Saturday, 2 June 2012

Making a big difference

Steve Hall goes to collect his award.  Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar
A belated congratulations to all the winners, and indeed all of those shortlisted, in the Regional Press Awards. It is the first time in a decade that I have not been there. I stood down as Chairman of the Judges this Year and was also out of the country on the day. But my colleagues tell me it was a splendid celebration, so well done to Bob Satchwell, my successor Paul Horrocks and all those, not least the judges, who put in a massive amount of time to ensure this showcase of the best in regional newspapers continues to thrive. I was particularly pleased to see the Campaign of the Year nominations. For me this is the category that sums up what regional newspapers are about - making a difference to the communities they serve. There were five very strong nominations.
Lillian’s Law – Croydon Advertiser
An Industry Betrayed – Derby Telegraph
Missing from Home – Manchester Evening News
Fighting Censorship by Killers – Sunday Life
Whistleblower – Wirral Globe
Well done to Steve Hall, editor of The Derby Telegraph, for not only winning the campaign award but also collecting the Editor of the Year accolade. Richly deserved. His Industry Betrayed campaign was a triumph. Steve rallied his paper and the Derby community after it was announced that a contract to build the Thameslink was to be given to a German company and not Derby-based Bombardier. Thousands of rail workers' jobs were threatened. The Telegraph's campaign saw 50,166 people sign a petition, 10,000 people taking to the streets and Derby County footballers wearing campaign t-shirts. The judges gave the award to the paper for a  “complex and challenging campaign which had everything, from mass public engagement, activism and investigative journalism to brilliantly persuasive editorial treatments and real devotion to the cause.” 
Another campaign that made a real difference was the Croydon Advertiser's Lillian's Law, launched after 14-year-old Lillian Groves was killed by a driver who had been smoking cannabis. Reporter Gareth Davies joined Lillian’s family to start the campaign after the driver was given just eight months in prison. The Advertiser called for new laws which would make roadside drugs testing compulsory and ensure tougher sentences for those causing fatal accidents as a result of taking drugs. The campaign reached its goal when, in April, it was announced in the Queen's Speech that, under the Crime and Courts Bill, police will be equipped with handheld detection devices to test saliva at the roadside. Well done to Gareth and to editor Glenn Ebrey. And this, of course, is what all local newspapers should be doing. As my old editorial director used to say, if you have an acquaintance who never has anything to say, always sits on the fence, never stands up for their friends, you will eventually stop inviting them round. So it is with newspapers. Fighting for the community and its individuals is one of our prime roles. And anyone who doubts the influence of regional and local papers should ponder the impact of these, and the many other campaigns that our newsrooms constantly throw their weight behind.
A big slap on the back to all the winners. From a personal point of view I am delighted for everyone but a special mention goes to the Northcliffe winners, who took almost half of the available awards. I was also pleased to see the Northern Scot win Weekly Newspaper of the Year (under 20,000). My colleague Mike Brough and I redesigned the paper last year and had a cracking time with the journalists of Elgin. Well done Mike Collins and his team.
The full list of winners is here.

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