One of the biggest stories in the UK helped deliver the two top prizes at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards to Elgin-based The Northern Scot newspaper.
The possible closure of RAF Lossiemouth and the more inevitable closure of neighbouring RAF Kinloss has meant no shortage of stories for the paper, including around a campaign that led to 7000 people taking part in a protest march and 31,000 signatures on a petition delivered to Downing Street.
It was therefore little surprise that The Northern Scot was named Newspaper of the Year with its deputy editor, Chris Saunderson, taking the Journalist of the Year prize.
Receiving the Newspaper of the Year prize, editor, Mike Collins, declared “at last”, not for the winning of the title but for being able to speak to Danny Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who was the awards’ guest of honour. Alexander is a key player in the decisions concerning the bases and their economic aftermath and it was he was doling out the awards.
When accepting his prize from Alexander, Saunderson sarcastically thanked “DC”, Prime Minister David Cameron, for his role in providing the paper such a rich fund of stories.
Ordinarily, winners are not required to say a few words when being handed their prizes.
The awards ceremony kicked off with a Lifetime Achievement award – The Barron Trophy – being given to Harry McLaggan, who, in October last year, retired after 41 years reporting for the DC Thomson group of newspapers from Inverness.
The ceremony was once again held at the Newton Hotel in Nairn.
Saunderson told allmediascotland.com, afterwards: “At the end of the day, I live and work in the community so although I am reporting on what’s happening in the community, I am part of it. I live in Elgin, I’ve been here for 17 years, my children were born here. It’s their future as well as mine, so, if everything closes, my future is at stake, my children’s future as well. I am part of the story, if you like. It’s not about reporting other people’s problems.”
According to Collins, what’s happening to the RAF bases represents the biggest story in the history of the paper. He said: “This is when a good local newspaper comes into its own, when it’s landed with a big story and we have to decide how to treat it. We have run our [protest] campaign to save Lossiemouth as a people’s campaign. We have worked with the local [Lossie] Action Group and [Moray] Task Force. It hasn’t been confined to councillors and men in suits, we have helped to take the campaign into the heart of the community and on to the streets.”
For monthly newspaper, Am Paipear, which serves the southern isles of the Western Isles, it was a case of two years in a row, in winning the Community Newspaper of the Year title.
Staffed by a full-time editor, Archie MacKay, and a part-time assistant, the paper enjoys extraordinary local penetration, plus some 200 subscriber sales throughout the UK and beyond.
He told allmediascotland.com: “The paper sells about 2000 copies and it pretty much goes into every household in the islands. It is written mainly by the community itself, most of the content comes to us and we really just do lay-out.”
He added: “I’d say that winning the award is not an award for the editor of Am Paipear, it’s a whole community award because it is really the voice of the entire community.”
It was two years in a row also for Moray Firth Radio in picking up the Young Journalist of the Year award.
Four charities are to benefit from fundraising at the ball: The Children's Hospice Association Scotland, Marie Curie Cancer Care, the Highland Society for Blind People and the Linda Norgrove Foundation.
The full list of winners reads:
The Barron Trophy
Bord na Gaidhlig Awards for Best Gaelic Entry
Iain Morrison, BBC ALBA
Best Use of Journalism on the Web
Fergus Thom, Carrbridge News
Photographer of the Year
Gary Anthony, Scottish Provincial Press
Young Journalist of the Year: The Alex Main Trophy
Sarah Manning, Moray Firth Radio
Sports Reporter of the Year
Iain Auld, Moray Firth Radio
Reporter of the Year: The Jim Love Memorial Trophy
Claire Doughty, Highland News
Best Story of the Year
Chris Saunderson, The Northern Scot
Feature Writer of the Year
Hector Mackenzie, Ross-shire Journal
Community Newspaper of the Year
Newspaper of the Year
The Northern Scot
The Classic Malts Journalist of the Year
Chris Saunderson, The Northern Scot