Johnston Press has pulled together resources and talent from across its local titles to create a new investigations unit that will work to deliver exclusive stories campaigning for change.
The new unit will be led by multi-award-winning investigative reporter Aasma Day, of the Lancashire Evening Post, and is comprised of a team of journalists from across Johnston Press.
The reports will feature in Johnston Press’ largest daily titles including the Lancashire Evening Post, the Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post, and the i newspaper, which was acquired for £24m earlier this year.
It launches with the Drive for Justice investigation which reveals the extend of Britain’s deadly road crimes and the widespread problem with lenient sentencing in the UK.
It is being promoted online with the #driveforjustice hashtag and focuses on the fact that despite hundreds of convictions for causing death by dangerous driving, no-one in the UK has ever received the maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment.
— Johnston Press (@Johnston_Press) November 22, 2016
The piece highlights the average of just four years in prison for drivers who have killed and points out that dozens have escaped jail altogether.
Discussing the launch of the new unit and its first campaign, Aasma Day said: “The team feels it is crucial to ensure reports like Drive for Justice are absolutely front of mind – that though our papers and websites we’re raising awareness of the issues that really matter in our communities.
“These are local stories of national interest and our ambition is to pool our resources and talents to enable us to deliver quality and exclusive content on important issues that all of our readers really care about.”
Jeremy Clifford, editor-in-chief at Johnston Press, added: “Investigative journalism – and holding those in authority to account - is at the very core of our business and of the communities we serve. We’ve seen the impact and benefits that campaigns supported by local titles can deliver and the lives that can change.
“By sharing high quality, powerful special reports, data journalism pieces and investigations across our portfolio – which now includes the i paper - we can deliver compelling investigations and demand real results that can ultimately change the law and people’s lives.”
As well as carrying out investigations, and telling powerful human interest stories, the unit has a campaigning and lobbying role at its heart, and will be launching a petition later this week, calling for tighter sentences and other legal changes in an attempt to further promote the work from the investigations team.
The focus on powerful human interest stories is part of a wider strategy for the publisher to strengthen the offering of its struggling local titles and accelerate revenue growth as pressure mounts on the business to reverse its collapsing stock.
The full roster of journalists in Aasma Day's team is Chris Burn of the Sheffield Star, Cahal Milmo of the I, Ruby Kitchen of the Yorkshire Post & the Yorkshire Evening Post, Ben Fishwick of the Portsmouth News and Philip Bradfield of the Belfast News Letter.