help inspire you to complete your entry, we asked a few of this year’s judges some of our most frequently asked questions…

Yousra Elbagir (New Voice Award nominee 2019) interviewing a young activist at the mass sit-in in Khartoum, Sudan, 2019


Whilst we countdown the final days of the call for entries to the One World Media Awards 2020, we spoke to some of this year’s judges to find out exactly what they will be looking for when judging their award category and why it’s so important to champion international reporting.


First up, the big question, what makes an outstanding piece of international journalism?

For Lisa Marie Russo, Development Exec of the BFI Doc Fund and judge of the OWM Feature Documentary Award, she is always looking for new stories – something she hasn’t seen before, “Outstanding docs are often born from amazing access to untold stories, told with compassion and rigour.”

Megha Rajagopalan, World Correspondent at Buzzfeed News and judge of the OWM New Voice Award, notes the importance of persistant and thorough reporting, “I think the ability to incorporate nuance and context into journalism is really important. I’m also particularly impressed by journalists and filmmakers who have unusual persistence in digging into difficult subjects and getting to information others might not have gotten to.”

For Sam Sutaria, Head of Strategy at WaterBear and OWM Environmental Impact Award judge, human stories are everything: “I believe the best reporting focusses on an amazing character, or group of characters. Figures and scary statistics have a role, but they just become white noise after a while. People do not remember the big numbers, they remember the fight of the individual.”

Kanika Saigal, freelance journalist and OWM Print Award judge agrees that personal stories are best, “it’s something that’s able to tell a personal story that nobody’s ever heard before. In an honest and compelling way.”


So, why is it important to highlight international stories?

Tristan C. Anderson, BAFTA-winning doc filmmaker and OWM New Voice judge, highlighted the role international reporting plays in connecting people across cultures: “Showing a window into parts of the world that the audience may not know of helps us to understand each other better. Being exposed to international stories can make us feel more empathy with people from other countries and other backgrounds. Fear and division tends to be generated from the unknown, so the more we can push forward international stories the less fear and division there will hopefully be in the world.”

Lisa Marie Russo adds, “compassion starts with recognition and the acknowledgment that as human beings, we are all capable of both great suffering and joy. We have a responsibility to learn about help those who need it the most, and while they may be far away, their stories are often universal.”

Whilst Megha Rajagopalan notes the increasing importance of shining a light on these stories, and ensuring they are accessible to wide audiences: “Many newsrooms have pulled resources back from international news coverage at a time when the world’s economies are more closely linked than ever, and at a time when global challenges from climate change to mass migration are reshaping domestic politics. This is short sighted and does a disservice to news consumers. In my experience, there’s a belief in the news industry that it’s fundamentally harder for readers to connect with stories that take place far from them. I think this is best remedied not by pulling back from international coverage, but by contextualizing and framing it in ways that readers can connect with it.”


And finally, what does recognition from awards, like the One World Media Awards, mean for a journalist or filmmaker?

“I think journalism can be quite a thankless task, so getting recognition from an institution can help to catapult someone’s career as well as give them the recognition that they deserve.” says Kanika Saigal. Tristan C. Anderson agrees, adding “at the start of your career, there can often be a lot of self doubt and an element of imposter syndrome, awards can help with optimism and knowing you are on the right path.”

Megha Rajagopalan notes the role the recognition can play in developing a journalist or filmmaker’s career, “Nobody should be doing journalism just for the sake of winning awards. But awards are a good way to bring new audiences to exceptional work, and external recognition can also help advance journalists’ careers by bringing them attention from management within their own companies, or for freelancers, from big media outlets in general.”

Recognition by an award can also raise the platform of the story says Lisa Marie Russo, “Awards can help signal the arrival of new storytellers, celebrate existing talent and crucially, lift an important subject into recognition for audiences and help promote change.”



One World Media Awards 2020 is open for entries!

Deadline: 13th February 2020

Across 15 categories, the awards celebrate and recognise the best media coverage of developing countries; stories that break down stereotypes, change the narrative and connect people from different cultures.