Burton’s Best, say Media Awards Judges

Helen Kreft, Rhea Turner, Emma Turton, Julie Crouch of Burton Mail 

Helen Kreft, Rhea Turner, Emma Turton, Julie Crouch of Burton Mail 

Tabloid daily the Burton Mail was last night (2 November) crowned as Newspaper of the Year at the Midlands Media Awards – capturing the title from fellow-Staffordshire newspaper the Tamworth Herald, which had won the accolade for the last two years.

Daily Mail columnist and broadcaster Andrew Pierce, who headed the judging panel, said:  “The winning title, produced by a small, dedicated team, looks and plays the part of a model local newspaper. It is nicely presented with consistently strong local and community focused content – and the judges also felt it benefited from not being overly designed.”

Owned by Staffordshire Newspapers Limited, now part of the Trinity Mirror Regional stable, the Burton Mail, which covers East Staffordshire, South Derbyshire and North West Leicestershire, is edited by Emma Turton. Emma, who started her career at the South London Press, joined the Burton Mail in 2002 after having previously worked at the Nottingham Post and Derby Evening Telegraph.

Burton Mail editor Emma Turton told guests: “I am delighted that the hard work of the Mail team has been recognised. I am incredibly proud to lead the team and want to thank everyone who plays a part in the day-to-day production of our paper.”

Two former winners, the Express & Star and Derby Telegraph, were both commended by the judges – the Black Country daily for living up to its reputation as one of the best local ‘papers in the country with a high story count (breaking local, regional and national news), rammed with news and a strong sports section doing wonders for circulation; the Derby publication for its strong splashes and page leads always well projected with good headlines and strong local news which often went national.

Sponsored by HSBC, the Awards, organised by Birmingham-based Lotty Harper Events on behalf of Birmingham Press Club, were also supported by Bareface, Core, Russell Printers, Staffordshire University, The High Field and Milk and Mayo.

Birmingham Press Club, which is now celebrating its 152st anniversary, is the oldest Press Club in the world. The Awards are the highlight of the Club’s event calendar.

This year attracting more than 200 entries, the Awards take place annually to acknowledge the achievements of the region’s leading journalists, photographers, broadcasters and bloggers.

For the second year running, double honours went to Jonathan Gibson, from the BBC’s Inside Out West Midlands programme, a winner in Television Journalist of the Year and Story of the Year categories, while Neil Elkes, the Birmingham Mail’s local government correspondent took the News Reporter of the Year (Daily) award.

The hotly contested Newcomer of the Year Award, which attracted 25 entries from university students and trainee journalists, was won by Gemma Davies from Quidem Radio, which broadcasts across the South Midlands including Warwickshire and Oxfordshire.

Photographic honours went to Richard T Harris of Central Independent Newspapers.

The full results are:

Blogger/Columnist of the Year:  Winner – Anton Rippon, Derby Telegraph. The judges said Anton is a long-standing columnist, who, whether he is in a whimsical mood, deadly serious or downright controversial never fails to entertain and inform. Highly commended, Mike Lockley, Birmingham Mail; Jenny Amphlett, The Sentinel.

Business Journalist of the Year: Winner – Enda Mullen, Coventry Telegraph, for a portfolio, which examined the past and future of the Coventry/Warwickshire automotive industry. The judges praised Enda for providing much-needed business coverage in the city and particularly liked his series on the restoration of Coventry as Car City. Highly commended – Les Reid, for continuing his great work in breaking stories for the Coventry Observer

Campaign of the Year:  Joint winners – Birmingham Mail for “Justice for the 21” and Express & Star for “Zombie Knives” investigation. Highly Commended – Tamworth Herald’s “Forgotten Warrior;” Tamworth Herald/Lichfield Mercury’s “Save the Hospital Unit” and The Sentinel’s “Stoke-on-Trent City of Culture Bid.”

The judges praised the Birmingham Mail’s long-running pub bombing justice campaign, which eventually forced a change in British law to allow the families of those killed to get legal aid.  The Mail impressed with its persistent drive for truth and justice for the victims of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings. They also described the Zombie Knives campaign as one of the most successful ever undertaken by the Express & Star in recent times.  The newspaper’s investigation into a shocking legal loophole, which made Zombie knives freely available, resulted in a change in the law that finally banned such terrifying weapons. Unlike some of the entries, this one ended in a successful conclusion to the campaign.

Digital/Online Journalist of the Year:  Winner – Caroline Lowbridge, BBC East Midlands. Highly commended, James Sharpe, Leicester Mercury.  The judges said that Caroline was an outstanding candidate, providing great content and demonstrating imaginative use of the digital medium, one of her entries showcasing her skills as a drone pilot as well as her creativity with text and video!

Feature Writer of the Year:  Winner – Richard Ault, The Sentinel. Highly commended, Jessica Labhart, Express and Star. The judges said that Richard had submitted a very strong portfolio, including an exclusive Remembrance Day article about a Staffordshire man killed fighting with the US forces in Vietnam, which resulted in the man’s name being added to the war memorial in his home town of Stoke on Trent

Magazine/Supplement of the Year:  Winner – Venture (Kathryn Emerson, University of Worcester). Highly commended – Birmingham Mail’s Birmingham 2022 supplement and Shropshire Business magazine. The judges said that Kathrny, a journalism student at the University of Worcester and a broadcast assistant at BBC Radio Shropshire, had produced an outdoor adventure magazine packed with great originally, flair and creativity. A one-woman enterprise from start to finish, crammed with her own features, designs and photographs.

Newcomer of the Year:  Winner – Gemma Davies, broadcast journalist, Quidem Radio, encompassing Touch FM, Rugby FM and Banbury Sound. Highly commended – Jack Furness, trainee reporter, The Sentinel. Michael McCann, Staffordshire University sports broadcast journalism student/freelance journalist and Rhea Turner, trainee reporter, Burton Mail. The judges said:  “This was a very strong section, reflecting the rapidly changing face of Midlands media with entries from across the spectrum of print, social media, radio and the blog sphere. In her first year as a full-time broadcast journalist, Gemma contributed greatly to a small Newsteam covering five radio stations; one of her main achievements putting together a 30-minute special about a key local issue, the downgrading of hospital services. The judges were impressed that she persuaded a local MP to be driven from a hospital earmarked for severe cuts to the alternative hospital her constituents would have to go to in a nearby town. Good content and a good idea.

News Reporter of the Year (Daily): Winner – Neil Elkes, Local Government Correspondent, Birmingham Mail.  Highly commended – Enda Mullen, Coventry Telegraph. Jeanette Oldham, Birmingham Mail.  The judges said that Neil had produced a string of exclusives, which not only attracted the attention of national media but also made a difference to the citizens of Birmingham and held political leaders to account.

News Reporter of the Year (Weekly): Winner –   Mike Lockley, Sunday Mercury. Highly commended – Jordan Coussins, Central Independent News and Media. The judges said Mike – a man with more contacts than Yellow Pages - consistently comes up with hard-hitting, investigative-type stories, particularly citing his article about an anti-abduction charity

Newspaper of the Year:  Winner – Burton Mail.  Highly commended – Express & Star; Derby Telegraph.

Radio Journalist of the Year:  Winner –  Jennie Aitken, of BBC Radio Stoke, for her probe into the use of mamba (psychoactive drugs) in Stoke-on-Trent and the impact of the homeless people who are using it. Also, her coverage of reaction to recent terror attacks and Islamophobia being experienced by some Muslim women. Highly commended – Louise Easton, of Free Radio. Alex Hulse, of Global’s Newsroom Midlands.

Story of the Year:  Joint winners  – Jonathan Gibson of BBC Inside Out West Midlands, for his “NHS Repeat Prescription Fraud” investigation which prompted national debate and calls for greater scrutiny of the issuing process. And Isaac Crowson, Derby Telegraph’s crime reporter for the “Horrors of Aston Hall” article, which exposed the horrific sexual, physical and emotional abuse suffered by children at a mental hospital in the 1960s and 70s. The story began with a tip-off from one of Isaac’s contacts and the abuse only came to light after a long-running and determined investigation and campaign by the Telegraph, resulting in Derbyshire Police’s biggest-ever child abuse probe. More than 100 alleged victims came forward and so far police have identified 58 crimes.

The judges said: “This was a classic dilemma – there were two outstanding entries, both of which deserved to win. On the one hand, we had a hard-hitting, well-presented BBC investigation into prescription sale abuse put together by a team that regularly has its work on national networks. In the opposite corner – a great scoop on illegal and barbaric medical experiments, meticulously researched with great interviews with victims and well illustrated with photographs from now and then. Clearly the Derby Telegraph doesn’t have the resources of the BBC and one journalist’s byline appeared on all their copy.

“That’s why the judges decided upon a joint award to reflect that they were two great journalist scoops from opposite ends of the media market.

“In the end, David drew with Goliath.” Highly commended:  Michael McCann, Staffordshire University; Jonathan Gibson, BBC; Audrey Dias, BBC Midlands Today

Sports Journalist of the Year: Winner –  Lewis Cox of the Express & Star. Highly commended – Steve Clamp of ITV Central.  Michael Sibert of ITV Central. The judges said Lewis – the first trainee journalist to win a major category at the awards – saw off strong competition from experienced journalists to win with an exclusive about Shrewsbury Town FC being the first football club in the country to re-introduce safe standing - a story that was later picked up by other media outlets. Lewis arrived at the Express & Star on work experience but so impressed that the paper took the unusual step of employing him without the NCJT diploma – something which he is now taking. Lewis transformed the Star’s grassroots sports coverage so significantly that he was quickly promoted to cover a League One team.

Television Journalist of the Year: Winner – Jonathan Gibson, of BBC Inside Out West Midlands. Highly commended – Mark Gough, ITV Central; Michael Sibert, of ITV Central and Sian Grzeszczyk, a senior political reporter with the BBC.  The judges said Jonathan demonstrated outstanding investigative journalism by expertly delivering the goods with his investigations into a major flaw in Tesco’s pricing procedures and NHS patients selling their repeat prescriptions at a profit despite the health service being under huge financial pressure.

The Tony Flanagan Photographer of the Year Award:  Winner –Richard T Harris, of Central Independent Newspapers, whose portfolio included a Tamworth Herald front cover shot of the famous Shrove Tuesday Ball Game in Atherstone.  Highly commended – Steve Bould, of The Sentinel and Nick Wilkinson, of Birmingham Mail. The judges said that Richard’s entry demonstrated emotion and great variety.

The President’s Award: (Chosen from the category winners) went to Mike Lockley – the man whose keyboard never goes cold - of the Birmingham Mail/Sunday Mercury. For sheer all-year-round consistency, entertainment value and ability to capture the reader’s interest.