So last week I won 'Columnist of the year' at the Regional Press Awards (RPA). A friend of mine sent his congratulations, and then added 'does this put you into a national final?' My answer was no, because I don't write for a national paper, I write for a local and I am proud of it. Yes, there is pride in regional journalism. The Liverpool Echo earned a standing ovation at the RPA as it was presented with a special chairman’s award by Trevor Hicks, president of the Hillsborough families’ support group. Trevor lost both his daughters in the disaster that killed 96 people 27 years ago. He singled out the paper’s Hillsborough reporter Eleanor Barlow, who attended almost every day of the inquest, for special mention.
Trevor Hicks said "I've seen the very worst of journalism, and I've seen the very best of journalism. This is the very best."
It took 27 years of campaigning by the families of the victims to uncover the truth. After being blamed for killing their own children, lies collaborated by the South Yorkshire police and The Sun newspaper, the truth is out. The Liverpool fans who died were unlawfully killed after a series of failures.
The Echo's editor, Ali Machray added “Eleanor has, quite rightly, received widespread praise for her role in covering the inquests and I again wish to praise her for the enormous skill and professionalism she has shown during the last two years. Most of all she has demonstrated the ability to win trust and respect through honest and accurate reporting. She has done the Echo proud – and she has done the families proud.”
Forget envying girls on Instagram for thier bikini bodies, my girl-crush is Barlow. In the words of former Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks "It casts aside the notion that regional newspapers do not invest in their community." I was honoured to be in the same room as these talented people, let alone be winning an award alongside them.
Amongst other regional winners, The Newcastle Chronicle was awarded the Scoop of the Year for reporter Sophie Doughty’s report into the assault on disabled pensioner Alan Barnes, a “hugely significant” local story which went on to make national headlines. “It was a crime story that generated a huge local response. The award was given as much for the follow-up coverage of the amount of money raised as well as the original story of the attack on Alan,” said the judges. Sophie Doughty is another great girl crush of mine. It was great to see so many female winners in an industry historically dominated by men.
Because these stories, these people matter. There seems to be a 'love to hate' attitude to local press. If my online comments are anything to go by, I won the award thanks to my ability to annoy my audience. (The judges said my writing was 'lovely' anyway, so there).
Rather the suck and slur upon the words of regional papers, we'd do better to get behind them and direct them into the places we as a community want them to go, to show them where to shine their light. Because we are a community afterall, and we should not only unite in tragedy. I believe in the city I live in, and the paper which represents it.
And finally, I had the best afternoon tea ever yesterday. That seems a random direction to go after the above, but bear with. The reason it was so amazing, as well as because of the setting and service, was the pride taken by the owners.
They source all the meat and fish for their sandwiches locally, even going to see it get smoked. They make all their cakes in house and serve them with a flourish, and beautiful vintage spoons. It was the most delicious finger food I've ever eaten, and I know a lot about cake, the food that can be love. Started by a mother and her son, 'Cake's the Difference' is the highest rated eatery in Brighton on Trip Advisor, and it's no wonder why.
So many cafes sell stale cake covered in cling-film at 'fresh out the oven' prices, rock hard scones, third-day jacket potatoes. Mediocre lunch has become the norm. How nice to go somewhere that wants more than just a customer's money, how delicious to be served so much food you have to bring some home with you in a smart white box, to scoff in the bath so your chidren don't ask for any. (Don't pretend you have not secretly eaten food you do not want to share with your precious offspring).
There was talk of the owners looking for bigger premises for her business. I think the now disused old 'Terraces' restaurant would be the perfect spot, and the perfect chance for the city to campaign together, for cake.