I am delighted, and just a little relieved, that there has been such a fantastic response to the new Regional Press Awards - more than 750 entries. To put that in perspective, when we ran the awards in 2009 before they were rested, there were about 500 entries. In the final 36 hours before the deadline on Tuesday, entries were coming in on the website at the rate of one a minute. A combination of a reduced entry fee, the support of the NS so that the purse strings were released a little and some hard work by Bob Satchwell, Angela Varley and Sharon Nall at the Society of Editors have all played a big part in ensuring the awards are now back with a bang. That this is a non-profit making event with any surplus cash going to the Journalists' Charity has also been a factor. Perhaps the awards have also been missed. There is no doubt that editors and journalists want recognition for the excellent work that still goes on in the regions. Anyway, the bottom line is we now have well-supported awards for the regional Press, run by the industry. Success. The regional Press has been on the ropes for a long time now, so this serves as a big signal that it is still alive and kicking.
The next stage for me is to organise the 50 judges - all independents and senior figures in the media - who give their time freely. We will initially be drawing up shortlists of six in each category and these will be announced early next month. We also have two live judging days at the Press Association offices in London where secret ballots will decide the winners from the shortlists. After all of that I can relax a little and look forward to catching up with some of you at the awards lunch on May 11. Good luck.