What I love about newspapers is how you can touch, smell and even tear off and chew up corners of them to create tiny chunks of home-made filler when redecorating.
Even better, you can read the latest court reports down on the non-WiFi seafront in my favourite North Yorkshire village of Staithes, analyse the race cards safely while enjoying a hot bubble bath, and then carefully dry, tightly fold and tie them to help start the wood and coal fire in my study.
And I challenge any digital whizzkid to tell me how you can do any of that with a website…
With this passion for newsprint in mind, the top position for my regional heroes of 2014 goes to Alastair Machray, editor of the Liverpool Echo, for launching and sustaining the new Sunday Echo.
For those of you that missed it, earlier this year Alastair decided – while nearly everyone else was squealing with excitement about digital – to start the presses again on the Sabbath, giving the popular Echo brand a new lease of life for loyal Merseyside readers.
I guess hats also need to be tipped in the direction of Trinity Mirror, the Echo’s publishers, as they would have had to sign off what many might have told them was a madcap plan.
But it was Alastair’s name as editor that went up in lights as the front man for the launch, and it was his name that would have gone down in flames if it had flopped.
As it is, the Sunday Echo is now nearly a year old, and seems to have settled its sales at well over 20,000 a week – more than 3,000 higher than the more established Wales on Sunday, and within touching distance of the much older but plummeting Sunday Mercury.
Others have launched newspapers during the year, including Richard Walker, editor of Newsquest’s Sunday Herald up in Scotland, who brought out The National in November in the wake of all the furore over tartan independence.
But in Richard’s case, he gets my number two ‘regional hero’ slot not just for his new daily paper but also for the ballsy way he called the mood of his readers and boosted the Sunday Herald’s sales in and around the referendum – regardless of the eventual result.
It would be churlish not to give my number three regional hero position to Bill Martin, editor of Local World’s Western Morning News in Plymouth, who launched a Sunday edition of that paper earlier this year – regardless of whether this ends up as successful as the Sunday Echo.
(I know – Lisa Templeton has since been appointed to edit the WMN on Sunday, and she deserves this mention in brackets, but Bill launched it.)
Coming in at number four is Sir Ray Tindle, the 88-year-old media moghul who was on my list last year, and who remains one of my heroes in 2014 for two reasons – for rebuking regional newspaper doom-mongers in February, and then announcing the launch of four new print titles for London in November.
At number five is Lesley Potter, editor of the independently-owned Reading Chronicle, who snubbed Trinity Mirror’s digital-only experiment by announcing: “We at the Reading Chronicle have absolutely no intention of abandoning print… [and] believe our readers deserve to have a choice in how they access their news.”
Number six is Mike Gilson, the newly-announced editor of the Brighton Argus, just because I like the cut of his jib: he’s travelled across Great Britain in the last 15 years editing the The Scotsman, The News, Portsmouth and the Peterborough Telegraph before landing at the Belfast Telegraph more than five years ago.
Such is the intensity of Mike’s belief in newspapers that he’s leaving Belfast, where his award-winning paper was circulating some 48,000 copies a day – 77pc paid – in an attempt to rescue the struggling Brighton Argus, currently selling just over 14,000 a day; now that’s heroic.
Jon-Paul Hedge makes number seven – because of the way he became editor of Local World’s daily-turned-weekly Exeter Express and Echo in January and by November announced he was going to make it a twice-a-week paper in 2015.
(Yes, his boss David Montgomery was mentioned in this story as well, but I’m still a believer that the editor should get the plaudits, as he or she will always carry the can).
An unusual entry at number eight is Adam Smith, the wacky Stourbridge News reporter who sometimes goes by the name of Steve Zacharanda, for winning Weekly Journalist of the Year at the Midlands Media Awards.
I know there were lots of great award winners in 2014, but Adam – who once ‘resigned’ on me via YouTube while slightly inebriated when ‘helping’ Obama’s presidential campaign – will always make me smile and at the same time give me indigestion.
And finally, for a little fun, the number nine and ten positions go to Alun Thorne and Les Reid – both recently of the Coventry Telegraph, one the editor, one the political correspondent – simply for having such a great row, which was once what any decent editorial floor was all about!
Well done to all my regional heroes, and best wishes to you and all HoldtheFrontPage readers for 2015.