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University alumni nominated for top journalism accolade

Alumni Tom Cotterill shortlisted for a national journalism award for raising awareness of suicide among military veterans

 

UNIVERSITY of Chichester alumni Tom Cotterill has been shortlisted for a national journalism award for raising awareness of the often-overlooked issue of suicide among military veterans.

The 29-year-old, who was nominated for the JPIMedia awards, graduated from our MA in Creative Writing in 2010 and has since become one of the country’s foremost defence correspondents, working for The News, Portsmouth.

Tom said: “My journey since leaving the University of Chichester has been a whirlwind. Within a few months of graduating, I had bagged my first job as a reporter on a local paper, quickly becoming the publication’s senior and then chief reporter. During that time I covered a number of major breaking news stories, including the Shoreham Airshow disaster in 2015.

“I became the defence correspondent for The News, in Portsmouth, in September 2015 - a job which has taken me around the world. I’ve covered everything from the construction of Britain’s biggest warship ever built to deploying with the army on overseas exercises and rows at the very centre of Whitehall. It’s been an incredible journey. Sometimes I have to pinch myself in the morning to make sure I’m not dreaming.”

In May 2018, things changed for Tom as he became a leading advocate in the fight to improve lives for veterans in the UK.

The 29-year-old graduated in 2010 and has since become one of the country’s foremost defence correspondents

“It came after the death of former special forces veteran Danny Johnston, of Bognor Regis,” Tom added. “Danny had been part of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment - the sister unit of the famed SAS - and had served behind the lines in war zones across the Middle East.

“He went missing and was found dead days later in Stoughton Woods, having hanged himself after a battle with post-traumatic stress disorder. I was the only journalist on the ground during this hunt, with the veteran community coming to me first to let me know of Danny’s tragic death.

“Danny’s death was the catalyst for a major campaign to get the government to do more to support its veterans, spearheaded by myself and supported by colleagues from across my company. Through an investigation we managed to find that Britain had no concrete figures or system in place to record how many veterans took their own lives - unlike its allies in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.”

The revelation, later picked up by all the nationals, sparked a major debate in parliament with political leaders from across the house agreeing more needed to be done - with ministers pledging to fund a long-term study into the tragedy.

Said Tom: “Almost two veterans a week are taking their own lives here in Britain - and that’s just the ones we know about. That could be the tip of the iceberg. I have persistently chased cabinet ministers and senior MPs for the past year to find out exactly what they were doing about the disgraceful situation our veterans were facing day in, day out.

“Uniting with one of my local MPs, who has been a major supporter of my work, we managed to get a debate in parliament looking specifically at veteran suicide rates and how Britain can improve things.”

Tom has become a leading advocate in the fight to improve lives for veterans in the UK

Tom’s efforts have been praised by military leaders including the former head of the Royal Navy Admiral Lord Alan West and Lieutenant Colonel Chris Parker, who supports thousands of veteran infantry soldiers across the region.

“When I heard I had been nominated for news reporter of the year at the JPIMedia Awards, I couldn’t believe it - I was gobsmacked,” he added. “It was an incredible honour to even be shortlisted out of the hundreds of people put forward. So whatever happens, I still feel like a winner.”

For more about Tom follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pn_tomcotterill or read his award-nominated journalist at www.portsmouth.co.uk/author/tom.cotterill.

To find out more on English and Creative Writing courses at the University of Chichester go to www.chi.ac.uk/humanities.