Stephen Wright, 2023’s Journalist of the Year, spoke to our JournoFest audience about working as an investigative journalist at the Daily Mail.

JournoFest brings together News Associates and The School of Journalism trainees for a day-long festival of high-profile speakers and special guests from the media industry.

Here, trainee Wang Sum Luk shares what he learnt from our Q&A

Stephen Wright won London Press Club’s Journalist of the Year with investigations into topics including cocaine-smuggling from Ecuador, Lord Lucan’s disappearance, and the Stephen Lawrence murder case.

Wright recounted his journey from a local reporter writing about council meetings to travelling to more than 30 countries as an investigative journalist.

He said: “If you’re committed to journalism, it’s a long haul.”

News Associates deputy managing editor Graham Dudman with Daily Mail associate editor Stephen Wright at JournoFest 2024. They are standing next to each other, smiling for the camera.

News Associates deputy managing editor Graham Dudman with Daily Mail associate editor (investigations) Stephen Wright at JournoFest 2024, held at The Stoop in Twickenham

His early career taught him how to talk and listen to people, build trust and respect, and become persistent.

These skills helped Wright publish the article he was proudest of, an exposé into the Operation Midland investigation, where prominent politicians were falsely accused of sexual abuse and murder.

Using his police contacts and his common sense, he identified inconsistencies in the accusations, and was subsequently thanked personally by an exonerated politician.

Likewise, when writing about Ecuador’s drug gangs, Wright’s network of contacts enabled him to find local journalists who helped him understand the drug trade.

“I’m still fascinated by cocaine, in a professional sense,” he said, to much laughter.

He also discussed his experience covering disturbing stories, such as reporting on 9/11 in New York.

“It was very traumatic, you could smell death on a big scale,” Wright said.

In contrast to the macho attitude among journalists in the past, he praised how publications are now increasingly supporting their journalists’ mental health.

Wright spoke highly of the Daily Mail, saying the editorial freedom he is afforded allows him to pursue worthwhile stories.

Despite having been offered executive roles, Wright said he wants to continue taking on the challenge of pursuing investigations.

“I don’t think we should apologise for getting a professional kick out of doing a job well,” he said.

“There is nothing better, believe me, than having a great story.”

You can read all the highlights and top tips from JournoFest 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 here.