Sophie Halle-Richards

Manchester Evening News

I am a senior reporter and have worked at the Manchester Evening News since 2018. In my role I predominantly work on features and investigations - with a particular focus on issues affecting women.

During the coronavirus pandemic, I dedicated a lot of my time reporting on how the NHS was coping, and the unrelenting pressure staff were under. Alongside editor-in-chief Sarah Lester, we spent months building a relationship with local hospital trusts in the hope of gaining access and reporting directly from the frontline - something nobody else in Greater Manchester had yet done. I was eventually granted unprecedented access to Royal Oldham Hospital’s dedicated Coronavirus ICU to speak to staff and get a true insight into what was happening inside our region’s hospitals. On the back of this visit we launched our ‘On The Covid Frontline’ series which saw myself and other colleagues given access to a number of hospital covid departments. My submission piece received acclaim from many of my colleagues, managers, M.E.N readers and local hospital trusts. At a time when misinformation was spreading on social media, my piece cut through the noise and gave readers an exclusive and emotive account of life for NHS staff in the North West. Since my visits, we have built a lasting relationship with our local hospital trusts which has allowed us to continue to report on our local hospital system with transparency. I’ve always been passionate about giving a voice to women who have shown strength and bravery to bring perpetrators of domestic or sexual abuse to justice. After our court reporter covered a particularly harrowing case of a man who raped and abused his ex-partner, I worked closely alongside police in Manchester to arrange a sit-down interview with her, and give her the opportunity to tell her story. Against a backdrop of low rape conviction rates, I sensitively discussed the positive effect waiving her right to anonymity could have on Angela's goal of encouraging more women to come forward. With a powerful portrait and testimony, Angela’s story made the front page splash and received over 35,000 page views online. Hundreds of readers responded with admiration and gratitude to Angela for sharing her story. Following a shocking report I found online about life expectancy for women in the most deprived areas of the country, I felt it was important to tell the human side of the story behind the figures. I went out to do a vox pop in Oldham - where levels of poverty and deprivation are particularly high. The accounts of women I spoke to were particularly harrowing and allowed me to use a pull out a quote for an emotive headline. The story slotted into our weekly cost of living coverage in a way we had never explored before. The story attracted over 20,000 page views and appeared as a double spread in the newspaper. Female readers felt they could identify with the accounts in the story, and shared their own experiences in the Facebook comments.