A university lecturer is to establish an annual memorial lecture in honour of the late journalist and student Lyra McKee, who was killed whilst observing riots in Northern Ireland in 2019. 

Professor Paul Bradshaw, course leader for the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University, has organised the on-campus event on Tuesday 28 March 2023 to help protect Lyra McKee’s legacy. Belfast-born editor and writer Lyra McKee, described as a ‘very special student’ by her former lecturer, studied for a distance learning Master’s degree at the University between 2012 and 2014.  

Lyra was shot dead in the Creggan area of Derry, Northern Ireland, during unrest in 2019. The first edition of the Lyra McKee Memorial Lecture will see award-winning investigative journalist and FOI campaigner Jenna Corderoy deliver a talk to students, staff, media, and members of the public.  

The openDemocracy reporter has used the Freedom of Information Act to investigate issues from ‘dark money’ and secret lobbying to Government monitoring of journalists and police spying on environmental campaigners. Her work has appeared in VICE, the iPaper, and Byline Times. 

Jenna Corderoy also works with the Centre for Investigative Journalism’s Lyra McKee bursary scheme which aims to widen access in the industry for people from underprivileged backgrounds. The Lyra McKee Memorial Lecture, co-ordinated by Birmingham City University School of Media and the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, will be introduced by Professor Paul Bradshaw, who has written for The Guardian, The Telegraph, and has worked on investigations for the BBC and Bureau of Investigative Journalism. 

Professor Paul Bradshaw said: “Lyra was an inspirational figure and I wanted to find a way to keep her legacy alive while also inspiring young journalists who might follow in her footsteps.  

“Many BCU students and journalists in Birmingham might not even be aware that Lyra McKee studied here – so I decided that a memorial lecture was a good way of remembering her achievements. I spoke to Lyra’s sister Nichola and she agreed that it would be a fabulous way to honour her.

“I felt it is important that speakers reflect the principles that Lyra stood for: inclusivity, creativity and holding power to account.”

A winner of the Sky News Young Journalist Award in 2006 at the age of 16, then named as one of the ‘30 under 30 in media in Europe’ by Forbes a decade later in 2016, Lyra McKee had forged a reputation as an inspiring and tenacious investigative journalist. During her career, she also delivered training courses to journalists at The Times and The Sunday Times, presented an acclaimed TEDx talk at Stormont and authored two books. 

In 2017 Lyra returned to Birmingham City University for the Rethink Media conference to speak about class bias in journalism. The Belfast-born journalist was named as in the "Best of Irish: 10 rising stars of Irish writing" list by Irish Times Books Editor Martin Doyle, a month before she was shot during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry, in Northern Ireland. Her success in journalism meant she increasingly dedicated her time to researching and breaking news stories; her achievements in this field meant she was unable to formally graduate from the University.

In January 2020, Lyra McKee was posthumously awarded a Master of Arts degree in Online Journalism by Birmingham City University. Reserve a free place for the inaugural Lyra McKee Memorial Lecture via Eventbrite 

The lecture will be followed by a Q&A session. Read about diversity in reporting and more in the latest issue of Representology, produced by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity.