A strike by journalists prevented Andrew Hebden’s editor at the Bradford Telegraph & Argus from seeing him receive the 2002 Local Reporting Award from the Prince of Wales last week.
Hebden, 23, still a trainee reporter, was at St James’s Palace to pick up the top award, given by the Prince’s Trust in association with the Newspaper Society, for a story about a group of teenagers who have campaigned for better leisure facilities for young people in their area.
However, the strike meant editor Perry Austin-Clarke and Newsquest (Bradford) managing director David Coates were unable to be there.
Hebden had been with the paper only a year when he wrote a negative story about unruly behaviour among teenagers with nothing to do in their spare time, he told Press Gazette.
Then he met the youngsters, helped by youth worker Angi Dibb, who formed a committee to raise funds for various projects including a summer play scheme and new equipment for a community centre.
From a “We’re going to make things better” front-page story, Hebden followed the committee’s successful progress for a year.
Runners-up in the awards, given to young journalists who have written inspiring articles about other young people, were Ayesha Gilani of the Bristol Evening Post, who revealed a peer-mentoring scheme set up in a local school to combat bullying, and Debbie Watson, features editor of the Ipswich Evening Star who highlighted the role of a 12-year-old who took on the care of his mother, suffering from Crohn’s disease, his younger sister and their home.
Prince Charles, who in 1999 mooted the idea of the awards, said they helped to draw the attention of people to the marvellous things so often done by all sorts of unseen people in all corners of the country.
He applauded the way local newspapers helped to identify so many unsung heroes and heroines in contrast to the many stories of gloom and disaster in newspapers.
He hoped too that the awards would encourage young and enthusiastic reporters in their career to go on “to make something special of their chosen path in life”.
Newspaper Society president Tim Bowdler said the awards reflected the very essence of Britain’s regional and local newspapers, touching the heart of what the papers tried to do in focusing on truly local stories.
“Regional newspapers are the traditional champions of local causes. From the biggest metropolitan daily to the smallest of rural weeklies, regional newspapers embody the identity of the villages, towns and cities which they serve. Their partnership with their readers is the secret of their success.”
The awards were introduced by the footballer-turned-television presenter Gary Lineker, who is an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust.
By Jean Morgan