Ryan O'Neill


I have chosen these stories as I feel they provide excellent examples of exploring wider issues through strong personal stories from those at the heart of a topic. Following the success of the TV show 'It's a Sin', I discovered that Martyn Butler, who regularly engages with our local NewportOnline Facebook page and commented on our stories about the show, was from Newport. Further research led me to finding out he was a close friend of Terry Higgins, one of the first people to die from AIDs in the UK, and had helped co-found the Terrence Higgins Trust charity in memory of Higgins. I reached out to Martyn who, although partially deaf, was happy to meet for an interview and spoke really honestly and personally about the devastation of losing friends and loved ones during the AIDs epidemic, the importance of 'It's a Sin' and the Terrence Higgins Trust. Martyn had rarely been asked about his story before this but has since seen his profile raised and received an OBE in 2022 for his ongoing work with the Trust, and I am proud of having allowed him to tell his story to highlight an issue many wrongly feel has gone away.

I regularly write about finance in my role, and decided to speak to hospitality businesses about the issues they were facing due to the cost of living crisis. I deliberately chose a variety of different-sized businesses, from companies with several businesses to independent cafes, using my contacts book to speak to those I felt would give me the greatest insight into the day-to-day issues. The result was a comprehensive look at the crisis from owners who fear they may not even be open next year. I appreciated the honestly of those I spoke to, as some were initially reluctant to share too much information about their own business. Finally, a colleague alerted me to Owain Harris-Allan who won a bronze medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Although we were initially unaware of his back story, through contacting his local boxing club we discovered that Owain had come through a lot to get where he is, including ADHD, finding his mum dead and criminality. They agreed to an interview with him but asked if someone could sit with him, as he is only 18 and unaccustomed to the media. Given his trauma, it was necessary to conduct the interview very sensitively, but Owain was very open in speaking about his mum, growing up in one of Cardiff's most troubled areas and what he had come through. We also spoke to his long-term coach and interviewed Owain on camera, which further enhanced the story. The result was a hard-hitting piece which I felt showed the human story behind overcoming crime and tragedy. As a reporter, telling the stories of people as a way of exploring a wider topic is what I am most passionate about, and I feel these stories demonstrate my ability to do that.