With Recent Alumni Spotlight Miles Dilworth
“The outrageous injustice of the situation was always clear.” Miles Dilworth (Newspaper Journalism, 2017) recently won an award for his reporting on the ongoing cladding scandal in the UK. The winning campaign focused on the vast impact the scandal is having on millions of leaseholders, and Miles is happy that his work has made a difference to some of those who are in a very difficult situation.
“It’s great to have your work recognised by respected figures within the industry,” says City alumnus Miles Dilworth. “I think a lot of young journalists, myself included, often worry about whether they are good enough or heading in the right direction. Awards like this let you know you must be doing something right.”
In May, Miles won this year’s MHP + @mischiefpr #30ToWatch Young Journalist Award in the Campaigns and Investigations category. His campaign, written while he was a reporter at Money Mail, covered the cladding scandal which has now affected millions of leaseholders around the UK for several years.
The scandal was first triggered by the news that certain types of cladding in the UK can be a safety hazard in the event of a fire, something the Grenfell Tower tragedy made very real. The knowledge caused great concern for inhabitants’ safety and also massively devalued properties that had the wrong cladding.
“A lot of our stories on Money Mail come from our readers writing in. That is always a good barometer of what matters to them. We started to get a trickle of letters on the issue in mid-2019 after new guidance made selling flats increasingly difficult. But correspondence started to flood in after we did a three-page special on the scandal in October,” Miles says.
“Most of those directly affected are young professionals, often first-time buyers – not necessarily natural Mail readers. But their parents and grandparents are – and they started writing in in their droves. We also got letters from pensioners who had bought these flats to help with their retirement income and were now facing ruin.”
The likes of Inside Housing and The Sunday Times had already covered the story in-depth, but as the amount of correspondence kept increasing, Miles and Money Mail felt it was time to start their own campaign.
“The outrageous injustice of the situation was always clear,” Miles says, pointing out that so many people got in touch that it could sometimes be difficult to choose amongst the available angles and find the stories that would have the most impact.
“If you’re stuck in a flat that is potentially a death trap – or you’ve got a £50,000 bill hanging over your head that you can do nothing about, it’s hard to think about anything else. That’s why leaseholders are so persistent in their campaigning. It’s shameful how long it’s taken the Government to take it seriously.”
Did the campaign have an impact? Miles believes it did.
“Two months after launching our campaign the Government trebled its cladding fund to £5.1billion. I don’t think that’s a coincidence,” he says, but is also careful to mention that multiple organisations were banging the drum before the Mail, for example End Our Cladding Scandal, Grenfell United, and Inside Housing. Even so, he is happy that his work has made a difference to those who are finding themselves in a difficult situation.
“As an individual, junior reporter, you don’t think of yourself as having any power or influence. But a Daily Mail campaign does. Being able to hammer the issue every day means ministers can’t ignore it. Newspapers still run the most effective campaigns because they can present them much more forcefully than social media and digital. It is a bit surreal to be a part of that – to have people in Government take action partly as a result of the stories you write.”
Miles graduated from City’s MA in Newspaper Journalism in 2017 and started working while he was still on the course.
“I started doing shifts at Telegraph Sport and the Independent Business section during my final term at City. This helped me get onto the graduate trainee scheme at the Daily Mail, as part of which I spent two months at South West News Service in Bristol, and three months at the Scottish Daily Mail in Glasgow. I was then a general news reporter for around a year back in London before I moved to the personal finance desk – Money Mail – for 18 months,” he says.
Miles has since moved to the Daily Mail’s Investigations Team, which is why he has asked that his photo isn’t included in the story.
As a City alumnus who has worked for a few years, what advice can Miles give anyone who would like to pursue a career in investigative journalism?
“Take advice from people with more experience than me!” is his immediate answer, still working to finds his own feet.
“It isn’t easy, so talk to senior colleagues, your professors, or guest speakers – whomever you have access to. You learn a lot from just being around these people and talking to them. You’ll also get a lot just from bouncing ideas off them and getting a gauge on which ones will work and which ones won’t.”
It was only by taking his own advice, and with the support of his colleagues, that he got the chance to make a difference.
“I didn’t have the confidence to pitch a campaign until one of the more experienced reporters at the paper encouraged me to do it.”
Thank you to Miles Dilworth for sharing his story, and a big congratulations on winning the award for Best Campaign and Investigation!