Salford journalism lecturer shortlisted for three prestigious awards for groundbreaking podcast
A University of Salford lecturer has been shortlisted for three prestigious national media awards for her work on the highly successful and groundbreaking podcast, The Trial of Lucy Letby.
Caroline Cheetham, Lecturer in Journalism, has produced and co-hosted 63 episodes of the podcast over the last year, which saw a spike in popularity after the podcast’s subject, Lucy Letby, the former neo-natal nurse was found guilty in August of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others in her care at the Countess of Chester Hospital.
The podcast, produced for MailPlus, followed the course of the trial from last October through to the convictions and sentencing, releasing weekly up until Letby was sentenced. It has been acclaimed across the national media for its innovative approach to court reporting and has racked up 12.5 million downloads across all podcast platforms, featuring as the number one podcast in five countries at one point.
Off the back of its success, Caroline has been nominated alongside co-producer and co-host Liz Hull, Northern Correspondent for the Daily Mail for Multi-Media Journalist of the Year at the London Press Club 2022-23 Awards and for Podcast of the Year and the Innovation Award at the Society of Editors Media Freedom Awards 2023.
On the nominations, Caroline said: “To have the acclaim is really unexpected and shocking to be honest. It takes investment and commitment to make the podcast happen and hopefully the listenership and numbers show that it has paid off.
“At the heart of this was a tragic court case. I was a crime reporter for many years and Liz has covered court and crime her whole career so we are passionate about court reporting. So one of the themes early on was flying the flag for the court reporters who do an amazing job and showing how we could make the system better by showing democracy at work.”
The podcast follows the concept of a traditional true crime story albeit with the day-by-day detail and freshness from the reports from court in what has been dubbed a ‘modern reinvention of traditional court reporting.’
Caroline adds: “We tried to turn a complicated court case into something that was understandable and more compelling as court cases tend to be quite dry and clinical. At the start, we focused each episode on one of the babies and named them Baby A, Baby B, Baby C and so on. They weren’t allowed to be named and I wanted a way to humanise them, so decided to give them an episode each as a way to do it. The listeners became really invested from there and bought into the measured approach we took as we reported on everything and not just the big moments.”
The podcast is due to come to a pause next week after a hearing to decide whether a retrial will go ahead for the six outstanding counts of attempted murder.
Reflecting on the outcomes of the trial and the impact of producing more than 60 episodes on a emotionally draining case, Caroline said: “My only sadness is that we are still talking about Lucy Letby and not about the children and what the families went through. On the day in court when we heard the victim impact statements from the families, I have never seen a room of a journalists so visibly impacted.
“That day was about the families and what they had been through and some of what they told us we would never have been known. Some of what was said still haunts me.”
Whilst the production of the podcast was mostly produced by the award-nominated duo, University of Salford students also helped produce the podcast and provided voiceovers for the episodes.
The Trial of Lucy Letby is available on most podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube. The podcast was also shortlisted at the Future of Media Awards 2023 for Best Podcast.
The London Press Club 2022-23 Awards will be held on Tuesday 17 October in London. The Society of Editors Media Freedom Awards 2023 will be held on Wednesday 8 November, also in London.
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