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Review of 2013: Journalists who made a difference

As ever the past 12 months has seen local and regional newspapers fighting the corner for their local areas with a series of impressive campaigns and charity efforts across the UK.

In the latest of our Review of the Year round-ups we look back at the newspapers and journalists who made a difference.

Daily and weekly newspapers up and down the country have changed laws on speeding, raised awareness of bone marrow donation, reduced council parking tariffs and even revamped seafronts with fresh flowers during 2013.

And on top of making a huge difference to their communities, the local press has continued to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity.

Rewind to January and The Argus in Brighton got the year off to a great start when it scored a victory in its campaign to reduce parking charges across the city.

Park the Charges successfully managed to reduce the parking tariff charges and freeze some others, while pressure was also put on Brighton and Hove City Council to reduce charges for people visiting the city’s famous seafront.

A month later, the Essex County Standard launched its campaign urging ministers to allow the confiscation of driving licences when the police believe the driver is medically unfit

Cassie’s Law, which was launched after a teenager died at the hands of an 87-year-old driver who had failed an eyesight test, proved a success with a 45,000-signature strong petition forcing a change in legislation.

In March, the Eastern Daily Press’s Make It Marham campaign, which aimed to secure the future of a local RAF base, scored a victory when the site was safeguarded until 2040.

The launch of the campaign in 2010 saw the paper take the unusual step of turning its front page into a petition form for the first time in its history, which called on Prime Minister David Cameron to prevent the base from closing.

Also in March, the Mansfield Chad, which launched a £750,000 fundraising appeal for a new MRI scanner at the town’s King’s Mill Hospital last year, hit its target in less than nine months.

And the Belfast Telegraph reached its £50,000 target for its Home from Home Appeal in April, with the money being ploughed into building the new free-to-stay accommodation opposite the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

In the same month, staff at the Norwich Evening News raised more than £20,000 to help send a five-year-old boy battling cancer on a series of unforgettable adventures.

The Evening News launched its Charlie’s Angels campaign after Charlie Ryan was given less than 12 months to live by doctors unless he goes through expensive, painful and uncertain clinical trials in Germany.

After launching its Right to Tweet campaign in January, the Daily Post in North Wales forced Flintshire County Council and North Wales Fire Authority to agree a new social media policy in May.

The campaign was launched after reporter Steve Bagnall was prevented from tweeting at a meeting.

And campaigns by four newspapers in July forced health bosses to back down on plans to cut hundreds of jobs at Highgate’s Whittington Hospital.

The independent Camden New Journal and Islington Tribune and Archant’s Hampstead and Highgate Express and the Islington Gazette all launched campaigns against proposals by health chiefs to sell off nearly half the hospital site.

An eight month campaign by the Midweek Herald was victorious in July when money was raised so a leisure centre could buy a specialist hoist and changing bench allowing two disabled boys to swim at their local pool.

In August, the Lancashire Telegraph launched its Slower Speeds, Safer Children campaign which proved a success after Lancashire County Council agreed to complete its introduction of 20mph zones in several areas, including Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale.

One of the most heart warming appeals of the year came with the Burton Mail’s Take Five Minutes campaign which was launched to help find a bone marrow transplant for Katherine Sinfield, whose husband Stephen Sinfield is editor of the Ashbourne News Telegraph and also a Burton Mail journalist.

After several months of raising awareness for Katherine and others in her position, the Mail revealed that a matching donor had been found in Europe for the 33-year-old reception school teacher.

In November, the Rotherham Advertiser helped raise money so a World War Two memorial could be built in the town and the Worthing Journal rallied round readers to plant hundreds of flowers in time for the summer on the town’s seafront.

And in a similar vein, the Thurrock Enquirer’s front page appeal for a Second World War veteran to be given a funeral with full military honours was successful when it raised £3,000 and even received special praise from Prime Minister David Cameron.

The final month of the year bought one of the more unusual campaigns of the year when the Hampstead & Highgate Express appealed for £30 a week from its readers to keep a police base in Hampstead.

The Archant newspaper has offered to pay for the base for the first month but has also launched a campaign appealing for help from readers to raise the money after the first four weeks.

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