Awards prove importance of great people

When people leave their jobs in our industry, there’s a comment they make that is as predictable as it is heart-warming.
Sometimes they’re so emotional or nervous, it’s the only thing they manage to say as they clutch their abusive mock front pages and collections of bottles and cards.
“It’s the people,” they say. “It’s the people that have kept me here so long, and that I’ll miss the most.”
It’s a simple but heartfelt acknowledgement of an essential truth: that people are – by a country mile – any media organisation’s most important asset.
People, their ideas and their skills – from reporting tenacity to design wizardry, and from motivational magic to social media slickness – are all we have.
And yesterday provided a celebration of all of that, at the EDF Energy South West Media Awards in Bristol.
It was a great day for Local World, which won 12 of the 16 digital/print categories up for grabs.
That’s maybe not surprising since we dominate the local newspaper map in large parts of the south west.
But it was also a ringing endorsement of the journalism that is done every day by dedicated, imaginative and skilful people in circumstances that can be challenging.
It was great, for instance, to see the sheer hard work of the Western Gazette team in Yeovil in producing a five-edition paper, which looks classy and is packed with outstanding stories, reflected in its Weekly Paid-for Newspaper of the Year title.
The awards were also a celebration of journalism that makes a difference and I was proud beyond words that Siobhan Stayt of The Bath Chronicle was named Weekly Newspaper Journalist of the Year, partly for her reporting of a secondary school scandal that eventually forced the head’s resignation.
Bristol Post assistant editor (business) Gavin Thompson also falls into this category, with his coverage of a campaign to create 1,000 jobs for the city, which won him Specialist Journalist of the Year.
And those two most vital elements for a great reporter, determination and empathy, were to the fore, illustrated in the work of Feature Writer of the Year Steven Impey from Gloucestershire Media, and in that of his colleague, Photographer of the Year Paul Nicholls.
Sports Journalist of the Year Steve Cotton from the Bristol Post and the paper’s assistant news editor Emily Koch – voted Digital Journalist of the Year – added more awards to their richly-deserved collections.
For me the awards have four important roles.
Firstly, they facilitate a great day of meeting up with old friends and comparing notes with colleagues from within the business and beyond.
Secondly, they inspire people to aim higher. A colleague told me she would aim to ensure every front page she designed from now on was a potential Designer of the Year section contender.
Thirdly, they prove that real journalism that makes a real difference is alive and kicking.
And fourthly, and most importantly, they remind us all that our people are all that really matter in our business.
Get the right ones in place, and treat them properly by stretching and supporting them in equal measure, and you won’t go far wrong.

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