Front Page of the Year – Daily Paper

Scroll down to meet the nominees for Regional Press Awards Front Page of the Year – Daily Paper. This award is sponsored by HoldTheFrontPage.

Judges looked for the outstanding and most memorable front page published in a daily regional or local newspaper during the year.

The Shortlist

Child of the ceasefires…. killed by a dissident bullet, Belfast Telegraph

Supporting statement:

Front Page of the Year – Saturday, April 20, 2019

Lyra McKee always wanted to report the news, break the news, reflect on the news; she never wanted to be the news.

Tragically a single bullet wound to her head, fired by a republican dissident shortly after 11pm on April 18, 2019, in Londonderry, made the 29-year-old journalist’s name famous around the world within hours.

For my newsroom at the Belfast Telegraph, the murder of Lyra McKee was both a global story — but also a very intimate story.

Some of us, including myself, knew Lyra well. She was a friend. Sadly, as veterans of the Troubles and the ensuing sporadic terrorist violence in Northern Ireland, we are also no stranger to the vagaries of happenstance, chance, fate and evil intent that bring another coffin into the front room of a small house. Mixed with the bewildering disbelief that accompanies a phone call delivering terrible news in the early hours of the morning is the numbing reality that it is true — because you know by now that these things do happen. And sometimes to people you know.

For Lyra’s generation, though, it was meant to be so different. She was born in 1990, four years before the paramiltary ceasefires and eight years before the Good Friday Agreement. In one piece of writing, she had memorably dubbed herself and her peers the “Ceasefire Babies”. But she also added the haunting caveat: “We were the Good Friday Agreement generation, destined to never witness the horrors of war but to reap the spoils of peace. The spoils just never seemed to reach us.”

If the spoils didn’t, the war did.

Of course when Lyra penned those words she was writing about the epidemic of suicides that continues to stalk Northern Ireland, and she could never have imagined how darkly prophetic they would prove; that a few years later she would actually witness the horror of a lingering, grubby sectarian war being waged by another generation. And that it would be the last thing she would see.

On our front page the day after Lyra’s murder, we wanted to reflect that bitterly cruel irony. Below her name and dates, our headline ‘Child of the ceasefires… killed by a dissident bullet’, juxtaposed beside a photograph of a smiling, open-faced young woman, was a stark summing up of what was lost — a young life, yes, but also, profoundly, a sense of hope. In the “new Northern Ireland”, how could there be a death like Lyra’s? That failure was a stain on the peace process, and it was essential that the Belfast Telegraph made a statement about that.

Along the bottom of the page, we used a simple box-out treatment to showcase the depth of our coverage, including personal tributes, eyewitness reportage and analysis.

It was a challenging day. Journalists feel shock. They grieve too. But they also have to keep covering the story online, to put out a newspaper. We did this one for Lyra.

Judges’ Comments:  

A poignant tribute but also a headline that sums up the feelings of a generation in Ireland visited by dissident violence thought long past. Journalists worked through their private grief to produce this paper marking both an individual tragedy and a hugely significant story.

A tragic story illustrated in a straightforward, dispassionate manner – and therefore working very well.

Crisis, Evening Telegraph

Supporting statement:

Nowhere is the narcotics crisis more acutely felt than in Dundee, which carries the entirely unwanted tag of being Europe’s drug deaths capital.

Staff at the Evening Telegraph regularly find themselves reporting on the terrible toll of rampant drugs abuse – and frequently on the apparent lack of action being taken to tackle the issue.

When this harrowing scene was played out in the city centre, the Tele decided enough was enough. As the paper hoped, the front page sparked fierce debate within the city as readers gave their views – first on the decision to publish the image and then – crucially – on what steps should be taken to tackle the scourge of drug addiction.

The editorial staff were well aware the front page in question was both shocking and controversial. They take no pleasure in Dundee’s shocking drug deaths record and the aim in featuring such material was to provoke debate and spark action. It certainly did that.

A drugs commission was established in the city involving various agencies and public authorities, with everything from police crackdowns to safe consumption centres on the agenda. Recommendations are currently being drawn up.

Hiding away the drug crisis will do nothing to help. The Tele knows it is only by confronting such issues head on that we can ever hope to tackle them, however uncomfortable that may be. That remains a crucial, if often uncomfortable, role for a local newspaper.

This front page helped to stimulate discussion about drug deaths – and the pressing need to find a solution.

Judges Comments:  

A front page that both catches the eye and also immediately engages the reader, which is a rare thing. Clever use of words and imagery – shocking though the subject is – convey a sense of a very personal battle for what is a city-wide and nation-wide problem.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and certainly this is the case for the Dundee entry. It is strikingly powerful in its simplicity with just a few, well measured words. It is also memorable and hard-hitting, and without doubt, would have made me stop in the street to look harder and read more about the Crisis situation. 

Don’t be fooled by fake news, Yorkshire Evening Post

Supporting statement:

It was the haunting photograph and topic – the NHS – that defined just how polarised we have become as a society. At the heart of this story was a four-year-old boy who was forced to sleep on the floor at Leeds General Infirmary wrapped in his mother’s coat because of a shortage of beds.

As a respected publisher the Yorkshire Evening Post regularly features stories that represent the best of the NHS. As a responsible publisher it is our duty to make sure the facts we are putting out in the public domain under our masthead have been verified. The hospital statement summed it up – there was no bed, the expectations of the family fell short  and an apology issued.

Yet this title and its team came under attack on social media channels purporting the story to be “fake news”. That is why we as a title had to fight back against the criticism we received with our powerful front page fighting back against the spread of misinformation with the examples of abuse we received. That front page has been shared hundreds of times on social media and highlights the importance of trust and local journalism.

Never has there been a time when journalism, the industry and our journalists have come under such scrutiny.

Our team of reporters verified information at the highest level before it is published – yet anyone can hide behind the guise of a fake profile and tweet out spurious claims without a single check. We will be accountable.

The News Media Association said: “The YEP’s exclusive story about a four-year-old forced to sleep on a hospital floor due to a lack of beds is a perfect example of why trusted local journalism is so important for our society.

“It is appalling that, having published a legitimate story in the public interest, the YEP and their journalists have had to suffer torrents of abuse on social media from trolls who seek to denigrate and debase a highly trusted and respected brand.

“These vicious attacks on journalism undermine our democratic way of life and there is no place for them in our society.”

We take our responsibility so seriously as a local publisher. And that is why we couldn’t sit back and not defend our title and above all our journalism as it was used as a political football in the run up to the election.

Our comment highlights the real fear is now that with all the outcry on social media will this put people off from coming forward in the future to share their experiences?

That will be the real tragedy given that it is stories, such as this, which are integral to shaping the future of the NHS for the benefit of all. And that is why the fight back from local news organisations must be front and centre of our focus as an industry this year – that level of trust is vital for our industry to not only survive but thrive.

Judges’ Comments:  

A highly effective and telling way of following up a brilliant scoop.

An eye catching and justified excursion into self reference after the attacks on the paper’s hospital story.

La Tragedie de Notre Dame, The Scotsman

Supporting statement:

The fire which tore through Notre Dame dominated the national front pages the next day. Ordinarily, The Scotsman may have found itself lost in the mix. Instead, our bold use of a poster front coupled with French headline in solidarity served to ensure we stood out on the newsstands. 

Our front page was featured on the national newspaper reviews as well as on France24. It’s a great example of how a simple but effective idea can promote the work of regional titles onto an international stage.

Judges’ Comments:  

A front page that combined elegance and emotion to make a story that had been playing across all media for many hours feel entirely fresh.

A simple but highly effective front page. Brilliantly executed.

A very simple, striking front page where the image combined with the words in French said it all.

Six Stone – and ruled fit for work, Liverpool Echo

Supporting statement:

The Liverpool ECHO has always prided itself on being at the heart of its community and standing up for the most vulnerable within it.

This was a powerful story which required powerful treatment. We thought long and hard about using the image because it was so shocking and were mindful of Stephen’s dignity.

However, we concluded the best way to tell this exclusive story was to let the image speak for itself.

Stephen’s plight became a national conversation and, in the wake of our treatment of it, he had his benefits restored.

Sadly, Stephen has subsequently died but this page one remains the perfect example of a local newspaper being unafraid to fight for its readers.

Judges’ Comments:  

A powerful and shocking image that shows the Echo is willing to speak truth to power and a headline that neatly sums up the plight faced by Stephen; together they demand the reader turn the page for the full story.

It’s ugly, it’s shocking. It’s impossible not to read the story. This makes a point very strongly.

They tried to make the world a better place, Cambridge News

Supporting statement:

When Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones were murdered in the London Bridge terror attack it was vital that Cambridge News reflected the depth of feeling and emotion in Cambridge. 

What you see before you is the 14th and final draft of a front page that went through many iterations as head of print Debby Thompson and editor David Bartlett worked for hours on a Sunday afternoon to get the tone right.

When we were putting this front page together we really had Jack and Saskia’s family and friends in mind. Both Jack and Saskia were dedicated to improving lives for other people and we felt that this was the image that they would want presented to the world.

Cambridge is a small, tight-knit city where community connections run deep.  As the local paper we are keenly aware of our responsibility and duty to be true to those values, and believe our front page demonstrates this.

We also felt that moving the masthead to the bottom of the page, with the pictures of flowers at the scene of the attack as the background image, would allow us to better deliver the right tone and amplify their message of positivity in the face of evil.

Cambridge News editor-in-chief David Bartlett wrote on Twitter as the front page went to press: “Jack Merritt grew up just a couple of miles from our office. Saskia Jones made our city her home for a number of years.

“I hope our @Cambslive front page tomorrow reflects Jack and Saskia’s lives as their friends and families knew them.”

We believe this front page is memorable and shows the power of the regional press at its best – channelling the emotions of its readers and communities, particularly in a harrowing moment when we should be seeking to bring people together and celebrate the things that unite us rather than those that divide us.

Judges’ Comments:  

A moving and effective way to capture the grief of a city after a shocking event.

The most difficult task for a regional paper is to pick up a national story that has been running all weekend, but I think the Cambridge News with their front page on the Monday reflected the sadness of the city, the accomplishments of the two young people and above all with a level of dignity that was absolutely fitting for the moment. It is a genuine tribute to the two students who lost their lives in a horrific attack and has a freshness to it as well, created by the contrast of the single bouquet of flowers against the stark black masthead. A courageous thing to do – to move the masthead.