Exeter Express and Echo editor Marc Astley was yesterday honoured at the World Association of Newspapers conference in Amsterdam where he picked up the World Young Reader Prize.
The awards are designed to highlight excellence in the quest to engage young readers.
The Express & Echo was given the award for its “Green Shoppers Campaign” that invited young readers to design reusable shopping bags and which was also successful in reducing plastic bag use it its area by 25 per cent over a 12-month period.
The prize was presented yesterday at the WAN Digital and Readership Conference in Amsterdam.
On collecting the award, Astley said it is a privilege for such a small paper – with a paid-for circulation of 22,000 – to win the award.
“Our mission was to reduce plastic bag use in the Exeter area and we achieved it,” he said.
“We gave away 23,000 bags, which is one for everyone who reads our paper. The reason we did it was that we wanted to involve young readers, so we asked them to design special bags.
“It’s a simple idea, but one that engaged our young readers from the start, and one that we’re proud of.”
The Express and Echo campaign has also been nominated for a prize in the Press Gazette Environmental Journalism Awards.
Other winners at WAN included the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, which scooped newspaper of the year award, and the Irish Examiner which was commended for its public service after it produced a drugs information pull-out that the government distributed in schools.
Aralynn McMane, director of young reader programs for WAN, said it was crucial for newspapers to play a part in key moments in a young person’s life.
“It could be a first blog post – something they do for the very first times in their lives, the newspaper was there with a meaningful connection for doing that,” she said.
“This life stage approach is something we’re exploring more and I encourage you to do the same. What can you do to connect you to a key time?”
McMane said that there were two key groups that influenced young people in the reading of newspapers.
She said: “Help the parents – we know from recent research they are still the predictors of newspaper readership, especially the mothers, followed by teachers.
“This tells us that if you want to be printing in ten years you want to be in favour in education.”
McMane added: “Be everywhere. On social networks, on iPods, on internet and on mobile phones, by using the advice of the young people you have in the newsroom.
“Ultimately you have to do it it in ways that ring true. You cannot talk down to young people, include them in your stories as normal sources and as human beings. ]
“The newspapers who do this increase their younger readership and do not lose their older readership.”