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Review of the Year: How the regional press fought and won for its readers

It was a year in which regional newspapers won praise for their work in highlighting national scandals, made sure MPs went back to work and even kept international football on their patches.

But while 2018 was a year in which regional newspapers claimed many great campaign victories, one “unprecedented show of unity” in particular got the nation talking.

In June, the Yorkshire Post co-ordinated a drive saw more than 20 titles across the North of England, including many from rival publishers, join together to demand Theresa May act on chaos caused by hundreds of Northern Rail services being delayed or cancelled.

Within hours the hashtag #OneNorth trending on Twitter and more than 20,000 people have since signed a petition set up by the Manchester Evening News demanding change.

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The Post itself scored an early campaign success in January this year, after an exposé on Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara’s unexplained absence from his office and Parliament prompted the Labour man to announce his return to frontline duties 24 hours later.

Other Westminster victories this year were achieved by Wolverhampton’s Express & Star, whose campaign on the sale of deadly knives caused Crime Minister Victoria Atkins to launch an inquiry, and Devon Live, whose bid to improve the North Devon link road after a number of fatalities helped secure £93m of funding from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

In terms of devolved government, Scotland’s Minister for Mental Health Clare was persuaded to discuss the matter of mental health and teenage suicide following the deaths of four young men which were covered by the Wishaw Press.

And it was also a year in which praise was given and action taken on a number of long-running campaigns by daily newspapers.

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In June, Portsmouth daily The News was singled out for playing a “prominent part” in pursuing concerns over more than 15 years about a hospital where more than 650 patients died after being given opioids “without medical justification”.

Two months later, Derbyshire Police announced it was investigating more than 100 claims of abuse at Aston Hall mental hospital following an investigation run initially by the Derby Telegraph in 2016.

The emergency services also benefited from help offered by the regional press this year.

Barrow-based daily The Mail hailed a “victory for common sense” after it successfully campaigned against proposed fire service cuts, the under-threat accident and emergency department at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary was spared after a two-year fight by the Huddersfield Daily Examiner and Brighton daily The Argus’s bid to get more bobbies on the beat in the town of Peacehaven, which was plagued by anti-social behaviour, prompted crime to decrease by more than 20pc.

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Transport infrastructure was also improved in localities across the land – with notable wins for the Ayrshire Post and Goole Times, who managed to secure £1m of local authority funding to repair potholes and a pledge from Network Rail to fix waterlogged subways respectively.

Stoke daily The Sentinel saw the fruits of its labour come to bear after three years of campaigning when a touring memorial marking 100 years since the First World War finally arrived on its patch, while the Grantham Journal succeeded in raising hundreds of pounds for a memorial of its own – unveiled in memory of local “colourful character” Ronnie Ward.

Humans weren’t the only beneficiaries of newspaper readers’ generosity this year either, with the Greenock Telegraph raising £2,000 to help save the life of a sick little dog called Winnie after she developed a tumour in her head.

And finally, the Edinburgh Evening News saved a three-decade-old butcher’s mannequin nicknamed ‘Fat Bob’ from being removed from a high street on its patch after a council ban on on-street advertising was introduced.