Dame Melanie Dawes in conversation with Aularian Sophy Ridge at 2024 Geddes Lecture

13 Mar 2024

Geddes Lecture 2024
Geddes Lecture 2024 with Sophy Ridge and Melanie Dawes

This year’s Philip Geddes Memorial Lecture 2024 was given by Media Regulator Ofcom’s CEO Dame Melanie Dawes in conversation with Aularian and Sky News’ Sophy Ridge (2003, English) on Thursday 29 February.  Dame Melanie Dawes joined Ofcom as an Executive Board Member and Chief Executive on 2 March 2020.

Prior to joining Ofcom, Melanie was Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (2015-2020). She has held senior roles across the Civil Service, working in partnership across the public and private sectors. She became the overall Champion for Diversity and Inclusion in the Civil Service in 2019.

Established in 1998, the lecture is convened in memory of St Edmund Hall alumnus, Philip Geddes (1977, English Language & Literature), who was murdered by IRA terrorists in the 1983 Harrods bombing at just 24 years of age. Each year the Hall and the Geddes Trust invite an esteemed journalist to give a lecture about their views on the state of journalism today.

The lecture commenced with two introductory speeches: the first from St Edmund Hall’s Principal and Oxford Professor of Biodiversity, Professor Baroness Willis, CBE and the second from the new Chairman of the Geddes Trust John Ryley, former Head of Sky News, who welcomed Dame Melanie and Sophy to the stage.

Dame Melanie spoke on her career background in the Civil Service, regulating Royal Mail, the polarisation of politics and how that plays out in television (TV) as well as impartiality in TV broadcasting and the Online Safety Act 2023.

Dame Melanie took questions from our in-person audience, who between them totalled around 150 attendees. Prior to the lecture the 2024 Geddes Prize winners received their awards at a tea with Dame Melanie and Sophy Ridge at St Edmund Hall.

Watch the 2024 Geddes Lecture on St Edmund Hall’s YouTube Channel.

Geddes Student Journalism Prizes 2024

The Trust and the Hall award three annual Geddes Student Journalism Prizes to both recognise and support emerging journalistic talent. The prizes cover expenses on either a media project or internship, with previous prize winners going on to work for eminent newspapers, such as The Economist, The Times and The Guardian.

Maggie Wilcox Philip Geddes Memorial Prize
Dame Melanie Dawes, Maggie Wilcox and Professor Baroness Willis

This year’s Geddes Trust prizes have been awarded to three very talented Oxford student journalists.

Philip Geddes Memorial Prize – Maggie Wilcox, final year History and English student, St Hugh’s College

With significant experience as a reporter and editor at The Cherwell, Maggie has both led the paper’s News division as Deputy Editor in Chief and served as Director of Business. From talking to LTN protestors and student activists, to bringing the experiences of sexual harassment survivors to light, she has worked to uncover new stories and enhance understanding of well-known issues and events. Having been a Runner Up for the Best Journalist in the SouthEast in this year’s SPA Journalism Awards, she is now the Philip Geddes Prize winner this year. Her project is a variant on the all-American road trip. It involves interviewing people in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, the so-called ‘flyover states’ during the weeks before and after the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee this July. In talking to residents, politicians and local leaders, Maggie hopes to address some of the many questions people have about this part of America, and to provide readers with a more detailed depiction of what motivates Republican and independent voters in these key states in 2024. The results of her investigation will be pitched in different media and across various platforms, to American and UK political magazines, digital publications, and associated podcasts. Maggie hopes to pursue a career as a journalist, developing still further her obvious strengths in investigative reporting.

Melanie Dawes, Anandita Ambrahanm and Professor Baroness Willis
Dame Melanie Dawes, Anandita Abraham and Professor Baroness Willis

Ronnie Payne Prize – Anandita Abraham (2022, PPE), St Edmund Hall

Anandita has a good deal of experience in journalism, both within and beyond Oxford. Fiction Director for The Oxford Review of Books, and Features Writer and Lead Fiction Editor for The Isis Magazine, she has also written for Cherwell, The Malaysian Insight, Defiant Magazine, and the Youth Foreign Policy Magazine. She hopes to pursue a career in international journalism and has applied to a number of internships here in the UK; she will be using the prize money to fund this work over the course of the summer vacation.

Dame Melanie Dawes, Eleanor Luxton and Professor Baroness Willis
Dame Melanie Dawes, Eleanor Luxton and Professor Baroness Willis

Clive Taylor Prize – Eleanor Luxton, final year Geography student, Mansfield College

Eleanor has a strong track record as a journalist, having worked as an intern at ITV Anglia, Newsquest Media Norwich, and The Mirror She has served as Digital Product Manager, at PODTech’s REACH local magazine, and as Section Editor with News and Sport, The Oxford Student, while developing the role of Editor of Mansfield College’s Virtual Quad – the weekly college newsletter for students and staff. She has a distinct strength in sports journalism, particularly women’s sports, and for her Prize project she will conduct a wide range of interview to explore issues around the design, production, and cost of women’s football kit in the UK – using this as a starting point to open up a bigger discussion about equality, status, and physical and mental health in football.

Dame Melanie Dawes, Rose Henderson and Professor Baroness Willis
Dame Melanie Dawes, Rose Henderson and Professor Baroness Willis

Special Commendation – Rose Henderson, final year PPE student, Worcester College

Rose has a wide range of experience in journalism, from the News Associates Editorial Leadership Course to The Oxford Student, where, having served as News and Comment Editor. Head of News, and Editor-in-Chief, she now fulfils the role of Managing Advisor and News Editor. Her project involves exploring the two very different routes up Ben Nevis as a way of opening up a debate about the status of hill-walking in the UK and its relation to larger questions about both conservation and the commodification of nature.

2024 Prize Winners with the Geddes Trust and Principal of St Edmund Hall
2024 Prize Winners with the Geddes Trust and Principal of St Edmund Hall

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