Double success for DC Thomson Media's newspapers
It was very definitely a night to indulge in celebrations for the coterie of DC Thomson Media (DCT) group's newspaper journalists attending the 43rd Scottish Press Awards dinner and presentation ceremony in an upmarket Glasgow hotel on 21 September.
They had just witnessed DCT's Aberdeen-based morning daily, The Press and Journal
(P&J ), being crowned Scotland's Daily Newspaper of the Year while its stablemate, The Sunday Post
, was the winner in the Sunday Newspaper of the Year category. It all made for an exciting, unprecedented double triumph for Scotland's leading indigenous newspaper publishing group.
And to further ensure that DC Thomson Media had a real night to remember, the editorial staff on three of the newspapers owned by the Dundee-headquartered publishing group captured a further eight awards to bring its awards tally on the night to 10. The detailed breakdown for DCT newspapers, disregarding one shared award for The Stooshie
podcast, was: The P&J (5), The Sunday Post
(3) and The Courier
There was more than ample justification for serious celebrations on the editorial floor of the Glasgow-based The Herald
morning daily newspaper as its journalists picked up no less than seven individual awards – by far the most for any one title. The Herald
shared an eighth award with The Ferret
investigative journalism platform.
It was a memorable night over in the Scottish Daily Mail
newsroom as its prolific regular freelance sportswriter, Heather Dewar, won two major awards, including the individual 'big one' – the prestigious title of Scotland's Journalist of the Year.
Heather added to her unexpected triumph in the 'big one' category by also winning the Sports News Writer of the Year award. And the Scottish Daily Mai
l earned significant praise from within the newspaper industry by winning the much sought after Chairperson's Award.
It was a good night for Reach plc which won five, albeit disparate, awards – thanks to the Daily Record
, Sunday Mail
, the Ayrshire Post
, the Wishaw Press
and Glasgow Live
However, it was a night when a rather surprising trend emerged in that four of Scotland's leading newspapers – The Scotsman
, The Times Scotland
, Daily Record
and Sunday Mail
– had each to settle for a single award. In fairness, I don't have any data for just how many categories each of these four newspapers had been nominated.
DC Thomson Media (10), The Herald
(8), the Scottish Daily Mail/Scottish Mail on Sunday
(5) and Reach plc (5) so dominated proceedings that, combined, they captured 28 of the overall 31 categories for which they were eligible to enter. A fiercely contested and highly-respected annual event, the Scottish Press Awards are designed to showcase the very best of Scotland's print and digital journalism through an overall total of 33 categories.
The awards were presented at a very swish event hosted by Scottish journalist and broadcaster Jackie Bird. The event was organised by John McLellan, director of the Scottish Newspaper Society, and the chair of the judges, Denise West, was a remarkably industrious figure as she dished out paeans of praise to the multiplicity of award-winners. Denise is a former managing director of the Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail Ltd, and chief commercial officer of DC Thomson Media.
Against the backdrop of DC Thomson Media's impressive awards successes, Denise told the assembled gathering of journalists and guests: 'In another year of pressure for independent news publishing, The Press and Journal
was ambitious in tackling the challenges head on: radically shaking up the way its newsroom operated, and strengthening the relevance and quality of its editorial content'.
She continued: 'The Sunday Post
has continued to evolve in both tone and content whilst remaining ever true to its original roots as a family newspaper. Every week the title delivers a formidable package of hard-hitting exclusives, campaigning vigour, engaging features and confident news coverage'.
The P&J emerges as top daily newspaper
P&J journalists headed home from the awards ceremony cock-a-hoop. For as well as their newspaper winning the top daily newspaper title, a further four awards had come their way. The regional daily also won the Local/Weekly Campaign of the Year category for its 'Beach Clean' series; Catherine Deveney was voted Columnist of the Year; Sean O'Neil, (who was also working jointly for The Courier
) is the Local/Weekly Reporter of the Year, and Neil Drysdale won the Local/Weekly Feature Writer of the Year award.
The P&J's awards triumph has come after DC Thomson Media introduced the 'Apollo' programme to the editorial hall in Aberdeen. This initiative has involved creating specialist mini-publishing teams to cover specific topics, and there is an increased emphasis on the use of editorial tools including video, live broadcasting, programme-making and audio production.
P&J editor-in-chief, Frank O'Donnell, commented: 'The rest of Scotland now knows what P&J readers have known for generations – this is our country's very best newspaper. But this award is, in particular, a timely recognition of the way we have built on centuries of experience over the last 18 months to create a news product that delivers everything modern which readers want. As a team, we have decisively shown that there does not have to be a choice between producing top-quality online news and the kind of daily print product our communities have come to know and love'.
A double success for The Sunday Post's chief reporter
Adding additional lustre to The Sunday Post's
elevation to Scotland's top Sunday newspaper status, its chief reporter, Marion Scott, rung up a very notable double awards success: Reporter of the Year and winner of the highly-prized Nicola Barry Award.
And there was further success for DC Thomson Media by lifting the Podcast of the Year award. The winning podcast – The Stooshie
– is a weekly production which focuses on the Scottish political scene with insight and analysis provided by political commentators on the staffs of The P&J, The Courier
, Dundee's Evening Telegraph
and Aberdeen's Evening Express
. Completing DCT's significant achievement in taking the top spot in 10 different categories, The Courier
won the News Website of the Year award.
The Herald's journalists take seven individual awards
Newsquest Scotland's The Herald
morning daily won the most awards for any single newspaper with its journalists triumphing in seven of the 13 categories for which they had been nominated. And The Herald
shared an eighth award with The Ferret
The Glasgow-based broadsheet's six individual awards-winners were led by Teddy Jamieson who was doubly successful as the Arts and Entertainment Journalist of the Year and Interviewer of the Year. The remaining awards went to Brian Donnelly as Financial Business Journalist of the Year; Neil Mackay as Feature Writer of the Year (he also writes for the The Herald on Sunday
); Helen McArdle as Specialist Reporter of the Year; Joanna Blythman as Food and Drink Writer of the Year; and Hannah Rodger who was voted Political Journalist of the Year.
and The Ferret
shared the Journalism Team of the Year award for their series 'Who Runs Scotland?', which uncovered and scrutinised the people and organisations who exert significant influence over a range of areas of Scottish society.
acting editor, Garry Scott, commented: 'We are extremely proud of all our journalists who have had their work recognised in this year's Scottish Press Awards across news, features, health, politics and business. This is testament to the dedicated effort of our journalistic team who work tirelessly to write, report and uncover the issues that matter to people in Scotland today. The vast range of talent at the awards ceremony across all nominees and winners showcased the thriving journalistic landscape in Scotland. We are thrilled to play a prominent part in setting the standard for quality journalism today'.
Daniella Theis, who has since joined the staff of Newsquest Scotland's Greenock Telegraph
, was Student of the Year for her contributions to the Strathclyde Telegraph
, the student newspaper of the University of Strathclyde.
Heather's very special night with a dazzling double
It was a night of surprises for Fife-based freelance journalist and broadcaster, Heather Dewar, who won the coveted Journalist of the Year award. She also triumphed in the Sports News Writer of the Year category for a series of powerful investigations, including insight on the Cricket Scotland racism scandal.
St Andrew's-born Heather, who is a regular freelance contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail
, displayed the strength of her journalistic prowess by also taking the runner-up spots in the Sports Feature Writer of the Year, Interviewer of the Year and Nicola Barry Award categories.
Regarding the top award, Denise West, explained to the gathering of journalists and guests: 'Heather Dewar was the unanimous choice for the judges who praised her sensitive, probing, and powerful writing. They were impressed too by her compelling reporting style and the engaging integrity
of her interviews. A truly worthy winner of this year's Journalist of the Year Award'.
However, hiding behind Heather's outward exhilaration on the night, lies the still acutely painful memory of a very traumatic period only two years ago, when her career had taken such a downward spiral she had been forced to claim Universal Credit – the state benefit available if you are barely surviving on a low income or out of work.
In a very revealing interview, Heather told me: 'Winning these two awards is, without doubt, the highlight of my career so far. On the night, I really wasn't expecting to win a thing! I was absolutely delighted simply to have been nominated. It is such a huge, huge honour to win both these awards. I have an enormous amount of respect for my journalistic colleagues and fellow nominees – so to come home with the Journalist of the Year award, in particular, is just incredible. I really want to thank the judges for recognising the work I have delivered over the last year. It means so much to me after an especially difficult time'.
That especially difficult time arose when she was cast aside as a freelance broadcaster during the Covid-19 pandemic. She explains in often emotive language: 'I fell through every crack imaginable and could only look on in envy at those fortunate enough to be furloughed. I had gone from a contracted position as the Women's Sport Reporter with BBC Scotland to staring into the abyss of unemployment. No help. No support. Nothing. Things were not looking at all good. Not only did I have bills to pay, I was working in an industry which had no sign of returning any time soon.
'I considered working in a local supermarket, driving a van – anything really to make some cash and to keep the wheels turning. Eventually, I took up a six-month contract with the Civil Service. My boss there was fantastic and the staff were awesome. However, I was clear from the start that this wasn't likely to be a permanent fixture. Rather, it was something I needed to do – to steady me. Then out of the blue came a call from the Scottish Daily Mail
. They tentatively asked if I would be interested in writing for them on women's sport. Absolutely delighted, I jumped at the opportunity.'
Juggling home-schooling for her daughters Saskia (12) and Fara (7), along with the Civil Service job, Heather turned around copy in her lunch-break; interviewed at night or early morning; and grabbed every opportunity to write in between work calls.
She recalls: 'It was a crazy, but fulfilling time. Over the last year, I have had the opportunity to work on some amazing stories, with some phenomenal individuals. I want to thank them for the trust they instilled in me to tell their stories. I want to thank the Scottish Daily Mail
for allowing me the space to breathe. As a journalist, being able to give life to one's work is really crucial. Some of the subjects I have covered recently have been particularly challenging and it has been simply superb to be able to do them justice with passion, honesty and care'.
Heather, who is a mentor with the Women in Journalism Scotland group, declares: 'I hope that in some small way, my own story can now inspire young female journalists to keep on fighting when the going gets tough. I want them to have faith in what they do and in who they are. I want them to reach for the stars. To know their worth. To ignore those who try to put them down. To respect others at all times. With hard work and determination, we can beat our own paths to success'.
Scottish Daily Mail wins the Chairperson's Award
The Scottish Daily Mail
won the prestigious Chairperson's Award, which the judges claimed reflected the newspaper's continued strong journalism and performance on the news-stands.
Denise West declared: 'The Scottish Daily Mail
is a newspaper that continues to demonstrate its belief that strong journalism, whatever the platform, and a strong team of journalists to deliver it, pays off. Not only is it rewarded by packing the shortlists at the Scottish Press Awards every year… but also at the news-stands where its performance sets an example every day'.
The Scottish Daily Mail
and Scottish Mail on Sunday
dominated the three sports categories. The daily title's Heather Dewar was voted Sports News Writer of the Year and its rugby correspondent Rob Robertson collected the Sports Feature Writer of the Year award. The Sports Columnist of the Year award went to the Scottish Mail on Sunday's
Norman honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award
The much-prized Lifetime Achievement Award has gone this year to Norman Silvester who has had an eventful and colourful journalistic career working for three different Scottish newspapers.
This is the second time major industry honours have come Norman's way for his journalistic endeavours. Two years ago, he notched up a major double success in the 41st Scottish Press Awards by winning both the Journalist of the Year and Reporter of the Year awards for his outstanding work as an investigative journalist with the Sunday Mail
– specialising in coverage of the criminal world.
These two major awards recognised Norman's revelatory reporting on the controversial death in custody of remand prisoner Allan Marshall, alongside exposes of Scotland's two biggest drug dealers, brothers James and Barry Gillespie. He was also runner-up for Scoop of the Year.
Married to Jackie and the father of two sons and a daughter, Norman told me: 'I am really delighted to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award after 43 years in the newspaper industry. It is a great honour and a very humbling experience to be recognised in this way by your own colleagues'.
Edinburgh-born Norman, 62, began his career in 1979 on The Sunday Post
, moving to Glasgow's Evening Times
in 1987, where he was a crime reporter and latterly chief reporter. Then, in 1995, he joined the Sunday Mail
and worked on news and investigative campaigns for the tabloid for the next 27 years.
He eventually departed the Sunday Mail
in March 2020 after accepting a redundancy package. However, he is now back at the Sunday Mail
on a regular freelance basis and is also working shifts for the Glasgow Times
, plus two days a week stints with two weekly newspapers: the Barrhead News
and The Gazette,
which covers the Renfrewshire towns of Johnstone, Renfrew, Linwood and Erskine.
Ayrshire Post wins top award for weekly newspapers
The Weekly Newspaper of the Year award has gone to Reach plc's Ayrshire Post
for its 'strong campaigning instinct and unique content'. And the Front Page of the Year category was won by Reach plc's Wishaw Press
Reach plc's Sunday Mail and Daily Record among the winners
The Sunday Mail
lifted the Campaign of the Year award for 'Anne's Law' and the Scoop of the Year award went to Annie Brown of the Daily Record
Individual successes for Beth, Jeremy and Gillian
Individual awards have gone to Beth Murray (The Scotsman
, Scotland on Sunday
and Edinburgh Evening News
) as Young Journalist of the Year; Jeremy Lazell of The Times Scotland
, who won the travel writer award; and Gillian Loney of Glasgow Live
news website for the best coverage of a live event for her gripping reporting of the Kenmure Street protests in Glasgow.
Jeff and Andrew snap up the photographic honours
Two very regular award-winners took the honours in the photographic categories. The News Photographer of the Year has been won for the umpteen time by Jeff Mitchell of Getty Images, and Andrew Milligan of PA Media snapped up the Sports Photographer of the Year award.
Readers getting 'trusted, reliable news and information'
The Scottish Newspaper Society's director, John McLellan, the organiser of the annual Scottish Press Awards, has explained: 'Because of the unpredictability, 2021 was in many ways as difficult as 2020, but the speed with which journalists and publishers adapted to pandemic conditions ensured they were in good shape to meet the challenges.
'The measures we took in conjunction with government action ensured that titles emerged relatively intact and able to continue serving readers with trusted, reliable news and information. Although the commercial landscape remains challenging, to say the least, it is encouraging to see so many high-quality entries, and the enthusiasm on display at our annual celebration is testament to the sector's continued resilience.'
Should you wish to get in touch with me, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Caithness-born Hamish Mackay is now in his 57th year as an occasional/sometimes regular contributor to the UK's exceedingly diverse media market