The ‘Derry Journal’ has been crowned Weekly Newspaper of the Year at this year’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) awards.
Journalists, editors and programme makers from across the print, broadcast and online media in Northern Ireland came together at Belfast’s Europa Hotel on Friday night for the annual ceremony hosted by the BBC’s royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell.
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also attended the gala event.
The awards, said CIPR chairman, Ross Williamson, aimed to honour the best that local journalism has to offer.
He added: “The awards represent our collective gratitude on behalf of all readers, viewers and listeners as our world would be less colourful, less informed and a smaller place without our local print, online and broadcast media.”
The ‘Journal’, said the judges, provided “a terrific service” to the local community and “rose to the occasion magnificently” when breaking news stories.
In particular, the judges singled out the ‘Journal’’s coverage of the publication of the Saville Report in June of last year.
The ‘Journal’ brought out a special 64-page edition of the paper the day after the eagerly-awaited report was revealed to the world.
The judges added: “Handling a story of national significance is a hallmark of an excellent local newspaper. The winner’s special edition on the Saville Report provided as comprehensive coverage of Bloody Sunday as anywhere in the UK media and deserves special mention.”
Journal Editor Martin McGinley - who picked up the prize at a gala event at Belfast’s Europa Hotel - said the ‘Journal’ was “very honoured and very pleased” to win the award.
“I put it down to one thing and one thing only: our phenomenal staff,” he said.
“They have put in the effort, put in the time and have succeeded in making the ‘Journal’ the top paper in the North of Ireland.
“And let’s make it clear, the standard of newspaper journalism here is second to none. It’s a great credit to our staff.
“That the ‘Journal’ came out on top, against such intense competition, really was a magnificent achievement. The paper continues to go from strength to strength.
“It’s particularly gratifying that the judges, in particular, highlighted the special edition of the paper we published to coincide with the publication of the Saville Report last year.
“The huge team effort put in on June 15, 2010 when the Journal covered probably the most historic and momentous day in the city’s modern history - when the eyes of the world were on Derry again - was phenomenal.”
Jean Long, Divisional Managing Director, Johnston Press, Ireland, said: “The award is a great tribute to our staff whose expertise, commitment, skill and dedication is second to none.
“This latest award is further evidence that the ‘Journal’ continues to outperform our competitors, both in the local market and among the top daily newspapers in the North West.
“This award would not be possible but for the support we receive from the local community which is greatly appreciated and, to our loyal readers and advertisers, we say a big thank you. We will continue to strive to produce the biggest, brightest and best publications and services in the future.”
Local politicians have also welcomed news of the Journal award.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “I congratulate the management and staff of the Derry Journal on their well deserved achievement as ‘Weekly Newspaper of the Year’ at the Coca-Cola CIPR Media Awards presented at the Europa Hotel Belfast on Friday night.
“This Award is recognition of the professional manner in which all of the staff at the ‘Journal’ approach their responsibility to deliver a fair and impartial service to its readers.
“It was particularly deserving that ‘special mention’ was made of the ‘Journal’s’ excellent special edition covering the publication of the Saville Report into Bloody Sunday. Everyone concerned should be rightfully proud.”
The city’s MP, Mark Durkan, of the SDLP, added: “I am delighted for everyone at the Derry Journal.
“From hard-hitting front-page exclusives to community news and sport, The Derry Journal are to be congratulated for a real team effort and the magnificent standard they are setting.”