Columnist of the Year – Daily Papers

Scroll down to meet the nominees for this category

Entrants should have a regular by-lined column or blog. The winner will be a journalist with a special style and the ability to provoke debate that may annoy as much as delight. Click on the articles to read in more detail.

The Shortlist

Allison Morris, The Irish News

In her own words, Allison says she became a journalist to give a voice to the voiceless, to challenge those in power, to face down the paramilitaries and criminals and to create interest and debate in difficult subjects.

Writing a week on from the death of journalist Lyra McKee, Allison’s first entry touches on the wonderful gift of hindsight. She considers the reasons for violence in Londonderry/ Derry and the opportunity to intervene in circumstances to alter them for the future.

In her second column ‘Success of women is still, unfortunately, newsworthy’, Allison reflects on why the election of women to represent Northern Ireland in politics is still noteworthy.

The final piece, sparked by tragic deaths of 39 migrants in an Essex lorry, urges further investigation into the story which places the Irish border at its centre. Allison presents deeply human stories of refugees in her perceptive and empathy-provoking comment. 

Allison’s column is year on year the most read online on, and readers do not shy to interact, to agree, disagree or debate.

The judges said:

A clear-thinking columnist who chooses her subjects well and analyses and explains them calmly and succinctly.

Three very different columns that really get to the heart of the issues they cover. Well written, thoughtful, topical and very moving. Alison writes from the soul.

Carolyn Hitt, The Western Mail

Writing with warmth and wit, Carolyn often uses a personal experience to explore a universal issue and humour to express a serious point. Her columns are often picked up by other media platforms who continue the debate she provokes and she is as likely to be quoted on the floor of the Welsh Government as the local pub.

Her first column explores how Brexit has caused discussions on Welsh independence to move from the fringes into the mainstream. Carolyn’s own take on whether Wales could go it alone prompted a huge reader response and lively social media debate.

The second piece is a poignant and very personal reflection on motherhood which struck an emotional chord with readers, many of whom responded by sharing their own experiences.

And her nostalgic exploration of the importance of getting children to embrace the Great Outdoors demonstrates a light and humorous touch that still succeeds in making an important point.

After 27 years at the Western Mail, Carolyn has thrived on the challenge of finding new topics for comment every single week – and thankfully hasn’t run out of material yet.

The judges said:

Always on the money, weaving personal performance into daily drama.

Consistently readable and relevant, Carolyn is a class act among columnists.

Catriona Stewart, The Herald

Writing three columns a week, Catriona frequently takes a left-field look at the issues of the day to generate fresh ideas. Her particular interests include politics, culture and feminism.

The selection of columns includes one in the voice of Paddington bear as an attempt at a different slant on Glasgow’s Serco evictions, a shameful treatment of asylum seekers in the city and one that caused great distress.

The second entry is a more personal take on the controversial social topic of unisex toilets. Debates around trans rights and women’s rights are difficult to tackle, she says, and journalists do so knowing that outrage is awaiting on social media but this is a conversation that must be had – for all women and non-binary people.

The third column is a scream of fury at Jacob Rees-Mogg, taking an angle on his Grenfell comments that no one else had.

The judges said:

Entertaining and memorable columns that are topical and engaging. This columnist could be transported to any publication, national or regional newspapers or magazines and still hold pride of place. Clever, funny, reflective and very much of the moment.

Helen Mead, Telegraph & Argus

Helen says the enormous privilege of being a columnist is hearing from readers. A columnist with the Telegraph & Argus for almost 27 years, Helen’s brief has always been to make people laugh – which brings its own difficulties when topical events are often anything but amusing.

She aims to seek out snippets which can build into something light-hearted, but also generate interest and a response. And her first column about the problems of feeling young at heart but physically anything but, brought delight from readers online.  

The second entry explores Helen’s interest in the role of influencers. When influencers hit the news for leading people into debt as they strive to copy their lifestyles, Helen turned the tables and imagined herself in that role. She thought she could serve as an online antidote to those who promote designer brands and luxury lifestyles.

Her final column explores how men and women approach a simple domestic task: buying items on a shopping list. Helen’s columns never fail to provoke contrasting and surprising responses.

The judges said:

Written with considerable wit, these columns are uplifting, lively and thought-provoking. Mead makes excellent use of quite limited space to produce a sparkling column.

Ian McConnell, The Herald

Brexit dominated the economic and business landscape during 2019 and Ian devoted many of his weekly columns to this issue aiming, he says, to appeal to both business and general readers with authoritative but also accessible commentary.

Articles have looked at the developing Brexit drama through a Scottish lens, but without losing sight of similarly strong pro-Remain sentiment in some other parts of the UK.

Ian endeavoured, amid the Brexit turmoil, to look at the UK’s actual economic performance, going back to the raw data and survey evidence. Such evidence often told a very different story to that being put forward by politicians. The extent of the political spin made it more important than ever to inform readers of the realities of the unfolding situation. They also provided a platform for lively debate online and forthright comment.  

The judges said:

Hard-hitting and authoritative, McConnell gets to the root of what Brexit really means for Scotland, and pulls no punches with what he believes it means for the future.

Neil Mackay, The Herald/The Herald on Sunday

In an era of Twitter bubbles, Neil says he tries to use his columns not only to inform and entertain but to challenge readers. His columns show that people need to hold their ‘own side’ to account just as much as those who differ with them politically.

Neil’s column on Scottish independence was written with that intention as he asks readers to re-evaluate the independence campaign tactics. Ending his column on a divisive question, Neil urges his readers to consider the pain and hatred brought by a marginal vote such as that of the 51-49 Brexit vote. He adds, ‘I want independence – but I do not want that’.

In the second column, Neil takes on the preconceptions that readers may have about the positions he takes on issues. As a self-confessed liberal writer, Neil dives into the ‘woke’ debate with aplomb to decry members of the ‘woke’ absurdity as impediments to everyone who actually cares about tackling social injustices.

And his column on the monarchy was intended to give readers a little of what they expect – which he says is important too.

The judges said:

Thoughtful, intelligent analysis on topics that deserve scrutiny.