Victorious Belfast Telegraph ushers in 'modern Ireland'

Belfast Telegraph editor Martin Lindsay signalled his intention to drive the paper "away from old Ireland and into modern Ireland", speaking after he accepted the Press Gazette Regional Press Awards Newspaper of the Year prize.

The Telegraph is the only Northern Ireland paper to win the award, having been jointly awarded it once before in 1995.

The title was also named Daily/Sunday Newspaper of the Year and won Front Page of the Year for its George Best issue, which was described by judges as "special… very, very special".

The paper has been a rare circulation success story in the regional daily press — boosting sales by 2.5 per cent year on year in the last round of ABC figures, helped by the launch of a tabloid morning edition.

Lindsay said: "Since I arrived I have made a conscious effort to change the content and agenda of the paper and we've a much broader canvas of news and features now.

"Northern Ireland has had a lot of politics to cover, and we feel now that our readers want other issues explored.

"Education is a big, big issue in Northern Ireland at the moment, as is health throughout the UK, and our readers do want a bit of stardust in their lives too. They don't want to be depressed, so we do quite a bit of showbiz stuff now.

"We have that mix of serious and not so serious, which I think is the key to newspapers. Obviously high-octane politics are still very important, but at the end of the day it's a big question of balance.

"The ordinary reader says that there's more happening in the world than just the squabbles in Ireland.

"Northern Ireland has changed beyond recognition in the past four years; it's a modern, vibrant society now. I want to produce a newspaper that's going to reflect the modern Northern Ireland, not the old Northern Ireland. That's our agenda."

Lindsay added that a new look for the paper is in the offing and said that, if market research goes to plan, the paper's masthead would be changing.

He said: "It's quite radical. The thinking is quite simply it will be a modern masthead for a modern newspaper."

Lindsay paid tribute to his staff and said: "It's a tremendous achievement all round for all our staff. Without good staff, you can't achieve success like this.

"We have a compact morning edition which goes head to head with the national papers and the local mornings, and then we have four editions of the broadsheet in the afternoon.

"There is a lot of work in that, because we have to reformat and repurpose the material, and there is a lot of skill attached, and people have to go that extra mile."

For Belfast Telegraph editor-in-chief Ed Curran the RPA triumph follows him being awarded an OBE for services to journalism and being inducted into the Press Gazette Regional Newspaper Hall of Fame — which was unveiled, along with the Regional Press Awards, at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London on Friday.

The Hall of Fame recognises the top 40 people who have made the biggest impact on regional newspaper journalism over the past 40 years and celebrates Press Gazette's 40th anniversary.

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