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Editors call for rethink over awards’ move to focus on print

Darren ToogoodIndependent publishers including a past winner have called on a national press industry awards scheme to rethink its decision to focus solely on print.

Hyperlocal editors raised concerns after the newsawards announced it was reverting to its previous name of the Newspaper Awards, with a fresh focus on “production and innovation” in printed newspapers.

Among those upset with the decision is Darren Toogood, whose Isle of Wight-based title the Island Echo won ICNN Independent Community Website of the Year, a prize offered for members of hyperlocal trade body the Independent Community News Network, at last year’s ceremony.

Darren, pictured, said it was “disappointing” that the organisers had decided “to exclude digital publications moving forward”.

Speaking to HTFP, he said: “It does seem somewhat bizarre to revert back to an old name and format some seven years down the line, at a time when digital news is becoming the main focus for both publishers and consumers.

“Last year’s awards ceremony in London was fantastic and it really felt that independents such as ourselves and the media giants of the UK had come together to celebrate success across the news industry.  Now it seems there is a divide – not only between big and small, but digital and print too.

“It almost seems to be a desperate attempt to make sure people know that newspapers are still important when we all know that digital news is the future.

“Instead of moving with the times, newsawards is clinging onto the past and in the process is treating us digital publishers like we simply don’t exist.”

Other ICNN members including Bedford Independent co-editor Paul Hutchinson and David Floyd, managing director of London-based publisher Social Spider, also expressed their concerns about the move on Twitter.

Speaking to HTFP, Paul said: “It’s a real shame that these changes have been made to the newsawards. News publishing at all levels needs wider support and this archaic attitude that print is the only news that matters is counterproductive to what many in the sector are trying to achieve.

“While I have nothing but respect and support for those print publishers who work hard to provide their readers with genuine editorial, digital publishers must not be ignored.

“Digital websites like provide easy access to up to the minute news for the communities they serve and to discount our hard work, just because we’re not publishing on the ‘medium of choice’, is short sighted.

“This decision is all the more bizarre when you consider Ofcom’s recent news consumption report, which shows that readership of print titles continues to decline whereas readership of digital sources is increasing.

“Organisations like the newsawards need to recognise that digital publications represent a genuine professional alternative and play an important part in modern news publishing.”

David added:  “It’s particularly sad that the ICNN Community Website Of The Year – which has foregrounded ICNN members who run fantastic digital-only publications – will no longer be part of the newsawards.

“I hope it’s possible for ICNN, Public Interest News Foundation and others to find different ways of recognising the work of independent community publications.”

HTFP has approached both the Newspaper Awards and ICNN for a comment.

Launching the rebranded awards earlier this week, organiser Gary Cullum said: “The decision to focus purely on print may seem counter-intuitive but our research indicates that the industry is keen to highlight the innovation and excellence in the printed newspaper.

“We’re looking forward to showcasing world-class newspapers printed nationally, regionally and internationally at what promises to be a major industry networking event.”