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Review of 2011: Journalists who made a difference

It has been a year that has seen mass riots across the country and an abundance of bad news in the newspaper industry – but that hasn’t stopped newspapers proving their worth and fighting the corner for the regional press with a range of impressive campaigns and charity efforts.

Between then, Britain’s regional newspapers and journalists have helped change laws, raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for good causes, encourage people to stop smoking and even put rapists behind bars.

Rewind back to January and The Hastings Observer kick started the year with a campaign to lift the mood of the town by highlighting positive news from the area.

I Love Hastings aimed to shake off the town’s negative reputation following a string of bad news such as a fire at Hasting pier, cuts in government funding and a continuing high unemployment rate.

The Southern Daily Echo’s Have a Heart campaign to save the children’s heart unit at Southampton General Hospital. earned the newspaper a campaign of the year award at the EDF Energy London and South of England Media Awards.

Unfortunately, despite the paper’s best efforts a consultation into the unit’s future was quashed by a high court judge last month.  Editor Ian Murray said that the fact that a petition signed by 250,000 people looked to be ignored was a ‘travesty of justice’.

The Croydon Advertiser saw huge success with its Lillian’s Law campaign which received backing from Prime Minister David Cameron. The newspaper had joined forces with the family of Lillian Groves to call for new laws surrounding drug-driving after the teenager was knocked down and killed by a driver who had been smoking cannabis.

The family, along with reporter Gareth Davies were invited to number ten in November where David Cameron gave his full backing to the campaign and promised to get devices to test drivers for drugs in all police stations as soon as possible.

Another hugely successful campaign came from the Enfield Independent which launched its Don’t Carry, Don’t Kill campaign in June with the aim of of getting the law changed regarding sentences for teenagers using knives.

The newspaper hailed the campaign a success after Justice Secretary Ken Clarke announced new measures in October for mandatory four-month custodial sentences for 16 and 17-year-olds who threaten people with a knife.

The Hull Daily Mail went all out for its bid to save up to 900 jobs at the BAE aviation manufacturing facility with its recent Battle for Brough campaign after the defence giant announced plans to axe 3,000 jobs at three locations. A special edition of the paper included included a special front and back page wraparound and two inside spreads.

The paper used pictures of many of the threatened workers outside the plant, to show the human face of the proposed job cuts.

In the Midlands, the Burton Mail celebrated a successful campaign when it helped save a retirement home from the axe. The paper campaigned for five months to save the Elizabeth Court, a sheltered housing complex from closure. The paper was praised by local MP Andrew Griffiths for giving the campaign such a strong voice.

And the Northern Echo helped secure a £4.5bn contract to bring train building back to the North East through its Back on Track campaign. Thousands of jobs were created in the region after Hitachi was awarded the contract to build a new generation of express trains in County Durham.

Glasgow daily newspaper the Evening Times encouraged people to stop smoking and lose weight through its Glas-goals campaign. As a result smokers in the city stubbed out 15m cigarettes.

In a supplement to mark to success of the campaign, Evening Times editor Tony Carlin said: “Glasgow’s appalling health record is a disgrace. The tag of Sick Man of Europe is one which has haunted generations of Glaswegians who have died far too early.”

The Liverpool Echo and the Western Morning News handed out grants of between £10,000 and £100,000 to small firms when they were allocated money under the £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund to allow them to help small businesses hit by the economic downturn.

And there was gruelling seven-day walk for Richard Jones, chief reporter at the The Powys County Times, when he took part in a protest march to the Welsh Assembly offices in Cardiff to campaign against controversial power and wind energy plans as part of the paper’s ‘Power Mad’ campaign.

As well as some impressive campaign a number of journalists have raised thousands of pounds for charities close to their hearts.

Husband and wife team Gary and Wendy Walker, both journalists at the Yorkshire Evening Post, trekked 25 miles of Hadrian’s wall to raise funds for a skin cancer charity. The couple managed to raise £1,355 for the British Skin Foundation which they chose after Wendy underwent an operation to remove a tumour from her face.

In July the news team from the Hull Daily Mail took on the Three Peaks challenge, climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon to raise around £5,000 for Dove’s House Hospice Love You To appeal, to expand East Hull hospice.

And there was a donation of £5,000 from the South Wales Evening Post to the Swansea Valley Miners Appeal Fund following the tragic loss of four miners at Gleision Colliery in Wales following an explosion.

Individual journalists who won big plaudits for their efforts included Hull Daily Mail court reporter Nicky Harley was given a rare award by the city’s top judge and a High Sheriff after she helped put a rapist behind bars.

Nicky had tracked down crucial photographic evidence to ensure Kevin Moloney faced justice more than 25 years after raping an elderly woman. The evidence she uncovered led to him pleading guilty to the attack and he was jailed yesterday for four years for the 1985 offence.

Other notable awards saw photography tutor of 30 years Paul Delmar being honoured by The Royal Photographic Society after stepping down as leader of the National Council for the Training of Journalists’ Press Photography and Photojournalism course at Norton College Sheffield.

And the long-standing former editor of Aberdeen’s Press & Journal, Derek Tucker, was recognised for his ‘outstanding contribution’ to journalism with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Scottish Press Awards.