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Regional Press Awards 2012: What the judges said

The best of the best in local journalism were recognised at the Regional Press Awards today.

A total of 740 entries were received for the awards which were handed out at an Oscars-style lunchtime awards ceremony at the Savoy Place, London.

Opening the ceremony, Paul Horrocks, chairman of the judges and former editor of the Manchester Evening News said: “The regional media plays a massive role in our society and that enormous value sometimes gets overlooked, particularly in the traumatic times some parts of the national press are going through.

“I know that that more is being expected from staff across UK regionals and locals with fewer people but remember that whatever the power of social media, it cannot hold authority to account in the same way.

“In addition, the backlash from the Leveson inquiry has a chilling effect on everyone – even though the regional’s and locals are not part of the problem.”

Here is a breakdown of what the judges said about each of the winners.

The first category was the young journalist of the year award which was won by Bristol Evening Post reporter Emily Koch. Her entries included powerful scoops and a well-told tale. Emily managed to pull out an exclusive interview with the best friend of murder victim Jo Yeates ahead of the national pack, a genuine achievement for such a young journalist. Highly commended was Dominic Howell of the Nottingham Post.

Business and finance lournalist of the Year went to Catherine Lea of the Hull Daily for revealing that Hawks were to be built in the US rather than the closure-threatened plant at Brough, and for accurately detailing the human face of the cuts. Highly commended were Jon Griffin from the Birmingham Mail and Robin Johnson from the Derby Telegraph.

Nicky Harley of the Hull Daily Mail won the specialist writer of the year award. The judges said Nicky “finds justice where the courts have failed” and praised her for her ‘great range of top quality exclusives.’  Highly commended were Paul Gallagher from the Manchester Evening News and Jon Austin from the Basildon Echo.

Feature writer of the year went for the second year in a row to Adam Wakelin of the Leicester Mercury . The judges said Adam has a lively writing style and keeps you interested right till the end. One judge said if they lived in his area they would look forward to their pieces whenever they saw their byline.” Highly commended was Lucy Adams of the Herald, Glasgow.

Columnist of the year went to Elaine Morgan of the Western Mail. The winner’s writing was described by the judges as ‘erudite, moving and charming’.  Presenter Nick Ferrari noted that at the age of 92, Elaine “has the benefit of more wisdom than anybody else at the awards.” Highly commended was Ian Midgley of the Hull Daily Mail.

Weekly sports journalist of the year went Danny Hall of the Sheffield Star’s weekly local football supplement, Grass Roots. Danny was praised for his desire to tackle difficult subjects head on, and for his piece on racism in grassroots sport. Highly commended was Matthew Elder of Fife Free Press

Daily/Sunday sports journalist of the Year went to John Gibson of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. One judge said: “This winner comes back each year with a series of outstanding submissions and their portfolio this year was as good as I can remember”. The judges highly commended two journalists in this category – Steven Beacom of the Belfast Telegraph and Simon Walter of the Southern Daily Echo.

The weekly photographer of the year winner was Sean Hansford of the Rochdale Observer. The judges praised Sean’s eclectic but powerful portfolio which showed that he “has every single quality needed to be a great photographer.” Highly commended was Stephen Garnett of the Craven Herald.

The winner of the daily/Sunday photographer of the year was Rowland Hobson from the Peterborough Evening Telegraph. The judges described one of his entries as a brilliant news photo – a have-a-go hero tackling a gunman outside a court. Highly commended was Gary Longbottom of the Yorkshire Post.

The winner of the weekly reporter of the year award was Gareth Davies from the Croydon Advertiser. The judges said he had brought the inside story on one of the biggest breaking news events of the year. The judges praised Gareth’s first hand coverage of the summer riots, including risking his own safety to carry on reporting after being attacked. Highly commended for the second year in a row is Lui Straccia from Luton on Sunday.

Daily/Sunday reporter of the year went to John McGurk from Sunday Life who was described as an outstanding winner in an outstanding category. The judges said John’s entries showcased versatility and ‘incredibly personal journalism’. Highly commended was Bimpe Archer of the Irish News.

Designer of the year went to Ian Bond of the Hull Daily Mail for the extraordinary effort involved in producing a wartime replica paper.  The judges commended his “outstanding graphic expertise,” Highly commended in this category was Sean Collins of the Journal, Newcastle.

Digital award of the year went to of the Norwich Evening News. The judges said this website really got to the heart of its audience and praised it for its strong news, views and information. The Manchester Evening News was highly commended.

Supplement of the year went to Yorkshire Post Magazine. The judges described the winning supplement as a ‘sophisticated production which retains a pronounced local flavor.’ Highly commended was the Weekend by the Belfast Telegraph.

The Hull Daily Mail took the prize for special supplement of the year for The Blitz – the edition of the paper that would have been available on May 9, 1941, had censorship not been in place.  The judges said this particular supplement showed creative and extensive research. Highly commended was Welsh Warriors by Wales on Sunday.

Front page of the year went to the Western Mail’s Is This How You Feel?’ for the front page used after the Rugby World Cup final. Judges said it “got inside the minds of readers” and praised its “terrific impact”.  Highly commended was The Night Fire Took Lives of My four Babies by the Derby Telegraph.

Scoop of the year went to Nicky Harley of the Hull Daily Mail whose exemplary curiosity, determination and skill were instrumental in securing the conviction of a rapist. Highly commended was Jon Austin from the Basildon Echo.

Campaign of the year was awarded to the Derby Telegraph for An Industry Betrayed, launched after the government’s decision to give a £1.3bn rail contract to a German firm instead of Derby’s Bombardier. The winning entry was described by the judges as a ‘complex and challenging campaign which had everything, from mass public engagement, activism and investigative journalism to brilliantly persuasive editorial treatments and real devotion to the cause.’  The judges highly commended Missing from Home by the Manchester Evening News.

The campaign also contributed towards Derby Telegraph editor Steve Hall being named editor of the year. The judges said he displayed a great example of selecting the right campaign to support his readers and sticking to it until the paper achieved a result.  Steve took his campaign from the Midlands to Europe, reported from there personally and won the support of his home community as he addressed the crowd at a demonstration and lobby of Parliament.

Winner of the weekly newspaper below 20,000 circulation was The Northern Scot. The judges described the Northern Scot’s campaign to save the base at RAF Lossimouth as well executed and ultimately successful. Highly commended was The Ulster Herald.

Winner of the weekly newspaper above 20,000 circulation was the Essex Chronicle for the second year in a row. The judges said the winner was an “excellent, all-round local newspaper with efficient layout, design and sign-posting. Highly commended was the Newbury Weekly News.

The Cambridge News won the award for daily newspaper below 25,000 circulation. The judges said the winning paper knows its agenda and offers the reader something different every day. The judges said it was “well written, very well presented, interactive and highly accessible”. Highly commended was the Lancashire Evening Post.

Taking the award for daily newspaper of the Year above 25,000 circulation was the Belfast Telegraph. The judges praised the winning paper’s strong, clean design, great pictures and an authoritative air. Highly commended was the Sunday Life.