Mark Thompson gives 2021 Geddes Lecture

9 Mar 2021

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.

This year, 491 people from across the world listened to Mark Thompson as he delivered the first online Memorial Lecture ‘The Lie in the Machine: Truth, Big Tech and the Limits of Free Speech’.

Mark Thompson gives the first online Philip Geddes Memorial Lecture

The lecture commenced with two introductory speeches: the first from St Edmund Hall’s Principal, Professor Katherine Willis and the second from the Chairman of the Geddes Trust, and previous Geddes Trust prize winner, Peter Cardwell.

Mark, former CEO of The New York Times Company and Director-General of the BBC and current Chairman of, spoke of historic, sometimes centuries-old, toxic mythologies, present-day fake news and digital misinformation; the audience learnt of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln (1246-1255), whose death was falsely attributed to the Jewish people and the difficulties and responsibilities that journalists, publishers and the media have had in the past, and continue to face, when reporting on conspiracy theorists cults, within the limits of woke culture and free speech protections.

Watch the lecture on the St Edmund Hall’s YouTube Channel.

Launch Video

Geddes Lecture 2021

Geddes Student Journalism Prizes

The Trust and the Hall also 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.

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

Lois Heslop (Lady Margaret Hall), who is in her second year studying physics, won the main Philip Geddes Prize for the most promising student journalist at the University of Oxford.

The portfolio of work she submitted included several exclusive news stories she broke for The Oxford Blue – Oxford’s first new student newspaper in 30 years, which she co-founded – that hit national headlines. These included reporting of the arrest of a Christ Church professor for stealing ancient papyrus from the Sackler, a Pembroke don pleading guilty to child pornography possession, and a long read on the Governing Body feud at Christ Church, laid bare in confidential documents she obtained.

She also submitted two interviews with prominent scientists: Nobel Prize Winner Professor Donna Strickland, and Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, and an opinion piece she wrote for the Telegraph on the treatment of students during lockdown.

The Oxford Blue is independent and run entirely by students. The Blue has had over half a million website views in the year since its founding, has published articles by 400+ authors, and has won a national student journalism award. The prize will go on a number of long-term projects for the paper, with a particular focus on science and technology journalism.  These will include the development of a science channel and outreach project, events, and an Oxford Blue app.

Eren Orbey (Magdalen College), who is a second year MPhil student in Modern Middle Eastern Studies, won the Clive Taylor Prize for sports journalism.

Eren submitted a portfolio of work published by The New Yorker, for which he has written since 2016.  Eren plans to use the prize money to report on American women’s gymnastics in the run-up to the Olympic Games.

Lauren Shirreff (Balliol College), who is in her third (and last) year studying Classical Archaeology, won the Ronnie Payne Prize for Foreign Reporting.

Lauren sent in articles about #MeToo, A Level results day, college responses to Covid-19 last term and an interview with a student LSD dealer who runs his ‘business’ out of his college room. Lauren is hoping to use the prize money to go to California and speak to Native American tribes about how cannabis legalisation is affecting their communities.

winner of the Philip Geddes Prize for the most promising student journalist at the University of Oxford
winner of the Clive Taylor Prize for sports journalism
winner of the Ronnie Payne Prize for Foreign Reporting

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