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Review of 2017: The newspapers who made a difference

In a year marred by terror and tragedy, regional newspapers have once again showed themselves as a force for good in the community they serve.

In the latest of our Review of the Year round-ups we look back at the newspapers and journalists who made a difference in the past 12 months.


If ever proof were needed of the difference that local newspapers can make to their communities, the Manchester Evening News this year surely provided it.

On 22 May a suicide bomber struck at the Manchester Arena, killing 22 people, including children.

The Trinity Mirror daily sprung into action with coverage that earned worldwide plaudits and a succession of compelling front pages.

But more than that, it managed over the coming days and weeks to encapsulate and in some senses to personify the city’s spirit of defiance in the face of unspeakable evil – summed up in the hashtag #WeStandTogether.

MEN Stand

This togetherness was demonstrated in the success of the MEN’s appeal on behalf of the victims and their families, launched within hours of the attack.

A JustGiving page launched by the MEN in the wake of the tragedy saw £1m donated in a little over 24 hours, and has since gone on to raise more than £2.5m.

It was a similar picture earlier in the year when a fire at the city’s Christie Hospital caused millions of pounds worth of damage to cancer research and life-saving equipment.

Such was the response from readers that the donation website set up in the blaze’s aftermath crashed.

Other successful fund-raising efforts by regional newspapers in 2017 saw the Nottingham Post raise £30,000 to help take homeless people off the streets during the winter.

The summer months saw success for the Droitwich Standard’s bid to raise £40,000 to refurbish tennis courts at a park on its patch.

Readers of Sheffield daily The Star donated £5,000 to provide a trained helper dog – named Star after the newspaper – for a boy with autism.

And in August, the Ross Gazette marked its 150th anniversary by raising £40,000 to pay for a new bus to serve community activities in Ross-on-Wye.

Glasgow organ

But regional newspapers didn’t just raise millions of pounds for charity in 2017 – they also helped influence the political process and in some cases, changed the law.

In June, the Glasgow Evening Times won its six-year fight to change organ donation laws and, as a result, people in Scotland are assumed to be donors unless they have registered an objection.

In Sheffield, the Yorkshire Post launched a determined campaign to halt a controversial council scheme to remove around 6,000 trees from city streets as part of a 25-year highway maintenance programme.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove agreed – and praised the Post for its “persistent and persuasive” campaigning on the issue.

HDM NYE 1

The year 2017 had begun with the Hull Daily Mail celebrating victory in its campaign to see its patch crowned UK City of Culture.

But the Mail had to deny  having also mounted a campaign against The Sun, after the national tabloid ran a piece under the headline ‘Scrapital of Culture’ about what it termed “yob mayhem” on New Year’s Eve.

The Birmingham Mail also tasted victory after a long-running campaign in its bid to help get legal funding for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombing victims’ families as they sought new inquests into their loved ones’ deaths.

And Midlands rival the Express & Star won its year-long Freedom of Information fight to make public a report into police handling of the inquiry into the death of Kevin Nunes.

Birmingham justice

The year ended with a spate of Christmas related campaigns of which the Edinburgh Evening News’s was perhaps the most ambitious.

It achieved something of a minor Christmas miracle – by getting rival football clubs Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian to unite behind its Edinburgh Cheer bid, which aimed to get readers to do a good deed over the festive period.

 

Edinburgh cool

 

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