Scottish Press Awards – Jeff Mitchell and Lennox Herald make the prize list

Jeff Mitchell with a picture he took of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is once again a winner in the Scottish Press Awards.

By Bill Heaney

The Lennox Herald, part of the Reach group of weekly newspapers, has won the local weekly newspaper campaign of the year in the Scottish Press Awards.

The newspaper, edited by Linzi Watson, has unfortunately closed its Dumbarton office and has been losing sales in recent years.  It shares a website and an office in Glasgow with the tabloid Daily Record.

Their winning entry was entitled Lonely This Christmas.

And Vale of Leven-based photographer Jeff Mitchell, of Getty Images, has once again been named News Photographer of the Year.

Unfortunately, it was revealed today, Mirror and Record publishers Reach Plc placed a fifth of staff on furlough – around 1000 jobs – and reduced pay by a minimum of 10 per cent.

All board members and editors will take a pay cut of 20 per cent. The group is also asking to defer its £4.1 million a month payments to its pension fund as it tries to protect cash reserves.

Chief executive Jim Mullen said: “It is key we take proactive measures now on costs to protect jobs and the Reach business for the long term.”

QE2 HospitalThe winners of the 41st Scottish Press Awards were announced yesterday, celebrating the very best of local and national journalism from across Scotland.

The Scottish Mail on Sunday scooped the prestigious Newspaper of the Year Award, alongside the Journalism Team of the Year accolade, for its investigation into the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. It was a triumphant year for the publication with its journalists, Georgia Edkins and Gary Keown, named as Young Journalist of the Year and Sports Feature Writer of the Year respectively.

With a career spanning more than 40 years, Norman Silvester, news reporter and investigative journalist at the Sunday Mail, was awarded both the Reporter of the Year Award and the coveted Journalist at the Year Award.

The Fife Free Press was named the Weekly Newspaper of the Year, chosen by a panel of Scottish daily newspaper editors. “With some imaginative and eye-catching front pages, from the news section through to some brilliant sports pages, it’s a paper which really reflects the community it serves because it informs the readers but stands up for them too,” they said.

A total of 29 awards crediting the vital work of print and digital journalism were announced, with The Sunday Post scooping the Campaign of the Year category with its ‘Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail’.

The Digital Team of the Year went to The Courier for its ‘Shaped by a River: Tales of the Tay’ special series and the Nicola Barry Award, which was introduced in 2018 in honour of the late award-winning columnist and feature writer, was awarded to The Scotsman’s Gina Davidson.

The Sun picked up Scoop of the Year and Front Page of the Year for two highly-powerful editions.

Ian McCormack, the editor of the West Highland Free Press who recently retired after 44 years in the post and oversaw over 2,000 editions of the paper, receives the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award.

Scottish Newspaper Society director, John McLellan, said: “Forty-four years as editor of a single title is a truly remarkable achievement and one unlikely to be repeated any time soon. Under Ian, the West Highland Free Press remained defiantly independent and true to its radical roots, providing a distinctive voice for the people of Skye and beyond. We wish him a very long and happy retirement.”

This year’s judging panel comprised 37 independent judges from across Scottish media, politics and public affairs, including veteran news presenter Jackie Bird, former Scottish Conservative leader and ex-journalist Ruth Davidson MSP, Lib Dem MP and former Press Association Scotland editor, Christine Jardine, and BBC investigators, Sam Poling and Lucy Adams.

The 41st Scottish Press Awards are sponsored by Royal Bank of Scotland, The Law Society Scotland, VisitScotland, People’s Postcode Lottery, SGN, Openreach, Diageo, Amazon, People’s Energy and BIG Partnership.

Chair of the judging panel, Denise West, the former DC Thomson Media chief commercial officer and Trinity Mirror (North) managing director, said: “The judges were thoroughly impressed by the high quality of all the final entries, particularly the excellent stories published by the weekly papers, and this is a timely reminder of what communities will lose if independent local news publishing collapses during the Covid-19 lockdown, so it’s essential that the Scottish and UK governments step in to mitigate the disappearance of advertising and lost sales.”

John McLellan added: “The awards show how important news publishing is to Scotland, locally or nationally; recognising and celebrating the good, exposing the bad, recording achievement for posterity, reflecting life in our communities, linking people and businesses. Without the steady source of trusted information our journalists provide, little of this would be possible.

“Be it on mobile, laptop, desktop or print,  our titles reach more people than ever before, and much more quickly; the role Scottish journalists play was vital before, is vital now in the midst of the greatest crisis anyone has ever experienced, and will be even more vital in the recovery to come.”

The awards would have been unveiled at a ceremony at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Glasgow this evening, but the event was postponed because of the Coronavirus lockdown. It is hoped that an event can be staged later in the year when the winners will be presented with their trophies.

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