Judges had to pick their way through over 300 entries in this year’s EDF Energy London and South of England Awards.
The panel comprised: Nigel Pickover, Society of Editors president and editor of Ipswich daily the Evening Star, Derby Telegraph editor Steve Hall, Gary Phelps, group editor of Northcliffe’s Central Independent Newspapers division, photojournalism lecturer Paul Delmar, former regional TV reporter and broadcaster Karen Ainsley and James Barber, south-east external communications manager for award sponsors EDF Energy.
Here are the judges’ comments with information about our winning entries:
Print Journalist of the Year (Daily)
Matt Smith, Southern Daily Echo, Southampton
Matt Smith provided an interesting batch of stories, according to the judges. They liked the way he had been covering a story about the closure of an ice rink but had then used his contacts to find out about a tragic baby story, taking him to a different aspect of news entirely.
A 98-year-old tenant being evicted because she was the “neighbour from hell” started with court documents and developed into a real human interest tale. His final story also began at the town hall – this time it was a cover-up concerning asbestos in council homes.
Apparently officials failed to tell the councillor in charge of housing, while the plumber who raised the issue was sacked for his whistle-blowing.
Print Journalist of the Year (Weekly)
Katie Davies, Hampstead and Highgate Express
Katie Davies’ stories really interested the judges with their variety. Her first piece looked at the strange tale of a local British councillor studying for so long in Arizona that his absence triggered a local by-election.
Her feature on Ken Livingstone showed the family man rather than the politician we all know which made it a “refreshing read”, according to the panel. Her car-clamping con story was an investigative piece that demanded reading, they added.
Newcomer of the Year
Joanne Charlton, Croydon Advertiser
The judges said her work showed a good range of styles, with one judge pinching her local food produce feature idea for his own paper.
She developed a crash story to help highlight a safety issue and used Facebook to contact the victim’s friends, finding his best friend who was in the car with him when he died.
Joanne’s third story about a school riot was written after a tip-off from a police contact. She then managed to track down someone who had taken photos.
Judges stressed that the future of regional journalism is safe in the shortlisted candidates’ hands but chose Joanne for the strength in depth of her entry.
Daily Newspaper of the Year
Southern Daily Echo, Southampton
The Southern Daily Echo is a value package, according to the judges. It is busy and breezy with a good story count, representing value for money. Editor Ian Murray said the Echo has faced great challenges over the last year with pressure on pagination and revenues, meaning staff had to be place even more emphasis on making every page count.
The three editions supplied showed just how staff have upped their performance, moving from a circulation drop of more than 8pc when the recession struck to a less challenging 4pc by the summer.
Stories on Southampton FC’s woes, the troubled New Forest National Park and even the Prettiest Pooches competition all generated a broad and deep response from readers.
Weekly Newspaper of the Year (Paid-for)
Gravesend and Dartford Messenger
The Gravesend and Dartford Messenger was described as a very powerful paper with strong front pages. The whole package was very solid – interesting stories, a modern look, taking the time and space to design pages well – with a graphic artist used to excellent effect.
High standards of editorial content have been maintained despite dropping from six reporters to two in a year. The judges did say it could do with more than the current four pages of sport.
Editor Denise Eaton said it would have been easy to cut pagination and story count, rely on press releases and call in content from outside. But that’s not the Messenger way and exclusives are still produced, authority is still challenged and campaigning goes on, she said.
Judges said the Messenger edged it from the other candidates because of its strength and mix of stories.
Weekly Newspaper of the Year (Free)
Judges said that, while the Crawley News was not particularly pretty as a paper – it was certainly solid, with a high story count – that most crucial of factors. You do get a lot of news for a free paper.
Strong splashes included a man who pledged to stand by his fiancée after she literally stabbed him in the back, how the head of Crawley Police defected to London’s Met force three months after criticising others for doing the same thing and an undercover report of a BNP meeting.
Light-hearted pieces included kung fu priest, a belly-dancing mayor and a beer mat-flipping record attempt.
Website of the Year
Get Surrey (Surrey & Berkshire Media): getsurrey.co.uk
Get Surrey was described as “busy but not overcrowded” by the judges. It was the first to break a local swine flu story, featured video interviews with medal-winning Olympians and celebrities at Guildford Book Festival and had more than 100 photos of the snow in February sent in by readers.
The judges also liked the easily-changed typeface facility to help those not able to read the smaller standard type. Page views were up 9.5pc from January to June, with unique users by 239pc – and only a few thousand shy of breaking the 100,000 mark for the first time.
Judges said that Get Surrey turned a weekly into a daily.
Feature Writer of the Year
Lisa Frascarelli, The Argus, Brighton
Lisa Frascarelli has been a journalist since 2001 and started at The Argus as a features writer in 2006. For the past year she has written profile features for the weekend supplement.
Her interview with actress Felicity Kendal was “certainly of national quality,” said the judges.
Two other interviews, with former Brighton council leader Lord Bassam and businessman fundraiser Robbie Raggio, received much praise. They provided a real insight into the characters concerned, said judges.
One judge said the pieces might have been a thousand words long but you were enticed in and seemed to have finished the article within seconds, his indication that something has been written very well.
Designer of the Year
Graeme Windall, The News, Portsmouth
Graeme Windall has been working at The News for the past 16 years, starting as editorial artist and working up to design editor.
He submitted three different spreads of his work – a Henry VIII wall chart to mark the 500th anniversary of the Tudor monarch’s accession, a ‘Horrible History’ piece focusing on Portsmouth and a spread on new bus routes in the city which could have been deathly dull but which was saved by Graeme’s design skills, said judges. Graeme admitted this one was a particular challenge in his submission.
Columnist of the Year
Simon Carr, Southern Daily Echo, Southampton
Simon Carr is single and lives in Southampton and his column tries to accurately and humorously depict the problems facing the unattached.
It details the various techniques he uses to get a date. He admits he tries to make these as colourful and identifiable as possible, often at the expense of his personal dignity, with excellent feedback from readers.
The column made all the ju
dges laugh and they said his writing had an engaging style which was “very different”.
News Photographer of the Year
Tony Wood, The Argus, Brighton
Tony, who has been with The Argus since 1990, submitted a varied entry including a mink on the loose, a Sussex scientist experimenting on a human head, a shot of a young hurdler during a race, Christmas lights being installed on a 100ft tree and a man peeking out of a hole in the ground. Judges said his pictures helped to make some cracking front pages.
Sports Journalist of the Year
Sam Munnery, Crawley News
Sam Munnery started his journalism career on the newsdesk at the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser in 2005 before moving to sports 15 months later. His main responsibility is now content and production of the Crawley News sports pages, also contributing to the other three group titles: Surrey Mirror, East Grinstead Observer and Courier, plus his old paper the Surrey Advertiser.
Sam’s beat involves Crawley Town FC but his entry included an in-depth piece on the town’s successful swimming club and an exclusive on a local fighter bribed to throw a fight. His portfolio owed nothing to design, said the judges, with the words worthy of national newspapers – “sensational” writing they agreed.
The last entry about former England rugby player Andy Ripley, who is dying of prostate cancer, moved one judge to tears, such was the strength of the writing.
Business Journalist of the Year
Sam Thomson, The Argus, Brighton
The recession has led to a glut of companies cutting staff and Sam said in his submission he felt it was important to keep track of struggling businesses, for example putting a Sussex bookshop chain in the spotlight.
He has introduced a profile into his weekly supplement which has in turn led to news stories for The Argus. One of the stories Sam covered, of a building firm at the heart of the recession, particularly caught the judges’ eyes.
Judges picked Sam for the strength of his content and delivery across a comprehensive entry portfolio.
Community Campaign of the Year – Joint Winners
Everyone Counts – Gravesend and Dartford Messenger
Bring Back Our Bus – Surrey Advertiser
When the Gravesend and Dartford Messenger team learned their local hospice was in trouble they swung into action. They calculated that if they could convince every man, woman and child in each borough to donate just £1 it would be enough to secure the hospice’s future.
£200,000 is a lot of money to raise but by using clever tactics, such as featuring head shots of all donors who contributed £1, they raised the money in only two months. The hospice was so grateful it invited the Messenger team to a thank-you party and to secure their partnership for another campaign.
The Surrey Advertiser did very well by enlisting reader power for its campaign entry. A free bus service in Guildford which started in 2001 was being axed but the community, headed by the paper, decided this was not going to happen.
Despite the bus company being adamant the service would go, the ten-week campaign was successful, with the route saved and a private operator running it – all kick-started by the Advertiser campaign.
Judges couldn’t come to a decision and called both titles a “five-star pairing”.
Environmental Journalist of the Year
Sally Churchward, Southern Daily Echo, Southampton
Sally has been a feature writer on the Echo for more than six years, following a period as a freelance there, and enjoys being able to explore the environmental side of journalism. Her submissions provided food for thought and more ideas for the judges’ reporters.
One featured a corporate lawyer who has invented an electric car and another a woman who has pledged not to buy anything new for a year. Judges picked Sally for work which showed she wrote about the full breadth of green concerns.
TV Journalist of the Year
Derek Johnson, ITV Meridian
Derek Johnson’s entry showed a combination of news, features, live and studio work and demonstrated his wide-ranging ability. His first piece looked at plans by a Swedish aviator to recreate the first aircraft crossing of the English Channel, 100 years after it happened.
His second item was linked live from a coal-fired power station targeted by environmental activists, looking at both sides of the debate. He concluded with an extract from the 65th anniversary of the D-Day programme, which was shortlisted in the programme of the year award category.
The judges’ final decision was swayed by Derek’s versatility and excellent skills in a live interview situation.
TV News/Current Affairs Programme of the Year
ITV Meridian Tonight Special – Justice for Hannah
The ITV Meridian Tonight Special focused on Justice for Hannah, the tragic story of Hannah Foster, a young woman kidnapped just yards from her home and murdered and the five-year battle to bring her killer to justice.
The programme offered a heartbreaking insight into the effect a murder has on a family. It was sensitively handled, very moving and extremely emotional, judges said.
The programme ended with some good to have come out of the tragedy, the building of a school in India in Hannah’s name. The programme carried a number of exclusives, at a time when there was great interest from the media, both nationally and internationally.
Radio Journalist of the Year
Ed Cook, BBC Radio Kent
Ed Cook won this category for the third consecutive year and judges felt he always delivered variety. For his submission he followed a group of schoolchildren from Kent to the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, focusing on the reactions of the children to the images they saw.
He followed up with a visit to Cyprus to visit Kent soldiers who were getting ready over Christmas to fight the Taliban and ended with a self-deprecating look at his own driving skills when he retook his test and failed.
Radio News/Current Affairs Programme of the Year
Breakfast with John and Jules – BBC Radio Kent
Breakfast with John and Jules combines John Warnett’s long-established rapport with listeners, with the incisive interviewing skills of Julia George. The programme is aimed at a core audience of women over the age of 45, offering a variety of interesting subject matter.
The selection of items put forward included an original piece of journalism by reporter Simon Long-Price, who challenged climate change campaigners over their knowledge of the green agenda – or lack of it – with fascinating results.
Judges picked John and Jules for the wide variety of thought-provoking items on offer.
Ivy Likes (23/10/2009 11:32:13)
“Judges stressed that the future of regional journalism is safe in the shortlisted candidates’ hands”.
Ha! Sadly it’s not IN their hands…