A community reporter has drawn on her media law training to tell the story of a sex abuse victim, who bravely waived his right to anonymity.
Hannah Bridgeman, community reporter for the Lancashire Evening Post, was contacted by charity Victim Support with a brief press release about how they supported 18-year-old Callum Genovese.
Recognising the full potential of the story, Hannah, 22, asked the charity – which is dedicated to supporting victims of crime – if they could put her in touch with Callum.
She made sure to get confirmation from Callum that he had waived his right to anonymity in order to be able to tell his story. The law bestows lifelong anonymity to all victims and alleged victims of sexual offences.
Although the press release had named Callum, Hannah recognised the need to speak to him herself – both to get stronger quotes for her story and to confirm his position directly, and in writing.
Hannah, who has been hired under the banner of the Community News Project to reconnect with communities in Garstang and North Preston, said: “The press release was really short.
“It explained that Callum had done a charity walk and wanted to publicly thank Victim Support. The line that grabbed me was that he wanted to thank them for their support during his sexual abuse.
“I got confirmation that he had waived his right to anonymity and asked for his details to contact him directly.
“I had a phone call with him and he again stated that he was waiving his right to anonymity. I thought it was important to get an email from him and the charity to confirm that in writing. I had it in my notes from the interview too.”
Hannah started her Diploma in Journalism studies while completing her BA Journalism course at the University of Sheffield.
At the time, she passed the media law module and is now working to achieve the full diploma qualification by training remotely with Sheffield College alongside her work as a community reporter.
She said: “It’s been really useful to have that recap of media law, as it was fresh in my mind when I spoke to Callum.
“Callum was more focused on getting the line out that he wanted to thank Victim Support. He didn’t want me to name his attacker; he wanted to focus on the support he received.
“I did feel it was important to get that positive angle. It wasn’t about him reliving the trauma, it was a victim turned into survivor story.
“It was important for me, because I had not done a story like this before, to handle it really sensitively and ensure that I wasn’t going to rehash old wounds.”
Hannah said she was able to make Callum feel comfortable and relaxed before taking notes for her article.
She said: “Because he is 18 and I am 22 – I think having a shorter age gap made it more comfortable for him to talk to me about it. We were talking about college and things. I wanted him to feel comfortable straight away.”
Hannah’s article was published in the Lancashire Evening Post as a two-page feature about Callum’s experiences and how he was supported by Victim Support as his abuser went to court.
Hannah said: “Victim Support were really happy when the article came out, especially as it came from a three to four-line press release.”
Since Hannah joined the Community News Project, she has also experienced a royal visit to Preston and filmed a video package of Prince Edward and Sophie’s trip to the town.
A day later, she was tasked with getting a vox pop of condolences from local people following the announcement of the Queen’s death.
She said: “I have been really thrown into it, which is great. I was quite shocked at how similar I am being treated to people who have been in the post for years and years.
“I was really glad to have the opportunity to cover the royal visit.”
The Community News Project is a partnership between the NCTJ, Meta and 23 regional publishers to support journalists on underserved communities.
Andy Moffatt, deputy news editor at the Lancashire Evening Post, said: “Hannah proved she has a keen eye for a story and demonstrated a strong grasp of important points of law in telling this important story.
“Since joining us as a community reporter at the Lancashire Post, she has quickly established herself as a key member of the team.”