Saturday, 21 May 2016

Ten thoughts about the Regional Press Awards

The winners celebrate 

I have just about recovered from a splendid day at the Regional Press Awards yesterday. It was great to catch up with old faces and watch the cream of regional journalism enjoy a well deserved party at the London Marriott. It is usually one of my favourite events in the calendar - and this year certainly didn’t disappoint. Regional newspapers are going through a challenging time of course - but there is still some first class work and excellent journalists out there. Here are my ten musings about the day.

The Chairman's Award went to the Liverpool Echo for its 27-year Hillsborough campaign. From left: Chairman of the Judges, Paul Horrocks, reporter Eleanor Barlow, Trevor Hicks, editor Ali Machray and host Nick Ferrari
1. The most moving moment of the day was the Chairman’s Award presented to the Liverpool Echo for its 27-year Hillsborough campaign. The award recognised the work of the Echo under four editors since 1989 – Chris Oakley, John Griffith, Mark Dickinson and, since 2005, Ali Machray - in fighting for justice for the 96 victims and their families. The award was presented by Trevor Hicks, president of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who lost two daughters in the tragedy. He said that he and the other families had experienced the best and worst of journalism during their fight for the truth, but that the Echo had represented the best. The coverage of the two-year inquests by Echo reporter Eleanor Barlow was also highly commended in the digital award category. There was a deserved standing ovation for the Echo.

2. It is little surprise that as Trinity Mirror took over Local World (formerly Northcliffe and Iliffe) to become the biggest regional group by far, it should sweep the board. Trinity won 12 awards with 12 highly commended. Next came Newsquest and DC Thomson with four wins each. Newsquest had six commendations and Thomson one. There was one win for Johnston Press (three highly commended), Cumbria Newspapers (two highly commended), Archant (two highly commended), the Belfast Telegraph and the Kent Messenger. The Camden New Journal and Midlands News Association received a couple of commendations each and the independent Stratford-Upon-Avon Herald was commended once. Well done to all of them.

Daily/Sunday Sports Journalist of the Year Carolyn Hitt
3. The number of women journalists being recognised might have been an issue in the national Press awards but it certainly wasn't here. There were more women than men on the stage yesterday with seven individual awards going to women and six to men. Women also did well in traditional male areas such as sport with the Western Mail’s Carolyn Hitt winning Daily and Sunday Sports Journalist of the Year and the Lancashire Telegraph’s Suzanne Geldard being highly commended. The next area to tackle might be photography where all 12 on the shortlist were men.  

Columnist of the Year Ericka Waller
4. There were no long rambling acceptance speeches (a good thing) but there were a few nice dedications from the podium. Carolyn Hitt, the Western Mail’s rugby correspondent, dedicated her sports award to the Cardiff businessman who asked her, as he didn’t write about cross-stitch, why she wrote about rugby. Photographer Kris Miller from The Courier in Dundee dedicated his award to his wife. ‘I missed my anniversary to be here today - so just wanted to say happy anniversary to my wife and apologies for the mess I’ll be in’. And Ericka Waller of The Argus in Brighton dedicated her award to all the victims and families of the Shoreham air disaster.

Kent Messenger editor Dee Eaton collecting her award for
 Weekly Newspaper of the Year
5. A couple of my former trainees were up for awards and it was really nice to catch up with them. Sian David from the Bristol Post was commended as Designer of the Year and was shortlisted for an excellent cover in the Front Page of the Year category from her time at the Bath Chronicle. It was also great to have my annual catch up with Dee Eaton and I was delighted when the paper she edits, the Kent Messenger, won Weekly Newspaper of the Year (above 20,000). If that didn’t make me feel old enough, she then introduced me to her 26-year-old daughter! 

Longest serving editor: Perry Austin-Clarke collects the
 Daily Newspaper of the Year award for the Press, York

6. Over the years the number of my contemporaries at the ceremony have gradually whittled away. This year there was no Peter Barron, Alan Geere or Simon O’Neill to have a few post-award beers with. The old guard was still hanging on though. I had drinks afterwards in the Barley Mow with Tony Watson, Pete Clifton, Paul Horrocks and Neil Hodgkinson. I sat next to Neil Fowler at the lunch and had a catch up with Neil Benson, Ian Murray and Jeremy Clifford. There was a conversation about who was the longest standing editor in the room … Hodgkinson, Clifford and Murray were all in the frame. But then Perry Austin-Clarke took to the stage to collect the Daily Newspaper of the Year award on behalf of The Press in York. Perry was made editor of the Telegraph and Argus in Bradford while I was still editing some 24 years ago and had been editor of the Yorkshire Gazette and Herald even before that. If there is an award for survival is there anyone more deserving?

David Pugh receives the Journalists' Charity Award 

7. Well done to David Pugh who collected this year's Journalists' Charity Award. David is not a journalist but he certainly is a friend of journalism and journalists. He was managing director of NLA Media Access for eight years until his retirement at Easter. The organisation distributes millions to national and regional newspapers in royalty payments for copyright works, and has supported the Journalists’ Charity for years. Last year, largely thanks to David’s involvement, the charity strengthened its ties with the industry and the result was a much needed cash injection of £309,450. I sat next to David at the lunch and he had no idea he was going to receive the award. As an added bonus my table collected the most money for the charity yesterday and we were all presented with a bottle of wine (I have Neil Fowler’s if he wants it).

Another win for Leicester ... and a hat-trick of awards for Lee Marlow
8. There are always familiar names on the shortlists, which goes to prove that there are many journalists out there delivering a consistently high standard of work. The Croydon Advertiser’s Gareth Davies collected the Weekly Reporter of the Year award for the third year in a row (he also won it in 2011) and the Leicester Mercury’s Lee Marlow was also celebrating a hat-trick of Feature Writing awards. Jeanette Oldman, from the Birmingham Mail, who won two awards (Specialist and Daily/Sunday reporter) also won Specialist last year and Scoop of the Year in 2010. Other familiar names from previous awards on yesterday’s shortlists included Sunday Life’s Ciaran Barnes, the Derby Telegraph’s Robin Johnson, The Herald’s Simon Bain, the Sunday Post’s Janet Boyle, Allison Coggan from the Hull Daily Mail, The Irish News’s Allison Morris, the Coventry Observer’s Les Reid and Bristol’s Sian David. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Cumbria Newspapers' Jon Coleman only picked up a highly commended yesterday. Jon has broken all records for RPA awards. He collected the Daily/Sunday Sports Journalist award last year and has been on the shortlist for either weekly or Daily/Sunday Sports Journalist 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, 2013 and 2014 he won the daily award. As I have said before, none of this can really be a fluke…

Foxes fan Nick Ferrari gets into the winning spirit   
9. Nick Ferrari once again did a first class job as host - ad-libbing, enthusing, cracking jokes and pushing the whole thing along at a fast pace. Once again, he got the tone just right. The LBC breakfast show host has been a lifelong Leicester City fan and started the occasion by ripping off his shirt to display a Foxes' strip. He also alluded to some extraordinary stories about celebrities … told to him by the many winners from Scotland where they aren’t covered by England and Wales’s bizarre privacy rulings. Well done Nick … an excellent job.    

10. Finally, 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. Well done Bob Satchwell, Paul Horrocks and the Society of Editors' team for keeping the whole thing together. Once again, a triumph.

All pictures by Nick Carter, MagStar Ltd

Full details of the awards are here.

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