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Regional Press Awards: What the judges said

The Chronicle's Gary Beckwith, centre, receives the aware for Front Page of the Year  - sponsored by HoldtheFrontPage - from HTFP Publisher Paul Linford and event host Zoe Lyons.

The Chronicle’s Gary Beckwith, centre, receives the award for Front Page of the Year – sponsored by HoldtheFrontPage – from HTFP Publisher Paul Linford and event host Zoe Lyons.

This year’s Regional Press Awards were handed out on Wednesday at the Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge in a glittering ceremony hosted by Zoe Lyons of Sky TV.

The awards saw Reach plc’s Liverpool Echo named Large News Brand of the Year while Iliffe Media’s Kentish Gazette won the Small News Brand category.

Also among the winners was Newcastle daily The Chronicle which won the Front Page of the Year prize – sponsored by HoldtheFrontPage – for its coverage of Newcastle United’s sale to a Saudi consortium.

Here is what the judges said about each of the winning entries.

Daily Reporter of the Year

Winner: Will Hayward, WalesOnline

“Will Hayward’s powerful story on families who lost loved ones during the Covid pandemic contained intimate, heart-rending accounts of how victims lived and lost their lives, and continues to spark debate in Wales and beyond, and his piece ‘The 29 things a Covid inquiry absolutely must look into’ challenges the prevailing narrative that the devolved administrations handled Covid well.”

Weekly Reporter of the Year

Winner: Charles Thomson, Newsquest

“Charles Thomson’s tenacious and detailed investigative reporting has exposed a paedophile ring and a police cover-up, a lockdown-flouting drugs den and council fraud, and failings by a local hospital trust. Judges praised his compelling writing and his determination to uncover the truth, highlighting the power of local media to improve lives in communities.”

Designer of the Year

Winner: Raymond Esteban, Belfast Telegraph

“Raymond used the style of Belfast murals for a cover story on Kenneth Branagh’s movie Belfast, and turned an image of Belfast’s comic-bookseller Aaron Flanagan into a comic-book superhero. He also reproduced the map of Northern Ireland as a tree, laden with ‘green’ typography, and used headlines, typography and images with confidence, punch and wit.”

Photographer of the Year

Winner: James Hardisty, Yorkshire Post Newspapers

“James Hardisty’s entry showcases his technical skill, creativity and ability to react quickly under pressure. It features a image of Princess Anne being driven to the late Queen’s funeral in which he captured the reflection of a fluttering Union Jack in the car window, capturing a quiet moment of closed-eyed contemplation.”

Columnist of the Year

Winner: Phil Wisdom, Devon and Cornwall Media

“Phil Wisdom’s humour, originality and engaging style ensure his columns, while thought provoking, are never didactic, and he can turn an innocuous story into a hilarious flight of fancy. The judges concluded that Wisdom’s work was “simply great’ and would “happily grace the pages of a national broadsheet”.”

Feature Writer of the Year

Winner: Beth Abbitt, Manchester Evening News

“Beth Abbit is an accomplished storyteller whose features are powerful and emotional, but are also sensitive and not sensationalist. She uses rigorous research to shine a light on important and topical issues, such as child criminal exploitation and the effect of the pandemic on a hospital bereavement team.”

Sports Journalist of the Year

Winners: Benjy Nurick, Southern Daily Echo, and Samuel Luckhurst, Manchester Evening News

“Samuel Luckhurst has worked hard to develop contacts and deliver exclusive stories on Manchester United, including the ‘Inside story of United’s toxic dressing room’ in May 2022. His career highlight was a feature on the role former manager Sir Alex Ferguson played in Cristiano Ronaldo’s return.

“Benjy Nurick’s SaintsPlus is an online-only subscription service launched by the Southern Daily Echo in 2022 to provide detailed analysis and features that go behind the daily news, providing fresh and original stories. Judges praised his ‘writing ability, research skills and use of contacts’ and originality of his ideas.”

Specialist Journalist of the Year

Winner: Allison Morris, Belfast Telegraph

“Allison’s interview with double killer Hazel Stewart, from behind bars, exposes the abuse she suffered from her co-conspirator and raises questions about how we view women who have committed crimes. She also exposed the murky world of militant republicanism and judges praised her persistence and courage after police warned her that her life was in danger.”

Cathryn Nicoll Award

Winner: Oliver Pridmore, Nottinghamshire Live

“Oliver secured an interview with Jeremy Vine at the end of the trial of Nottingham-based YouTuber and stalker Alex Belfield. Vine was a key witness at the trial, and Oliver explored his contradictory views on social media. Vine revealed that he was considering coming off social media altogether, and suggested the case marked the peak of online harassment.”

Young Journalist of the Year

Winner: Ffion Lewis, Media Wales

“Ffion Lewis’s writing in the South Wales Echo and WalesOnline is a visceral read, covering topics such as knife crime, assisted dying and a gas explosion that left three people scarred for life. Judges praised Lewis’s ‘versatile, engaging, multi-voiced reporting,’ which ‘made the copy sing’ and ‘could influence policy change’.”

Supplement of the Year

Winner: Warrington Guardian

“The Warrington Guardian published its coronavirus anniversary supplement a year after the first lockdown. The 24-page pull-out reflected the impact of the virus on the local community. It also featured four pages of tributes to the town’s Covid victims. Judges praised the ‘wonderful team effort’ and the supplement was widely praised by readers and the community.”

Campaign of the Year

Winner: Birmingham Live & Mail – Boot Rogue Landlords out of Birmingham

“Jane Haynes uncovered a housing scandal in Birmingham that benefited rogue landlords and letting agents from a loophole in the housing benefits system, enabled by a lack of regulation and enforcement. Her campaign had a major national impact, leading to a select committee enquiry and judges praising her ‘outstanding’, ‘remarkable’ and ‘excellent’ work.”

Scoop of the Year

Winner: Manchester Evening News – Child’s death linked to damp council flat

“The case of Awaab Ishak, a two-year-old boy whose death was linked to damp and mould in his home, made national news after Stephen Topping exposed the extent of the problem and a pattern of neglect by highly-paid housing officials. Greater Manchester Police are investigating further and a campaign to change the law is set to follow.”

Digital Initiative of the Year

Winner: The Press and Journal – Highland League Weekly

“The Highland League Weekly is a web show that focuses on the Breedon Highland League, a unique part of the UK football landscape that is largely ignored by the national media. The team consists of self-taught presenters, pundits, cameramen, commentators, directors and editors and the average audience is now double that of the first season.”

Reporting Communities Award

Winner: BirminghamLive/Birmingham Mail for ‘Brummie Muslims’

“The Brummie Muslims newsletter launched in April 2022 as part of a renewed drive to engage with local Muslim communities. With 5,000 subscribers, and an average open-rate of 37%, community feedback has spurred the team to continue their great work and seek even greater collaboration.  ‘Outstanding community journalism’ was the verdict of the judges.”

News Website of the year

Winner: Belfast Telegraph

“The Belfast Telegraph’s digital offering is now the cornerstone of its mission to provide insight and opinion on ‘the news that matters’. Its coverage of the Northern Ireland Assembly election results in May 2022 was particularly successful, with 1.8 million page views over two days and traffic up 19% year-on-year and 20% month-on-month.”

Front Page of the Year

Winner: The Chronicle, Newcastle

“The Newcastle United takeover saga came to a swift and stunning conclusion in October 2021, with controversial owner Mike Ashley selling the club to a Saudi consortium. Designer Gary Beckwith created two covers to reflect the momentous occasion making the edition of Friday October 9th 2021 a collectors’ item.”

Small News Brand of the Year

Winner: Kentish Gazette

“The Kentish Gazette went to great lengths to investigate the death of an unknown man in Canterbury, revealing his name, family, and police errors. It also raised £15,000 to help pay for intensive therapy for a German student, and spoke to mothers who have lost children through suicide.  The judges praised the publication for its ‘impactful stories’.”

Large News Brand of the Year

Winner: Liverpool Echo

“The Liverpool Echo’s front-page plea to anyone who knew anything about her murder of Olivia Pratt-Corbell and an Echo journalist reporting live from Paris ahead of the 2022 Champions League final … The Echo’s clear voice, firm roots in its community and ‘fantastic presence across a wide range of platforms’ made it a clear winner.”

Liverpool Echo editor Maria Breslin and her victorious team after receiving the Large News Brand of the Year prizse from presenter Zoe Lyons (right).

Liverpool Echo editor Maria Breslin and her victorious team after receiving the Large News Brand of the Year prize from presenter Zoe Lyons (right).