THE Birmingham Mail’s Mike Lockley has been named Britain’s Columnist of the Year (weekly) at the prestigious Regional Press Awards – the ‘Oscars’ of the industry. And the Mail itself has been recognised as one of the best regional newspapers in the UK.
The judges of the awards, which attracted more than 800 entries, were knocked out by a portfolio of Mike’s trademark comment columns from the Mail and Sunday Mercury.
“With an easy and entertaining style, Mike Lockley uses well-crafted comedy and anecdote to make telling points,” they said. “Judges praised the column for consistently hitting the mark.”
It was the third award of the year for Mike, who had been highly commended in the Reporter of the Year category, and who won the Headline of the Year trophy, at the recent Midlands Media Awards.
At the 2017 Birmingham Press Club-organised Midlands Media Awards Mike was acknowledged as the News Reporter of the Year (Weekly) in addition to winning The President’s Award for “showing all-year round consistency.”
At the Regional Press Awards, held on Friday, 17 May, which celebrated the very best in journalism, the Birmingham Mail was highly commended in the Newspaper of the Year category, judges remarking on its “diet of news, sport and features”, and “independent identity”. The Mail’s digital sister, BirminghamLive, went on to scoop more honours at the ceremony staged at London’s IET.
BirminghamLive won the Reporting Communities Award for the website’s coverage of, and features on, Ramadan masterminded by Sarah Probert and David Bentley. It was, said the judges, “well-crafted coverage focusing on major festivals in the Muslim calendar. The BirminghamLive team wrote a live blog on community celebrations in Small Heath Park, the largest in Europe, which helped inform the wider readership of the event and its background.”
And BrumFeeds, which successfully collected a mountain of goods for the city’s foodbanks was highly commended in the Campaign of the Year section.
Run by BirminghamLive’s Annette Belcher, and supported by the Birmingham Mail, judges said: “This was a superbly executed campaign bringing to life the stories of real people forced to rely on food banks, many due to Universal Credit. Striking a chord with readers through social media engagement, BrumFeeds more than doubled its original food donation target.”
Appearing elsewhere on the shortlists was The Lonely Death Of Janet Parker – Mail content editor Andy Richards’ examination of the world’s last smallpox death in Birmingham – making both the Supplement of the Year and Overall Digital Award categories for what judges called “a hugely ambitious digital storytelling project, a fantastic podcast series the judges said was the highest quality in every respect.”
BirminghamLive’s Stephanie Balloo was shortlisted as one of Britain’s best young reporters. “Combining a variety of sources with great use of video skills, she has proven herself a talented emerging multi-platform journalist,” judges said. “Compelling stories on anti-social behaviour were strengthened with well-chosen crime data and video clips.”
There was also praise for the Mail’s sister-publication, Sunday Mercury, too, as the newspaper appeared as a shortlisted finalist. “The Sunday Mercury celebrated its centenary in 2018,” judges said. “A century on, the paper still lives up to its reputation for big exclusives, investigations and human interest stories.”
Highly commended kin the Weekly Photographer category was Mark Williamson, from the Stratford Herald, who, in 2016, won the News Photographer of the Year Award at the Midlands Media Awards.
PHOTO: Mike Lockley (right) receiving his trophy at the Regional Press Awards