Kent on Sunday steals show

Kent on Sunday team; editor Patel, left, was lost for words at the paper’s achievement

Kent on Sunday has become the first free title to win the top accolade of Newspaper of the Year in the Press Gazette Regional Press Awards.

The victory for the independently owned newspaper at the awards, held at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, came less than two years after its launch in September 2002.

Editor Ian Patel could barely utter a word when approached afterwards and was so taken aback by the result that he had tears in his eyes.

He eventually managed to express his joy over winning. “This is the best day of my working life,” he exclaimed. “Being so editorially led created a unique product for the free press and the more people hear about it, I think, the more interested they are going to be in our model.”

The Yorkshire Evening Post stormed the event by scooping three awards. Anne Pickles picked up two awards, for the feature writing and scoop categories. After coming close to winning for many years she was overwhelmed to walk away with two at once. She said: “I’ve always wanted a Press Gazette award, I’ve been a runner-up so many times. To win two is absolutely amazing.”

The paper’s Paul Dews was Sports Journalist of the Year.

Staff from The Sentinel Sunday arrived on a barge at the awards along with colleagues from the Bristol Evening Post and the Western Daily Press. The Stoke title won the Daily/Sunday Newspaper of the Year category. Editor Sean Dooley said: “This award is particularly satisfying as it underscores the success of our team here and reflects the way we have evolved.” Judges acknowledged its circulation growth of 5.8 per cent in the last ABC figures. The paper’s photographer, Clare Lewis, was named Photographer of the Year.

The team at the Grimsby Telegraph was praised for its meticulously researched supplement detailing the life of Soham killer Ian Huntley when he lived locally.

Last year the paper won Scoop of the Year for an exclusive on the Soham murders. This year the judges recognised that the team “had left no stone unturned” in producing the Huntley supplement.

Muslim single mum Anila Baig of the Yorkshire Post was named Columnist of the Year for her writing, which “straddled both Western and Islamic culture with perception and insight”.

She originally trained as a teacher, believing journalism was too competitive. After picking up her award she commented: “If you want to go for it you shouldn’t take no for an answer.”

Reporter of the Year Luke David from the Ham & High was rewarded for a series of articles that drew attention back to homes-for-votes scandal councillor Dame Shirley Porter.

One of just a handful of regional dailies to put on sales in recent years, the Exeter-based Express & Echo was named Evening Newspaper of the Year.Editor Steve Hall said: “I’m absolutely delighted. We’ve been shortlisted a couple of times over the past six years but I didn’t really expect to win when we were up against such big guns.”

The South London Press was Weekly Newspaper of the Year. Deputy editor Shujaul Azam said: “We’ve been working really hard to get our circulation up, it’s been a team effort from the sports and newsdesk and the circulation and promotions departments and we’ve managed it.

This is a great recognition of everyone’s hard work.”

The Newcastle Evening Chronicle’s Beth Neil was crowned Young Journalist of the Year.

It was a painful day for the Nottingham Evening Post, which was shortlisted in six categories but won none. Editor Graham Glen said: “The range of awards that we were shortlisted in was extremely encouraging and shows what good health the paper is in and what a strong team we have across the board.”

The prize draw in aid of NPF, the journalists’ charity, raised £1,530. The winner was drawn by Manchester United and England football legend Sir Bobby Charlton.

NUJ PAY PROTEST

The NUJ took the opportunity to send its own message to the hundreds of journalists who turned up to the awards. A small demonstration gathered outside the main entrance with placards on display saying, “our pay is sweet FA” and “journalists like awards but would love better pay”. Assistant north of England organiser Jenny Lennox said: “These people are nominated for awards but they are not appreciated for the work they do.”

By Sarah Lagan, Dominic Ponsford and Caitlin Pike

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