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South West Media Awards: What the judges said

Judges for the 2009 EDF Energy South West Media Awards had a tough task picking through over 210 entries to crown the 20 winners.

The panel comprised Mark Waldron, editor of Portsmouth daily The News, Gravesend Messenger editor Denise Eaton, the Press Association’s head of training Tony Johnston, former regional TV reporter Karen Ainley, Nigel Bowles, co-director of photographic agency John Connor Press Associates, and Claire Byrd, head of regional media relations for sponsors EDF Energy and former assistant editor of Brighton daily The Argus.

  • Click through to read the main news story.
  • See the happy winners in photo gallery.
  • Read the full editorial and broadcast shortlists here.
  • Here is what the panel thought of the winners:

    Print Journalist of the Year (Daily)
    Eleanor Gregson, Express and Echo

    Eleanor has been a journalist for under three years and swapped the North East for Exeter last June. Her first story investigated a fund set up following a boy’s cancer diagnosis. “Like a dog with a bone” was how one judge described her persistence, going at the story again and again.

    Eleanor was also the only journalist to track down the father of a son who died in a motor accident and whose other son drowned years before. Her final entry was about a paedophile who claimed his human rights were breached because he had no toilet in his cell. National media followed up the story.

    Print Journalist of the Year (Weekly)
    Tom Bevan, Western Gazette

    Tom Bevan is twice previous winner and again submitted stories with a strong impact. The first exposed a loophole in the monitoring of sex offenders, which started from a routine court follow-up, leading on to an interview with a victim’s mother.

    The second was about a teenager who died while warming up for a school hockey match. National media reporting caused community angst but Tom arranged for the parents to speak to him exclusively.

    His final entry focused on how the future of the Lynx helicopter contract impacted on the whole community. After months of speculation, Tom broke the news that it had been secured, more than a week before the official announcement.

    Newcomer of the Year – Joint Winners
    Jeremy Grimaldi, Swindon Advertiser
    Chloe Hubbard, The North Devon Journal

    Jeremy Grimaldi produced three strong exclusives – including Honda banning sweets and fruit on the production line at its Swindon factory and a detailed look at the rising cost of parking fines.

    His third submission was a story that emerged after he fell victim to a council’s ‘exact fare policy’. He secured a meeting with the travel company’s managing director and eventually got the company to admit it had made £130,000 in three years – simply from not giving customers their change. Judges praised Jeremy for his thorough research and described him as a good news gatherer.

    Chloe Hubbard joined the North Devon Journal as a sports writer but a year later had switched to covering news. Judges were quick to praise her fresh writing style.

    Her entry included a heartfelt interview with the wife of a commando, injured whilst serving in Afghanistan, and an article on her night at a local North Devon swingers club. Judges enjoyed her lively writing, commenting that her stories would not be out of place in some of the nationals.

    Daily Newspaper of the Year
    Express and Echo

    2008 was a year of celebrations, high drama and acts of God for the Express and Echo. It started with Exeter City being promoted back to the Football League, with scenes of jubilation and pages and pages of reports, reaction and pictures.

    That was followed all too quickly by the city’s first terrorist bombing. The editorial team went into overdrive and produced seven pages of comprehensive coverage on the day, plus 15-minute updates on the website and video footage.

    When a freak storm hit Devon, again the team went into action, with eight pages, including one devoted to readers’ photos. Hundreds more were published on the website along with aerial footage of the storm. Judges agreed on the Express and Echo for an outstanding year of news coverage.

    Weekly Newspaper of the Year (Paid-For)
    Tiverton Gazette

    The Tiverton Gazette series celebrated its 150th anniversary last year and that influenced a lot of its coverage and campaigning activity. Put together by four full-time writers and one sub, it also underwent a complete redesign, with new content introduced too.

    The new look and improved content has been well received by readers, moving it from tenth the fourth best-performing weekly paper within Northcliffe Media. The Tiverton Gazette took the award for its strength and mix of stories.

    Weekly Newspaper of the Year (Free)
    Clevedon Mercury

    Distributed to more than 25,000 homes and receiving top ratings in an independent survey, it’s obvious that a lot of work has gone into a re-design, right down to the layout of the ads, which you don’t always get with free titles.

    The paper has good local stories and a high news content. They are well written and complemented by a good use of photos. Its Going Green campaign promotes awareness of environmental issues and all this is produced by two reporters and a handful of village correspondents.

    The paper features clear sections throughout, including marketplace, motoring, property and classifieds, and regularly comes in at over a 100 pages.

    Front Page of the Year
    Western Morning News: How could it come to this?

    The crisis of bovine TB has been a long-running story for the Western Morning News but bravery was needed to run this provocative image on the front, which could have been a turn off for some readers. Photographer Emily Whitfield-Wicks, already shortlisted today, got the picture seconds before this prize herd cow was culled.

    Deputy editor Philip Bowern says: “This image underlined the need for urgent action to tackle the disease.” The judges felt that the winner deserved the award for the strength of the front page story, image and its treatment – all produced totally in tune with its readers.

    Website of the Year
    Express and Echo,
    Kellow’s Bootlaces

    Kellow’s Bootlaces is a site set up by the Express and Echo for fans of Exeter City. It’s produced entirely from the fan’s viewpoint – brilliantly interactive, packed with fun content and completely different from the traditional newspaper approach to using the web.

    Feature Writer of the Year
    Jaine Blackman, Swindon Advertiser

    Apart from a four-year break, Jaine Blackman has worked at the Swindon Advertiser since 1979. As features editor, she continues to live, eat and breathe journalism and certainly has an eye for off-beat features.

    She tried to be a vegetarian but without telling her son and the story covers her efforts and his reaction when he finds out. Another piece, which became a front page splash, told the story of Mark, who married three days before dying. Despite ending up as front page news, Jaine worked hard to retain the human dimension to the story.

    Designer of the Year
    Michelle Tompkins, Swindon Advertiser

    Michelle celebrates 20 years in journalism this year, 15 of those reporting, subbing and feature-writing at the Swindon Advertiser. For the past two years, Michelle has been responsible for redesigning a number of feature platforms. All her submitted work comes from new sections or supplements she designed from scratch.

    Her entry featured a James Bond pull-out that was bold and punchy yet still had all the information fans would want and in a style the judges hadn’t really seen before. Her work features good use of white s
    pace and bold fonts, is eye-catching with lots of clever ideas. The judges summed her up as a highly-skilled and creative designer, producing work that they would be proud to put in their papers.

    Columnist of the Year
    Hugh Dixon, Bath Chronicle

    Hugh’s weekly column for the Bath Chronicle is a whimsical reflection on family life. It included humorous musings on the economic downturn that engaged judges who’d already had their fill on the topic, and a piece in tune with readers on taking his children to the fair for the first time. Judges described Hugh’s work as the best for all round construction.

    News Photographer of the Year
    Paul Nicholls, Gloucestershire Media

    Paul Nicholls has been a press photographer for 21 years across the South West. His entry included an arrest outside a shop in Gloucester, as he happened to be passing, and an emotional picture of family mourners at a ‘celebration of life’ service. His picture of a seagull doing its business on a local mayor showed great speed of reaction for a great end result, said judges.

    Sports Journalist of the Year
    Jon Lewis, Express and Echo

    Jon Lewis says that working on the Express and Echo has taught him the importance of coming up with exclusives on a regular basis. His entry included: a footballer returning after an 18-month injury, an ex-professional footballer turned bricklayer but now unemployed; and an interview with athlete Jo Pavey.

    The premise for the interview with Jo Pavey was her stance on Dwain Chambers’ lifetime ban from the Olympics for using drugs. But it was her revelation that she suspects she is competing against drug cheats at every major championships, which became the story. Judges said all three were strong pieces, well written.

    Business Journalist of the Year
    Jonathan Gibson, ITV West Country

    Jonathan Gibson’s varied entry covered a rapidly changing dispute at a power station development in Plymouth, an investigation into a garden furniture company after complaints from customers claiming they hadn’t received the goods. He ended up tracking down the culprits to Spain and, clearly nervous but adding to the drama, doorstepping and confronting them.

    His final submission was a difficult one as he explained to viewers the reasoning behind closing ITV Westcountry. He submitted an impartial report, in his own words, one of the hardest he has had to tell which judges said showed “true professionalism”, to cover such an emotive subject in an un-biased way. He was picked for the strength of content and delivery across all three stories.

    Community Campaign of the Year
    Express and Echo, We care campaign

    Judges felt the We Care campaign had everything readers would expect from an Express and Echo campaign. Not an easy or sexy subject to boost sales but it has proved to be one that staff are most proud of.

    It was launched in March last year to pay tribute to the unsung army of carers in the Exeter area. The aim was to fight for a better deal for carers and who they care for, and provide a fund for trips, treats and days out. Local firms and the MP got involved, Simon Weston became patron and Gordon Brown gave it his support.

    More than £15,000 has been raised and respite breaks provided for more than 500 people. Carers advised on the campaign and a committee meets monthly to scrutinise decisions on how money is spent. This was a very well thought-out and put-together campaign, tackling a subject that few papers have yet delved into.

    Environmental Journalist of the Year
    Anne Byrne, Express and Echo

    Last year, Anne was instrumental in leading the newspaper’s Green Shoppers campaign, moving it on to involve schools. School green teams, a green team page, website and cash incentives form part of the campaign but it all needs – and gets – interesting angles and strong writing.

    There was hard news, too, a front page exclusive, and always real engagement with readers. Judges were unanimous in choosing the winner, describing her work as ‘truly inspirational’.

    Television Journalist of the Year
    Matthew Hill, BBC West

    For this submission, he went undercover to a private clinic to expose the potentially dangerous practices of a surgeon treating people with obesity. He followed this with a story, which made international news, about pioneering stem cell treatment in Bristol for a transplant patient. Matthew concluded with an incredible life-and-death story, filming a patient being treated for a heart attack.

    Matthew submitted well-delivered work with incredible depth which had extremely wide appeal and takes the title for the third time in four years.

    TV News and Current affairs programme
    BBC West, Private Harry Patch

    BBC West produced a unique documentary, giving an intimate portrait of the life of Britain’s last survivor of the First World War trenches. Filmmakers captured his extraordinary story, documented by the historian Richard Van Emden.

    At the time of this film, Harry was 110 years old, and it was broadcast on BBC One, BBC Four and BBC Remembrance 90. Judges said it was a very moving programme following the life of an extraordinary individual.

    Radio Journalist of the Year
    Nigel Dando, BBC Radio Bristol

    Nigel is chief reporter and deputy news editor at BBC Radio Bristol and a journalist for 40 years. He was the first broadcast journalist at the scene of the fire that wrecked the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare last summer.

    He also sensitively covered a story about the gay community delaying vital improvement schemes in the Downs area of Bristol. His final piece, quickly followed up by other media, involved one of the few surviving First World War veterans yet to be honoured for his role in the conflict.

    All three entries were strong but, for displaying a wide-ranging ability from live reporting to package-making, Nigel was crowned radio journalist of the year.

    Radio news/current affairs programme of the year
    BBC Radio Bristol, Drive

    BBC Radio Bristol Drive presented by Ben Prater is a lively affair and among the unique items is Ben’s Bristol Bingo Balls in which he pulls out three bingo balls with different subjects such as immigration, the last time you cried, the NHS, your favourite pub and so on.

    The entry included an impromptu interview with John Cleese and a good old car-parking row. The winner delivers a fun and varied programme which generates really good radio.