Star is in ascendancy at media awards

Express & Star, the Wolverhampton-based daily newspaper, ITV Central and BBC ran out the big winners at the annual Midlands Media Awards, held at Edgbaston Stadium, to acknowledge the achievements of the region’s journalists, photographers, broadcasters and bloggers.

Not only did the Express & Star capture the Newspaper of the Year accolade from last year’s winner, the Burton Mail, but journalist Alex Ross won News Reporter of the Year (Daily), while Tim Spiers and Tim Thursfield carried off the Sports Reporter of the Year and Photographer of the Year categories, respectively.

An investigation into Asian grooming by ITV’s Balvinder Sidhu took the honours in the Story of the Year category, while colleagues Mark Gough (Business Journalist), Andy Bevan (Features Journalist)), Stacey Foster (Television Journalist) and Awo Tarabi (Newcomer of the Year) were also winners.

BBC captured four of the top honours – Online/Digital (Caroline Lowbridge), Campaign (BBC WM), Radio (Adrian Goldberg) and The President’s Award (Jonathan Gibson).

The awards, sponsored by HSBC UK, Birmingham City University and creative agency Bareface, were organised by event management company 7Loco on behalf of Birmingham Press Club. Hosts for the evening were ITV Central presenter Bob Warman and BBC WM presenter Llewela Bailey.

One of the most fiercely contested categories was Newcomer of the Year, which attracted 20 entries from television, radio, websites and newspapers, all of which impressed the judges by the quality of their submissions. Commenting on the winning entry from Awo Tarabi, the chairman of the judging panel, Laurie Upshon, said: “She produced an impressive portfolio, including an exclusive interview with the victim of a race-hate hit and run, which showed true empathy with the interviewee. “

He told guests: “What came through, when we were judging entries, was the great diversity of style and content, reflecting the special – and unique – characteristics of the different cities, towns and villages in our patch. Our newspapers, in particular, highlight those differences.

“It is localness that makes them such a vital part of their communities and, despite economic pressures, they still must play a vital role in the democratic process to ensure those with power are subject to essential scrutiny. And so it was particularly pleasing to see, this year, the prominent contribution in many of the papers of the local democracy reporters.

The President’s Award went to Jonathan Gibson, of BBC West Midlands, who demonstrated consistently high levels of professionalism with a portfolio of investigative reports, while debut entrant Gabrielle Miller took the Blogger/Columnist category with her “Cool as Leicester” contribution.

The winners were:  

Blogger/Columnist of the Year (including hyper locals):  Winner - Gabrielle Miller, Cool as Leicester.  Highly recommended: Anton Rippon, Derby Telegraph. Nigel Hastilow, Express & Star.

The judges said Gabrielle’s offering – now the largest online magazine in Leicestershire – was a fresh, fun source of news and entertainment providing website and social media audiences with all there is to know about leisure, entertainment, events and food & drink in Leicestershire. Visually engaging, user-friendly and a trusted source of information

Business Journalist of the Year:  Winner – Mark Gough, ITV Central. Highly commended – Jonathan Gibson, BBC West Midlands and Justine Halifax, Leicester Mercury. The judges said the year was dominated by the collapse of Carillion and the story featured heavily in the entries with reports chronicling the aftershock that hit related industries. The judges would have liked to have seen more investigative work that went beyond the headlines. But the winner’s portfolio featured exclusive reports, including the first early warnings about the risk to jobs post-Brexit at one of the region’s largest and most iconic companies.  

Campaign of the Year:  Winner - BBC WM. “Make A Difference.”  Highly commended – Emma Ray, Coventry Live. “Help the Homeless.” The Sentinel Newsroom. “Ryan Evans Tragedy & Swimsafe.” The judges said that the winning entry was a wide-ranging campaign that engaged with difference communities to make a difference to lives through a diverse range of activities. Clearly demonstrated that lives can be changed – and enhanced – through everyday activities.

Features Journalist of the Year: Winner – Andy Bevan, ITV Central. Highly commended, Graham Young, Birmingham Live and Peter Bearne, ITV Central. The judges said Andy’s portfolio of contrasting reports – a tribute to Bruce Forsyth; the transplant games in Birmingham and a background on the terrorists who became known as the three musketeers - illustrated his versatility and marked him out as a top TV journalist.

Headline of the Year: Winner – Mike Lockley, Sunday Mercury.

The judges described his entry as typical of the wit and creativity of one of the region’s best-read and talented journalists.  A pun-tastic contribution: Crust Married (pork pie wedding cake is love at first bite).

Magazine/Supplement of the Year: Joint winners – Shropshire Business and Birmingham Mail’s supplement Tribute to Cyrille Regis. Highly commended – Midlands Business Insider and Taste The Seasons.  The judges found that many of the lifestyle magazines were so heavy on adverts – in some cases, they were far more glossy than the content that it was difficult to find anything to read! Shropshire Business had targeted content – a creditable mix of hard news, interviews and background information. The Mail’s coverage of footballer Cyrille Regis’s funeral, combined with a balanced mix of archive material, tributes and pictures, is a well-produced tribute that many readers will keep as a souvenir

Newcomer of the Year: Winner -  Awo Tarabi, ITV Central. Highly commended – Paige Oldfield, Burton Mail and Charlotte Winfield, Global’s Newsroom Midlands. This category attracted an impressive array of candidates – of all ages and disciplines. But the winner produced an outstanding portfolio, which included an exclusive interview with the victim of a race-hate hit-and-run, which showed true empathy with the interviewee. Her report on the scandal of forced marriages looked at the horrific violence faced by victims and detailed the extent of a crime many would like to keep hidden.

News Reporter of the Year (Daily):  Winner – Alex Ross, Express & Star.  Highly commended – Martin Naylor, Derby Telegraph. The judges said Alex demonstrates quality regional journalism, which does not follow the traditional news agenda. With people at the heart of his work, he is not afraid to tackle a big challenge facing communities, such as the plague of zombie knives.

News Reporter of the Year (Weekly):  Winner – Rebecca Miles, Hereford Times. Highly commended – Mike Lockley, Sunday Mercury. The judges said Rebecca’s portfolio highlighted her undoubted skills as an all-round reporter – making an MP squirm under intense scrutiny of his financial affairs; telling the real story of what it is like to be a Syrian refugee and countering deep-seated suspicions about immigration. And, finally, producing a belter of an interview with a former Herefordshire schoolboy who revealed himself to be the son of notorious Columbian drugs baron Pablo Escobar.

Newspaper of the Year: Winner – Express & Star.

Highly commended – Sunday Mercury.

There was very strong competition in this category from papers covering vastly different patches with their unique issues. But the judges noted the impressive story count, both in news and sport in the Express and Star. There was in-depth coverage - particularly their analysis of the West Midland crime survey - plus diverse, very readable features and good, informative listings, pages. So, if content is king, then the Express and Star takes this year’s crown as Newspaper of the Year.

 Online/Digital Journalist of the Year:  Winner – Caroline Lowbridge, BBC East Midlands.  Highly commended – Katy Hallam, Coventry Telegraph and Nathan Judah, Express & Star. The judges said that Caroline had delivered exceptional original stories, in particular focusing on subjects affecting young women and other audiences traditionally under-served by the BBC   A skilled writer and video journalist, she also excels technically, demonstrating drone work and editing skills, which showcase her undoubted versatility. A deserved winner of the award for the second year in succession.

Radio Journalist of the Year: Winner – Adrian Goldberg, BBC. Highly commended – Lindsey Alder, Touch fm.  The judges said that Adrian has produced an outstanding piece of narrative. You just want to keep on listening to his long form story on a return to his childhood home of Druid’s Heath and how it has changed. An example of radio reporting at its best – hitting upon hard economic facts, embellished with familiar warmth and pride.

Sports Journalist of the Year:  Winner: Tim Spiers, Express & Star. Highly commended – Mark Edwards, Oxford Mail. Michael Sibert, ITV Central. The judges praised him for a series of reports on newly-promoted Wolves, including several exclusives. In particular, the judges were impressed that he managed to reveal the name of the club’s new manager ahead of the opposition and they praised him for originality in his tribute to goalkeeper Carl Ikeme’s fight against acute leukaemia.

Story of the Year: Winner – Balvinder Sidhu, ITV Central, “Asian Grooming.” Highly commended – Matt Maddren, Free Radio, “Alfie Dingley’s Journey.” The judges said that this category produced a strong mix of stories across all formats, covering breaking news, campaigns, consumer journalism and major social issues. They chose as the winner a report that went beyond the headlines to reveal the heartache of a young girl, betrayed and blackmailed by her boyfriend and forced into having sex with older men. Many such victims are reluctant to come forward but Balvinder managed to win the confidence of one young girl and tell her harrowing story. An excellent example of reporting, which highlights a key issue of today

Television Journalist of the Year: Winner – Stacey Foster, ITV Central. Highly commended  - Jonathan Gibson, BBC West Midlands and Navtej Johal, BBC East Midlands.  The judges said Stacey had produced a formidable piece of work in delivering a highly polished backgrounder on the Ian Paterson cancer scandal, which harmed so many women. She created a stand out piece of TV journalism through dogged and admirable professionalism by telling the story through the voices of those effected by medical malpractice.

Tony Flanagan Photographer of the Year Award: Winner – Tim Thursfield, Express & Star. Highly commended – Richard T Harris, of Richard T Harris Photography and Tim Sturgess, Express & Star.  So many talented snappers, and the judges said this was a real photo-finish. But winner Tim Thursfield edged out his rivals with an eye-catching portfolio that featured dejection after England’s World Cup exit, an irresistible photo of ex-Express & Star reporter Boris Johnson and a poignant shot at a Walsall Remembrance Parade.

The President’s Award went to Jonathan Gibson, of BBC West Midlands, who demonstrated consistently high levels of professionalism with a portfolio of investigative reports looking at the recruitment of postal workers to steal bank cards, the exposure of the biggest distributors of nuisance text messages in Britain and how a classified advertisements website was hijacked by criminals to trade in illegal goods and services. The latter being one of the most ambitious projects ever carried out by a BBC English Regions current affairs journalist single-handed.