Paid for Weekly/Sunday Newspaper Above 50,000 Monthly Reach

Scroll down to see the nominees for the Regional Press Awards Paid for Weekly/ Sunday Newspaper of the Year (above 50,000 monthly reach), sponsored by Camelot.

Camelot is proud to support the Society of Editors’ Regional Press Awards.

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The Shortlist

The select panel of experienced senior journalists or former journalists from all parts of the media considered the achievements of each of the entries across all platforms set out in submissions by editors. The judges were looking for service to the local community, great exclusives and successful campaigns, editorial achievements and other outstanding journalism.

Basingstoke Gazette

The Basingstoke Gazette has undergone a transformation in the past twelve months, with a new editorial team who have reignited its traditional values of community journalism, as heralded by the paper’s founding father Sir John Bird in 1878.

It deserves the title of ‘Weekly Paper of the Year’ for its commitment to local journalism and fighting on behalf of its residents and readers.

The newspaper has seen success with its ‘Two Stadiums, Not One’ campaign, lobbying against proposals to turn a football club into a housing estate.

The paper made the plight of Basingstoke Town Football Club national sporting news after the editor’s Twitter thread went viral, getting support from Gary Lineker and The Time’s Henry Winter.

The paper uncovered public documents that revealed a covenant was in place to protect the football ground being built on. This has sparked Basingstoke Town Football Club seeing legal advice and thrown uncertainty into whether planning permission can be granted.
The public’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with readers saying they were grateful to the Gazette for taking a stand.

At a time of nationwide decline, the Gazette is bucking the trend seeing its circulation improve from -11pc year-on-year in August 2019 when the new editor took over to -5pc year-on-year in February.

It is one of the top performing titles in its newspaper group Newquest and has seen huge year-on-year digital growth, up 118 per cent in February 2020 from the previous year with 300,000 readers and 1.2million page views.

But it is not a numbers game at the Gazette. Forget digital-first, the theory is journalism-first. While the editorial team is lean with five members of full-time staff, reporters are encouraged to spend time following their instincts and pursuing off-diary stories.

There is no ‘click bait’ and the editorial team takes the unorthodox approach of defending its journalism and content against social media trolls on Facebook. The team believes this it is a key social media strategy to offer a counter-narrative to misinformation spread by uninformed readers. And it makes for lively engagement on social media accounts.

The paper has at its core a desire to serve its local community and stick up for the residents of Basingstoke. It has delved deep into the scourge of county lines following the murder of 19-year-old Taylor Williams, speaking to a former drug user for one feature and convincing the devastated step-parent of children allowed to live in a flat being used as a drugs den for another exclusive.

The Gazette has been making ripples beyond Basingstoke by shaping a national debate around trusted journalism and leading as a good example. During the general election, the paper became a key talking point after the Liberal Democrats published and distributed a title named the Mid Hampshire Gazette.

This was an insult to local journalists nationwide and the editor’s comments put the subject briefly at the top of the election agenda, with the editor speaking on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Berkshire. The comments prompted statements from the News Media Association and the Society of Editors.

The tiny team of five had worked around the clock on an eight-page election supplement full of analysis and interviews.

The paper also arranged its first hustings in the last 30 years. This was about the editor’s vision to build a community around the paper and become more than a news brand but a place for trusted news and information.It was a sell-out and was also streamed live on Facebook to ensure readers at home could get involved.

Judges’ comments

A new editor, a new team and a positive approach shows for this truly local paper. Its campaign to save the town’s football club stadium went viral with big name support – but more importantly, in the community as well. Strong all round.

Bucks Free Press

Supporting statement

  • Award-winning Bucks Free Press has thrived in 2019 as one of industry’s top performers
  • Previously crowned Regional Press Awards Weekly Newspaper of the Year 2017 and highly commended in 2018. Also highly commended in 2018 Newsquest News Brand award
  • A series of campaigns and investigations has seen the title gain plaudits within the community and at national level, while continuing as an industry leader with high levels of editorial content
  • Launch of new edition has seen the brand expand across the county
  • One of the UK’s best sales performances – growing almost 8% year-on-year

Historic regional newspaper Bucks Free Press celebrated a defining year with a new launch – expanding the critically-acclaimed portfolio and becoming one of few weekly titles to increase its yearly circulation.

The award-winning title – which claimed Regional Press Awards weekly newspaper of the year for 2017 and highly commended in the same category for 2018 – grew sales by more than 7.7%.

It continued its rise within the industry also with a series of strong campaigns, long-running investigations and special reports focusing on major community issues.

The standard of the title remains of the highest quality and many of its biggest stories in 2019 have helped shape national coverage – including the tragic search for missing Libby Squire and various exclusive reports on Brexit.

Despite having a small editorial team, the Free Press once again excelled – leading the way for sales performance and online growth, while staying true to the editor’s ambition of being the community’s biggest cheerleader and, in times of need, a shoulder to cry on.

At times being ruthless in holding authorities to account and dedicated to getting to the heart of a story, investigations have led the agenda on a weekly basis.

Important and high-profile investigations included exposing a deadly asbestos fear at our biggest hospital and the true cost of plans to abolish local councils in favour of a one-tier unitary.

We’ve also seen special reports on Brexit, HS2, grammar schools, A&E waiting times, council expenses and the changing face of our patch amid plans for more homes and road overhauls.

The editorial team’s high standards have seen coverage make headlines across the UK with reports on high-profile politicians leading to changes in policy and even a sacking.

Our work on Brexit and work on Dominic Grieve and Steve Baker has been publicly praised with Grieve using our pages to slam his own party, a move which would eventually see him forced out by Boris Johnson.

Our stories on terror suspects and the tragic case of dead student Libby Squire has also been praised locally and nationally.

As well as these national-led stories, we’ve stuck to our roots producing in-depth reports and investigations on a weekly basis on the topics which mean the most to our residents.

To be the best in the community is always our aim, with our quality content second-to-none in the marketplace.

From a wide variety of news and features to insightful investigations, we offer a huge range for readers.

However, instilling a campaigning nature in print is what’s helped us stand out.

One of our biggest campaigns in 2019 saw calls for the town of High Wycombe to get its voice back. This was based on calls from the title for a town council to be formed following the move for the county to have a single unitary authority.

This followed our 10-year+ campaign to remove six-figure salary chief execs and overhaul services – something which eventually saw success but left fears the south of the county would be neglected.

Joining forces with prominent politicians and local figures, we’ve been calling for a move to a town council set-up to oversee and scrutinise the main authority.

Other campaigns of note include calling for major road repairs amid a pothole crisis, ‘love your community’ – aimed at our new title’s previously under-served territory – and we’ve worked closely to promote local causes like foodbanks and homeless shelters.

The launch of our new Bucks Free Press ‘Amersham, Chesham and Little Chalfont edition’ was the most innovative move for the title.

The launch of the new BFP edition in February not only helped to serve an area left behind by the closure of a series of Reach-owned titles but grew sales to give BFP one of the best records in Newsquest.

In terms of the quality of the title, we’ve looked to increase pagination with more dedicated entertainment and nostalgia content for readers.

Among some of our biggest aims in 2019 was to introduce collaboration with our commercial team to boost revenues through a series of initiatives and in-print supplements like Graduation, Little Stars and education-themed pull-outs.

To support the Bucks Free Press entry, we have submitted three newspapers which highlight some of our best work:

-March 8, ‘Major town overhaul’: This edition shows off some of the Bucks Free Press’ best assets. It marked an important step in our long-running town council campaign and included a special double-page report on huge plans for change across the area. The edition features a pancake picture special and update on our long-running coverage of plans to axe Buckinghamshire children’s centres. It was a strong edition with good mix of crime, politics, health, community, entertainment and sport.

-March 29, ‘Libby’s gone forever’: This poignant front page and three-page feature led to huge appreciation within the community. Following a lengthy search, the heart-breaking news that Libby Squire’s body had been discovered sent shockwaves through our community. Instead of concentrating on the brutal details of her death, and subsequent police investigation we dedicated the front to the emotional words of her mother. This newspaper also displays some of our best agenda-setting work on Brexit.

-October 18, ‘Mum should still be here’: This strong submission is of good quality throughout. As well as strong exclusives (including interviews with Boris Johnson), we had hard-hitting crime, picture specials, community special reports and political scandals. We also produced our monthly 8-page business supplement and an education special.

Judges’ comments

A tremendous year for the Bucks Free Press, proving it is an essential part of the region it covers. The editors says the paper’s aim is to be the community’s biggest cheerleader and the evidence is there to support the boast. 

Kent Messenger


Supporting statement

Having featured on the Regional Press Awards’ shortlist for the past six years, it’s about time we wore out some shoe leather on the walk up to the winners’ podium!

But this is not a pity plea – we certainly put in enough legwork to warrant the honour.

This year alone has seen no fewer than 10 campaigns launched, ranging from the right to know to rail service retention; safeguarding play areas to securing funds for housing ex-service personnel.

And that’s on top of the 12 special projects launched to support schools, tackle illiteracy, improve road safety, encourage diversity, celebrate young achievers and acknowledge success in business and commerce.

Our small team of just four reporters and two news editors demonstrate a huge amount of pride and passion in their work, serving the community with four editions of the Kent Messenger and an online presence that is dominating the clicks.

Since the role of production passed onto the newsroom, individual involvement in the paper literally runs from dummy to deadline. Long gone are the days when a bust headline, irritating widow or reams of over-matter are considered a sub’s problem. Contrary to legitimate concerns, such detailed level of engagement has, I believe, led to fewer errors and complaints and more determination to present articles in the best way possible.

Who could resist writing their own headline for exclusives such as:

Mum tormented by the sound of her own heart

Britain’s oldest cleaner carries on after fracturing hip

School caretaker turns wrestler

Doormats banned outside flats

Peanut prank prompts pupils’ polygraphs

Marvel bans Spider-Man headstone for four-year-old

Hypodermic needles hidden in supermarket goods

Family bring dad’s ashes to murder trial

Office conversions rise to sky-scraping proportions

Teenager leaps to her death 15 years after surviving a seven-storey fall in her suicidal mother’s arms

Rotting apples spark major incident response as fruit packing staff collapse from fumes

Such is the reputation of our coverage, the nationals will often come knocking – for our staff as well as our stories.

This year has seen six reporters lured away by the likes of DMGT, Sky and BBC.

But not before we’ve had the chance to really make a difference to many lives, from the smallest plea to more complex campaigns, this year we have set a record for the number of appeals launched.

Here are just a few highlights:

Not2Much2Ask. A bid to raise a £2million contribution towards a Centenary Village for ex-service personnel. The appeal garnered support from across the country and The Kent Messenger was first in line for HM The Queen’s visit to endorse the development. In fact, a live blog saw one of the title’s peak audience rates with more than 35,000 visitors in just a few hours. A commemorative wrap-around print edition was also completed within an hour of the royal visit to ensure it hit the newsstands and secured an 8% week-on-week sales lift. Even the headline ‘Purple Reign’ was later pinched by the Daily Mail!

Presented our own Vision for Maidstone on learning of the local authority’s intention to review the town centre as part of its regeneration plans. Our serialised articles and blueprint for the borough created much conversation among the community – as was evidenced by our postbags and inbox – and we were invited to sit down with town planners to discuss the ideas. Hopefully it will help shape the future of the County Town of Kent.

Exposed secret plans to concrete over playgrounds, parks and open spaces as part of our campaign for transparency. Hush-hush arrangements were being drafted for pockets of development which the local authority refused to disclose any details whatsoever.

We also uncovered covert plans for a 5,000-home garden estate – though the council refused to reveal the location earmarked. However, such was the level of our research that when presented with the evidence, it left the authority little option but to confirm the information and even staged a public meeting to outline its intentions. I have no doubt this would not have happened had it not been for the KM’s continued scrutiny and exposés.

Get Maidstone Moving has been an ongoing initiative intended to apply pressure to the county council’s highways department as the town frequently faces gridlock. We have engaged experts, produced reports on the detrimental health effects, calculated the cost to commerce and gained support from MPs to force the issue onto the authority’s agenda. We learned last month that it has finally agreed to a public consultation. Again, it’s unlikely this would have happened without such unrelenting pressure.

Clean Up Kent was instigated by the Kent Messenger team and carried across the county in print, radio, online and TV. The Garden of England was becoming an eyesore, so again we sought to get something done. We identified grot spots, called upon the community and councils to act and set about a series of clean up operations to improve each area.

Think Differently is a recently-launched campaign to get drug awareness assemblies in every one of Kent’s 203 secondary schools. We’re helping specialist charity Kenward Trust raise £50,000 to set this up alongside a peer mentoring scheme for those in Years 7 & 8. It follows the preventable deaths last year of three teenagers and in light of the growing menace of county lines drug dealers targeting vulnerable youngsters. We have secured the support of each family who lost their son and their harrowing accounts have made distressing but necessary reading.

The Kent Messenger, or KM as it’s affectionately known locally, has maintained a strong identity, personality and uncompromising approach for the past 161 years and shows no sign of relinquishing its reputation as a reliable, respected and trustworthy brand.

Judges’ comments

Exclusive after exclusive is the mark of a newspaper that is certainly not resting on its substantial laurels. Keen journalism lies at the heart of this paper’s success – that and knowing its readership inside out. 

Maidenhead Advertiser

Supporting statement:

The Maidenhead Advertiser has just completed a historic year, celebrating its 150th birthday in July. Week in, week out, we have continued to show our value to the community by engaging readers with our coverage of local democracy, major events and community issues.

We are owned by a charitable trust, donating at least 80 per cent of our profits to local charities and causes, and our committed journalism helps us enjoy a great deal of respect and goodwill from our readers.

The Advertiser remains committed to sustainable, quality journalism and put a huge amount of emphasis on keeping our print editions packed with news, exclusives and outstanding sport coverage.

We are one of the few truly independent local newspapers still operating and, despite more limited resources than some of the bigger groups, we continue to show what our dedicated team of reporters, photographers and editors can do.

The three editions we have selected reflect our breadth of coverage, and some of the biggest stories we have covered throughout the year.

The first edition (March 14) focuses on one of the biggest major event stories we encountered in 2019. The fire at the Roma nightclub was covered extensively by our team of reporters online and was rounded up into a clear and coherent piece for print. The coverage features dramatic imagery, taken by our staff photographer and shared by the fire service.

The edition is also packed with community news and strong stories, including a report from the High Court covering legal action over Heathrow’s third runway and a look at the start of a major development project in the town centre.

It also features community issues, including a young family given sleepless nights by a factory generator, news of a charity tournament organised to mark our 150th, photo spreads from several events in the town and four pages of letters from our engaged readers.

The next edition (May 9) features extensive coverage of the local elections.

Holding local government to account has always been one of the strengths of the Advertiser, and the local elections were always going to be a major event that we put significant resources in to. For Maidenhead, we sent a team of five reporters and one photographer to cover the count throughout the night, providing live updates online until the early hours of the morning.

For print, we dedicated six pages (plus a front page) to our coverage, reflecting the significance of a major change in the political landscape for the town. It features full results, reaction and opinion, showing the amount of work the team put in to producing the edition.

We also featured excellent coverage of a controversial talk given by the council leader ahead of the election, an injured cyclist’s call to repair potholes, and our usual mix of community news from across our patches, photo spreads, nostalgia and letters.

Having something for everyone is at the forefront of what we do, and we always ensure we include community news and events amid major news stories.

Our final submission (August 22) tells a tragic story on its front page, told and covered with sensitivity by our reporter, George Roberts. A mourning brother had an important message he wanted to get out, and the story is another example of the trust people put in local news.

Page three features a lovely human interest story about two nonagenarians retiring from playing short tennis, while we also give an update on a controversial school development plan.

As a summer edition, it is packed with coverage of community events. We try to make our photographers available for as many of these events as possible, understanding the thrill we still give readers from seeing their friends and family in print.

As has become tradition, the edition also features four page of photos, reaction and pass rates for A-level results from school’s in our area. This is a significant time for many young people and parents so we always dedicate as many resources as we can to our coverage, sending a team of reporters and photographers to schools across the patch to speak to students and headteachers.

We hope these editions demonstrate the care and dedication that goes into every edition we produce. Our staff members are incredibly proud of the papers we produce, and hope they reflect the unique position we have in the community. In our 150th year, we have continued to show the power of local news and intend to keep at it for a long time to come.

Judges’ comments

This title sits right at the heart of its community, as a newspaper but also a charitable trust that donates 80% of its profits to local good causes. From coverage of a devastating local fire to superlative accounts of the local election – truly what a local newspaper is there for.

MEN on Sunday

Supporting statement

It’s taken over 150 years for the Manchester Evening News to launch a Sunday title – but it’s certainly been worth the wait!

The historic first edition of the new MEN on Sunday was launched on February 10, 2019. The reasoning was simple: we already produce compelling content seven days a week for our online readers, so why not present the very best of everything in one package for our loyal print readers?

With a bright, modern masthead and a tweak in layout and typography, it remains very much part of the Manchester Evening News family, with the same outstanding pedigree for intelligent journalism.

Indeed, it’s become home to some brilliant long-form writing, now regularly setting the regional political agenda and often muscling into national newspaper reviews on Sunday TV politics shows.

Labour deputy leader John McDonnell even chose the MEN on Sunday to break a huge exclusive ahead of the 2019 General Election – pledging to bring half the treasury department to the North should they win. This was part of the title’s leading contribution to Northern media’s Power up the North campaign.

Readers have more time on a Sunday to explore subjects beyond the news headlines and award-winning journalists like Jen Williams know they now have a powerful print platform to do justice to their social journalism, political insights and investigations.

Our ‘Lost Boys’ investigation by Steve Robson followed a gang of teenagers through protected court proceedings and went on to reveal significant issues with pupil referral units. Boys excluded from school were left without any kind of reasonable supervision and were able to go on a terrifying crime spree in the city centre. Our intelligent treatment of the story exposed a systemic failure that had effectively allowed these boys to become lost to society. It was truly agenda-setting journalism and led to an official review of pupil referral units in Manchester.

‘Gunbusters’ by chief reporter Neal Keeling told the inside story of the detectives who are waging the battle against armed gangs. Great storytelling, brilliantly presented. A Sunday at its best.

And `Plight of our Homeless Families’ by Jen Williams exposed the true awful reality of broken homes and a broken system.

Sport is a big sales driver and our unrivalled coverage of City and United sees our top writers cut loose with incisive analysis and opinions on their own dedicated pages.

Our 24-page 7-Days lifestyle supplement extends our CityLife brand from the regular Friday pull-out with pages of what’s happening in a very happening region. Plus there’s lots of bespoke travel which has brought in a great partnership with Manchester Airport to help make the MEN on Sunday a great commercial success.

And, to keep our readers in the armchair a bit longer on a Sunday, the paper also carries an eight-page puzzles pullout. It all adds up to a great package and a very welcome addition to the MEN family.

Judges’ comments

A long time coming, but the new Sunday edition of the Manchester Evening News is not merely an extension of the weekly publication – that much is obvious. A paper and a team that is determined to have its own voice and support the people of the Manchester region.

Newbury Weekly News

Supporting statement

The Newbury Weekly News is an independently-owned newspaper that has served West Berkshire since 1867. It is truly at the heart of its community.

Last year we actually increased local ROP print revenue, kept circulation decline to just 3.8% and attracted a record digital audience.

The NWN was named Weekly Newspaper of the Year (circulation 10,000+) at last year’s Society of Editors Regional Press Awards.

The paper features a comprehensive package of strong news stories, dedicated community pages, a vibrant entertainment section and nine pages of grass roots sport. At least three lively letters pages feature each week, setting the local political agenda.

Despite staff reductions in the editorial team in recent years, we have maintained our commitment to cover court at least two days a week and the vast majority of district and town council meetings. This tests our limited resources but provides a rich source of stories for us.

We started a new Stable Talk feature in May 2019 to increase our coverage of horseracing. With Newbury Racecourse in the heart of our town and many successful trainers in the Lambourn Valley, we wanted to go that one step further to interact more with the big players. We visit horseracing yards across the area and speak to trainers and staff about the day-to-day operations. So far Stable Talk has visited 16 stables, including those of top trainers Nicky Henderson and Andrew Balding, building stronger relationships with the horseracing community than ever before.

The NWN also publishes Out & About, a quality leisure magazine, and respected monthly business publication Newbury Business Today.

The NWN plays a leading role in the business life of West Berkshire.

We were named Business of the Year at the 2019 Newbury Town Council Civic Awards for our work in the community, including supporting an appeal to raise £4.5m for a new cancer centre at West Berkshire Hospital, donating £4,500 to Newbury Soup Kitchen for homeless people and our role on the West Berkshire Suicide Prevention Action Group, West Berkshire Skills Partnership and Newbury Business Improvement District (BID).

We organise an annual black-tie NWN Best in Business Awards, a 330-ticket sellout success again in 2019 and £4,810 was raised from the event for the local charity Eight Bells for Mental Health.

We were one of three stakeholders that set up a non-political not-for-profit economic development company for West Berkshire in 2019 that now has more than 50 companies signed up, including Vodafone and Newbury Racecourse.

The paper is highly-committed to supporting the community and each Christmas runs its NWN Over 80s Parcel Fund – now amazingly in its 122nd year. We give 2,000 elderly people a Christmas hamper in a real community effort, with schools, Scouts and businesses all getting involved. We have to raise £25,000 each year to pay for this through donations and fundraising events.

We supply all the stories for a talking newspaper for the blind, which uses our premises free of charge.

In the second six months of 2019 the NWN enjoyed a solid circulation of 10,091 (awaiting verification from BPA) – a decline of just 3.8%.

Newburytoday is the strongest weekly newspaper digital brand in Berkshire. attracted a record one million unique users in 2019 (84,000 per month, up 16.6%) and we have more than 17,800 likes on Facebook and 5,700 followers on Instagram – all the highest for any weekly newspaper in Berkshire.

We adopted a daily news update via Whatsapp and Apple News – we believe the first weekly newspaper to do so.

We have also taken an innovative approach to digital storytelling, using Adobe software to add greater depth to our editorial and commercial content.

Here is a commercial package we produced.

The newspaper has a very strong commercial base, supported by editorial supplements including the Royal County of Berkshire Show Guide, Dear Santa, My Mum and First Class. ROP revenue in the NWN actually increased by one per cent in 2019.

Editor Andy Murrill spoke about the ongoing success of the NWN at the 2019 International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors conference in Atlanta, US.

Judges’ comments

Another sensational year for the Newbury Weekly News, once again showing it lives at the heart of the community it serves. The title of Business of the Year for the town is an accolade few papers can have achieved and shows the support the NWN shows to all sectors of its community.

Truly a strong paper.

The Reading Chronicle

Supporting statement

  • 2019 a hugely successful year for The Reading Chronicle with variety of hard-hitting exclusives and in-depth investigations
  • Return to campaigning and fighting for our residents as the only print newspaper in Reading
  • Local and national plaudits for our six-month ‘Save Reading Gaol’ campaign, culminating in a front page plea to Boris Johnson

2019 saw the historic news brand of The Reading Chronicle thrive with an emphasis on delivering hard-hitting exclusives, in-depth investigations and a return to campaigning and fighting for our residents.

Amid a major overhaul of the editorial team, it was decided a concentration was important to rebuild the disconnect between the printed title and community whilst also maintaining solid sales figures and excellent online growth.

A renewed focus on campaigning has been instilled with huge success, resulting in higher audience engagement and seeing the team succeed as a trusted news brand.

Campaigns in 2019 included bids to raise awareness and support for a seriously ill child hoping for funding to fight his aggressive cancer with US treatment and backing by The Chronicle for a Christmas toy appeal.

The Chronicle also got behind calls for more defibrillators in the town and sponsored one in a large town centre shopping centre.

However, by far the most successful was the bid to Save Reading Gaol (a historic town prison).

To strengthen the brand of The Chronicle – the only printed newspaper in Reading – we decided to get behind people and what they believe in. We spent time listening and understanding their causes and putting our weight behind it, rather than just reporting on what others are up to.

This worked perfectly with the Gaol. A site with huge significance in the arts world as well as being described at the ‘Mecca for the LGBT+ community’ because of Oscar Wilde’s infamous incarceration.

Every week for six months, we featured a page editorial examining the causes, interviewing those involved and seeking answers. Alongside this we would publish a cut-out signature petition form which has been signed by almost 10,000 people.

This campaign concluded in our Christmas edition where a front page plea stated ‘All I want for Christmas is to Save Reading Gaol’. The publicity stunt saw an open letter sent to Boris Johnson and his new government to plead for success.

The campaign, which supporters are increasingly confident of seeing success, has gained many plaudits from the community and has fixed a bond between the brand and community.

On top of this, we have aimed to gain supporters and attention through in-depth reports of major events, exemplary sports content and investigations.

Top news stories include an investigation into farcical council budget monitoring and special reports on the tragic death of PC Andrew Harper.

Coverage on PC Harper’s death received acknowledgement from residents for the sensitive way a national story on patch was handled by our team.

Alongside this work, we boosted pagination and content with a series of special features in 2019. For many of these we supported town events as media partners (again growing our brand), with build-up coverage and post-event supplements: Reading Half Marathon, Reading Retail Awards, Reading Pride, Reading Race for Life and Reading Festival – to name just a few.

In terms of the quality of the title, we’ve looked to increase pagination with more dedicated entertainment and nostalgia content for readers. We’ve also focused on community news and opinion as a way of strengthening engagement.

Among some of our biggest aims in 2019 was to introduce collaboration with our commercial team to boost revenues through a series of initiatives and in-print supplements.

This has led to great success, with more than 20 supplements being produced, helping to boost revenues year-on-year.

All our newspapers have a good balance in terms of news, features and sports, while all three of our submissions showcase some of our biggest and best editions of the year.

To support The Reading Chronicle’s entry, we have submitted three newspapers which highlight some of our best work:
-June 13, ‘Save town landmark’: One of the most significant editions of the year for the Chronicle, marking the start of what would turn out to be a six-month campaign. Our five pages of coverage set out the framework for an important piece of community journalism. This edition also saw one of the many special supplements we produced in 2019 – 8 pages on a local sports award, sponsored by The Chronicle. On top of this, it showcases strong sport, features and nostalgia sections. There’s also an investigation into council transparency, a royal honours special and weekly feature on another important community event, the Reading Retail Awards.

-June 27, ‘Smirking monster’: This edition summarises a typical, quality newspaper produced in 2019. It includes strong campaign coverage, a special report on key local issues, My Last Day school picture supplement and two news picture specials. On top of this, we featured a story on one of the long-running investigations of 2019, concentrating on the bid to ensure there’s better swimming provisions in the town.

-August 22, ‘To everyone you are a hero’: One of our most important and poignant front pages. This was a hard week for our team, the community and wider public. The story of PC Andrew Harper’s death dominated the news agenda across the UK, but whilst most depicted the scene of the accident with, at times, graphic and upsetting images, or concentrated on the wider police investigation we decided to play it as a straight tribute. The black front page with black and white image stood out – brightened only by a thin blue line. This was a big week for the newspaper with several ‘splash’ options. We settled with a four-page special on Andrew Harper, four-page special on our guide to Reading Festival, four pages on A-Levels results and two pages on our ground-breaking Save Reading Gaol campaign. On top of this, there was an excellent variety of news copy, making it a well-rounded edition.

Judges’ comments

Returning to its roots as a campaigning, strong local news paper, its obvious why the Chronicle earns its place in the shortlist. The campaign to save famous Reading Gaol is striking and shows how a good local paper can achieve high results.

Warrington Guardian

Supporting statement:

THE Warrington Guardian is one of Newsquest’s most successful award-winning weekly titles and continued to show strong audience growth throughout 2019.

We know what makes our readers tick and we make sure their voices are heard. So much show that in March we were named the fastest growing local newsroom in the UK for social media engagement and the top Newsquest weekly for unique users (600k) and page views (4m a month – up more than 30 per cent year on year).

Our small weekly reporting team are always ready to step up when a big story breaks. Not simply covering the news but exploring behind the scenes to ensure all angles are covered, whatever time of day or night.
We highlight the bad but we fiercely celebrate the good.

And as such, despite strong competition from regional daily neighbours, we stand out in front as the leading voice in our community and the publication Warrington residents turn to first.

Over the past 12 months we have brought exclusive stories to life, investigated issues affecting our readers and challenged decision makers when required. And we have continued to receive praise for doing so.

In a town with a high crime rate we reached our biggest audiences to date through in-depth live coverage of the biggest trials. In 2019 they included daily reports and explainer articles from the murder trial of David Pomphret who bludgeoned his wife to death, to coverage of an infamous drugs gang sentencing, with the final day’s report receiving more than 100,000 page views which kept our readers gripped for the longest engagement time we’ve ever recorded on Chartbeat.

We also reported live from the scene of the one of the biggest news stories of the year after a Warrington couple were arrested following the discovery of 39 bodies in a lorry, generating more than 85,000 views in less than 12 hours.

We made it our mission to inform readers about the biggest issues affecting them, going behind the scenes and introducing in-depth features and reaction to planning decisions and government spending, while introducing Q&As with those in charge.

We are a campaigning newspaper, and in 2019 we joined forces with Cheshire Police to launch a road campaign after three fatal crashes in four months. We also launched our first anti-litter campaign, featuring weekly coverage and appeals culminating in a Warrington Guardian Big Clean Up day which generated an unprecedented response and hundreds of readers took part in litter picks.

And after supporting a campaign to raise money for the treatment of a mum-of-two with cervical cancer, we appealed for Warrington women to get a smear test. Our #SmearforSmear video went viral after being watched more than 40,000 times.

We have also made a concerted effort to promote more positive community and business news, including supporting the high street by launching our first Warrington Guardian Customer Services Awards, receiving more than 500 nominations in our first category alone.

Through our #WonderfulWarrington Facebook group and weekly round up in paper we have proven to be a force for good and a ‘troll-free environment’. We launched a number of initiatives throughout 2019 including Thank You Thursday which encouraged readers to publicly thank those who had made a difference.

We worked with our commercial colleagues to help monetise our content while boosting sales. For example our 24-page Born in 2019 supplement featured a record 400 newborn baby pictures and resulted in a 20% uplift on the previous week’s sale – up 12 per cent on budget year on year.

But first and foremost, Warrington is a rugby town. And the biggest story of the year as far as our readers were concerned was Warrington Wolves’ incredible win in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley.

Our 20-page cup final preview supplement generated £4,000 in additional revenue, with similar commercial success for our winners’ souvenir supplement.
Our unrivalled coverage throughout the cup weekend online, including a rallying call to get behind the team, resulted in record numbers attending Wolves’ victorious homecoming parade on August bank holiday weekend. And it provided a much-needed boost for the town away from the ongoing Brexit debate.

We were there all the way, from the lead up to the big day to the pre-game walkabout, the only print media allowed inside the dressing room at Wembley and the only team allowed on the open top bus with the players and their prized winners’ trophy during the parade. A record 2.4m page viewers were secured in one week.

And with more than 30 pages of coverage completed in less than two days – combined with numerous online articles, blogs and videos, and a special wraparound cover – we produced a winners’ souvenir edition for fans to savour. Working closely with our commercial colleagues sales for that edition were up more than 11% against a tight budget.

Meanwhile our coverage of the General Election in Warrington was also unmissable. In the build up to election day we organised and ran hustings events for both Warrington seats and published video interviews with every candidate. And on the night itself the whole team played their part in reporting the events that unfolded, ensuring we had one of the top five most read live blogs across Newsquest, along with the best performing social media posts.

We are a small team but we work tirelessly to ensure we remain the number one publication and news provider in Warrington.

Judges’ comments

This may be a small team and one that competes against bigger, daily rivals, but that doesn’t stop the Guardian from punching way above its weight. A news team with a keen sense of what their community needs and how to deliver it. Strong throughout.