SCOTTISH journalists, bloggers and student writers who have helped raise the bar in the way women are represented in the media were recognised for their efforts at an awards ceremony last night.

The winners of the Write to End Violence Against Women Awards, launched by women’s charities and supported by The National as media partner and on the judging panel, were revealed after they beat tough competition.

The awards, which were organised by Zero Tolerance with the support of NUJ Scotland, White Ribbon Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender, Everyday Victim Blaming, Women 5050, Rape Crisis Scotland, Women for Independence, and former Scottish Socialist Party MSP Carolyn Leckie.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, presented the award for Best Article in Comment and Features, with Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale in a sponsor's role. Zero Tolerance board member Lesley Orr, also a feminist historian, writer and activist based at Edinburgh University, was the evening's compere.

Judges were Emily Beever, women’s Officer of NUS Scotland, The National’s consultant editor Richard Walker, along with journalist Janice Burns, Zero Tolerance co-director Jenny Kemp, Engender executive director Emma Ritch, Common Weal’s head of policy and research Ben Wray, and Women 5050 chairwoman Talat Yaqoob.

Zero Tolerance revealed that, with the help of The National, the quality of entries “pushed the boundaries” and they were able to reach out to a wider audience than ever before, with a record number of nominations from the public.

Kemp said: “This year, with the support of The National, we’ve really been able push the boundaries of the award and reach out to a wider audience than ever before. So we’re delighted that this year we’ve attracted a record amount of public nominations from diverse sources.”

The aim was to recognise journalists and bloggers across the country producing high-quality work which tackles violence and gender inequality, and the finalists passed the test with flying colours.

Walker said it was an honour to be involved in the awards and added: “These awards help to raise awareness of the reality of violence against women and to dispel dangerously unhelpful myths about this issue. The National is proud to lend its support to such worthwhile work and grateful for the opportunity to become involved."

Dugdale said the way women are represented in the media, particularly when it comes to violence against women, is crucial to tackling attitudes.

She went on:“I am proud supporter of women’s organisations across Scotland and delighted to support the Write to End Violence Against Women Awards so we can commend those journalists and bloggers who are changing attitudes with every word they write.”

This year’s winner of the award for Best Article in News was the Sunday Herald's Judith Duffy for her piece “Scottish women taking on the sexist curse of street harassment”.

Kemp said: “This article challenged the myth that street harassment was just ‘banter' and isn’t harmful, and explicitly names it as sexist. It conveys the seriousness of this under-examined form of violence against women.”

The winner in the Best Article in Comment and Features category was The Observer’s writer Alex Renton for his investigative piece “Rape, child abuse and Prince Charles’s former school”.

Hyslop described his expose of historic abuse at Gordonstoun school as “powerful and evocative”.

Best Blog award went to Isabelle Kerr for her Glasgow Rape Crisis blog, “Fifty Shades of Grey: Saviour of Relationships or Abuser’s Handbook?"

Ritch said: “Framing a piece about coercive control around a pop culture phenomenon encourages a new audience to think about power and control in relationships.”

The Best Student Article award went to Eve Livingston for her “On Rape Culture” personal blog.

Edinburgh Evening News journalist Gina Davidson collected the Gender Equality in Political Reporting category award for her article, “Let’s hear it for the smart girls”.

Talat said: “We need to celebrate women as more than objects. Too often you open a paper and what we see is the scrutiny of women’s clothing, their size, their wrinkles. Instead we can have a media which is a powerful supporter of women, one that can write about them in a way that exhibits their talents and ambitions.

“This article did just that – it reminded us about the forgotten history of women in science and applauded their intelligence, no whether they wore the right colour. Writing can tackle sexism, more articles like this help the cause.”

Kirsty Strickland: The benchmark has been raised for equality and responsibility in reporting

The last in a series of articles by Kirsty Strickland, who was awarded a bursary by the Write to End Violence Against Women campaign

IT was Human Rights Day yesterday and, fittingly, also the date of the Write to End Violence against Women Awards. Politicians, women’s groups, and media representatives all came together to reward this year’s successful batch of forward-thinking journalists and bloggers.

The coverage in the build-up to this year’s awards successfully encouraged discussion about the potentially harmful impact of careless reporting of violence against women. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as the saying goes.

We look back on media norms from the past with a shake of the head and a weary sigh. It’s hard for us to imagine now how certain things were ever acceptable – 16-year-old page three girls being an uncomfortable and relatively recent example.

Practices become ingrained and accepted throughout newsrooms. If we aren’t to rely on hindsight in the future then we need to work to speed up positive change; to give responsible newspapers like The National our support for working to be better; and to tell the ones that fall short that we are over the Jeremy Kyle-style reporting, the ogling and the gore.

We’ve grown up a bit as a nation and we know that this isn’t the standard that should be accepted in 2015.

By giving their backing to The Write to End VAW Awards, The National sent out a clear message that they credit their readers with intelligence and maturity.

The deaths of women at the hands of their partners needn’t be sensationalised and salivated over.

Victims of rape don’t need their worthiness held up to the court of public opinion for verdict. This paper has trusted that people will read and care about these issues without the need for the tried-and-tested tabloid formula.

It is my hope that the New Year sees other Scottish newspapers pledge their commitment to responsible reporting of violence. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time writing for The National and have been heartened by the feedback I have received from readers in response to my articles.

Violence against women isn’t a subject that is always guaranteed to be well received.

Warmest congratulations to all the winners and to those shortlisted. The awards are down to the hard work and vision of Zero Tolerance and their partners. It is right that we celebrate them. Let us hope that in 2016 their benchmark is the one that all journalists use.