Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Ten thoughts about the Regional Press Awards

The Regional Press Awards were certainly dramatic on Friday. Just as we were tucking into the main course at the Marriott in Grosvenor Square the fire alarms went off and we were all evacuated. We stood for half an hour or so in the park (I was impressed that host Nick Ferrari brought his glass of wine) before being led to another hotel, the Grosvenor, for a glass of Champagne. Bob Satchwell (dubbed Capt Mainwaring by Ferrari) aided by an urbane Sgt Wilson (Paul Horrocks) then told us we were heading back to the Marriott. Apparently a faulty machine had spread smoke throughout the building. Lunch was ruined … but the hotel put on a free bar and the awards continued. 

Evacuated journalists in the park
Ferrari presented them at breakneck speed so that those who had trains to the far flung corners could get home before midnight.
The incident shouldn’t really deflect from the achievements of the day though. Regional newspapers may be going through a challenging time - but there is some first class work out there. The standard is as high as ever and there is real evidence of an investment in quality journalism. It was, as always, a great day and a chance to catch up with some (increasingly) old faces.
Anyway, here are my ten musings about the day.

1. Trinity Mirror, especially the Birmingham Mail and Sunday Life were the big winners. Sunday Life collected four winners’ medals including daily/Sunday Newspaper of the Year with a circulation of more than 25,000 and the Make A Difference campaign. The paper is part of Independent News and Media who I worked with most of last year. It is a group that really invests in journalism and its journalists and it certainly paid dividends at the awards. Trinity Mirror was the biggest group winner with 8 awards and 5 commended. The Birmingham Mail collected four of Trinity's top awards. Local World had 4 winners (5 commended) and Cumbria Newspapers won 2 (3 commended)Newsquest won 1 and was commended 7 times. Johnston Press (2 commended), DC Thomson  (3 commended) and Tindle (no commended) also won 1 top award. The KM group and Archant titles were both commended once. 

Reporters of the year: Patricia Devlin with weekly winner Gareth Davies
Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar Ltd
2. Sunday Life's Patricia Devlin took two big individual awards ... best daily/Sunday reporter and Scoop of the Year. She had a first class portfolio, the cream of which was the six-page interview with drugs mule Michaella McCollum in a Peruvian jail. Patricia managed to get the interview even though journalists were banned from the prison. Great work. But a special mention should go to her editor Martin Breen. How many regional editors these days would find money in their budget to send a reporter out to Peru on the off-chance of a story?  

The Birmingham Mail's 40th anniversary coverage of the pub bombings

3. Trinity Mirror quite rightly dominated the digital nominations with five titles shortlisted. It was difficult to separate the Evening Chronicle for its Great North Run Million and the Birmingham Mail’s coverage of the anniversary of the pub bombings. Both were outstanding. The Mail edged it but either would have been worthy winners. The Mail also won Website of the Year. Trinity’s investment in digital first coverage really shows - and it is setting a standard for the rest of the regional industry.

Robin Burgess receives his award from Journalists' Charity chairman Sue Ryan (right)
Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar Ltd
4. One of the last great newspaper proprietors Robin Burgess, who has been the main man at Cumbria Newspapers for 30 years, was the deserved recipient of the Journalists' Charity Award for making an outstanding contribution to the industry.  He is literally one of the newspaper industry’s big men who has always supported good journalism and journalists. The good news is, although he is retiring as chief executive in January,  he will stay on as non-executive chairman, continuing to fight the good fight. 

5. Front Page of the Year showcased some first rate designs and stories that proved the regional press is still alive and kicking. All six could have won it but I particularly liked the winner, the Evening Telegraph in Dundee, not least as it was a genuine news page rather than a set piece. 

Paul Dent-Jones, centre, receives the award on behalf of the Essex Chronicle team
Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar Ltd
6. It was good to see my former colleagues in Local World picking up their awards. Special congratulations to Paul Dent-Jones who has continued the success story at the Essex Chronicle, since his appointment as editor a year ago, by picking up Weekly Newspaper of the Year (circulation over 20,000). It is particularly rewarding to see my former trainees on the shortlists, especially when I see how far they have come. Sian David trained as a reporter at the Editorial Centre in Hastings years ago but was shortlisted for the design award for her quality work at the Bath Chronicle. It was good to catch up with her for a drink too.

Leicester's Lee Marlow - spiky
Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar Ltd
7. The spikiest speech of the day came from the Leicester Mercury’s Lee Marlow, when he collected the feature writer award. He also came up with a good maxim for journalism. Watch it here and scroll down to Feature Writer 

The prolific Jon Colman receives his award from Nick Ferrari
Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar Ltd
8. Cumbria Newspapers’ Jon Colman continues to break all records for RPA awards. He collected the Daily Sports Journalist awards once again to add to his astonishing trophy cabinet. He has been on the shortlist for either weekly or daily/Sunday sports reporter every year since 2006. He was weekly winner in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2009 he won both the weekly and daily award. In 2010 he won the daily award, as he did last year. I guess that cant really be a fluke...

9. The awards are not-for-profit. Anything left over after covering the costs goes to support the Journalists’ Charity. The table collection also raised £1,334 for the charity. Well done. It is something all journalists need to support. The details are here

Nick Ferrari - and fire extinguisher
Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar Ltd
10. Presenter Nick Ferrari was once again a gem. He cracked on, ad-libbed, took the evacuation in his stride and made it all work. Well done Nick.

Congratulations to all the winners and all of those on the shortlist. It is a fantastic achievement to be nominated, let alone win, and a reminder that regional newspapers are still delivering some excellent journalism. Finally well done Bob Satchwell, Paul Horrocks and the SoE team for keeping the whole thing together. Once again, a great job.
Full detail of the awards are here


  1. Did no one file copy about the (would be) fire? Cream of journos in Towering Inferno Shocker! No, of course not....they are all staffers. Not hungry enough. Only kidding. Looks like another bumper crop of top talent there.

  2. Course they did George. We were all over it ... five fire engines, started in Gordon Ramsay kitchen, lunches ruined etc. I even filed pictures. Once a hack ...

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