The Royal Bank of Scotland Scottish Newspaper of the Year 2002

By The Drum, Administrator

April 16, 2002 | 13 min read

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So, what is a newspaper? According to Chambers English Dictionary, it is 'a paper published periodically for circulating news'.

That's pretty straightforward, but what is news? A slightly trickier question nowadays. Again, to Chambers, which says: 'A report of a recent event, something one had not heard before or matter suitable for newspaper readers.'

Perhaps the question should be, what is news value? To Chambers once again which says: "Something which is of interest to the general public as news."

It was this 'what is news' debate which threatened to engulf this year's Royal Bank of Scotland Newspaper of the Year judging session. The merits of Will Young's elevation to Pop Idol and the crumbling state of Britney Spears' love life were questioned over their newsworthiness in light of more important issues. Fortunately, we were reminded that we were all feasting at Groucho St Judes in Glasgow in order to identify the Scottish newspaper which best conveyed 'the news', whatever that may be, to its own marketplace.

What was decided on that fateful day was then unveiled to an on-looking crowd of more than 200 newspapermen and women at Glasgow's Holiday Inn, all baying to get their hands on the coveted hat stand trophy and win the right to add the monicker of Royal Bank of Scotland Newspaper of the Year to their particular mastheads.

Last year, the best vehicle was judged to be the Sunday Herald, which wore its crown with pride throughout the year and added still more accolades to its still relatively new trophy cabinet.

However, in this year's Royal Bank of Scotland Newspaper of the Year competition, the SMG-published broadsheet has been forced to relinquish its crown, and hat stand, to the Edinburgh Evening News.

The Evening News was roundly praised by the judges, who this year included John Brown of Glasgow City Council, David Appleton of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Endell Laird, former editor of the Daily Record, Colin Imrie of the Scottish Executive, Duncan Tannahill of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Gillian Meighan of the Law Society Scotland and Helen Walker of Weir Group.

Speaking of the Evening News, Glasgow City Council's John Brown said: "The Edinburgh Evening News has a very strong news section and an excellent balance of local, national and international stories. Also, the number of stories it packs into its pages is incredible."

The Royal Bank of Scotland's David Appleton added: "To be honest, I think the broadsheets have slipped in their news coverage, both in the amount of news, their news selection and how they cover the stories. The Evening News caters admirably for its market."

Praise indeed for the newspaper edited by acting editor Ian Stewart and previously edited by John McLellan, who saw the newspaper through its successful redesign to a newspaper which serves the geographical capital of Scotland well and its financial capital admirably.

As in years gone by, three consecutive copies of all Scottish newspapers were despatched to our judging panel and each title was assessed across ten criteria, Design and Layout, News, Features, Sport, Business Coverage, Supplement, Foreign Coverage, Opinion, Arts and Entertainment and Legal Coverage.

Once all the completed judging books were returned, all the judges met over lunch to debate their choices, come up with nominations in each category and name the winner in each category.

Once the category winners had been identified, the judges then debated which title should be the overall winner.

So, shortly after Councillor Charles Gordon, Leader of Glasgow City Council, addressed the crowd of eager editors and reporters on where Glasgow had been and ultimately where he intended to take the city in the future, the games began.

The first category up was Design and Layout. The nominations were the Edinburgh Evening News, the Herald and the Evening Times. After a lengthy debate on the optimum number of words any newspaper column should contain to make it easy for the reader to read, the winner was announced as the Herald.

The judges were particularly impressed with the improvements made in this area since Mark Douglas-Home took over as the paper's editor. The Herald's strict design policy makes for an easy read and its use of pictures was judged to be 'supremely confident'.

David Appleton of the Royal Bank of Scotland said: "The Herald news pages are very strict in layout. The Herald is very classic in its eight-column layout and it sticks to it rigidly.

"Mark Douglas-Home has done a terrific job in improving the Herald's appearance. It is the most improved newspaper from the ones I have seen. The news and the sport are an awful lot faster than they were and the pictures are also very good. They break up the pages and make it an easy read."

The next category, and perhaps one of the most sought after accolades, saw the Edinburgh Evening News, the Evening Times and the Press and Journal fighting it out for the Best News Coverage Award.

After a lengthy chat about what constitutes news in today's media-saturated society, the winner was deemed to be the Edinburgh Evening News.

Speaking of the Evening News' news coverage Brown said: "In an average of 23 news pages you've got 60 news stories. In the broadsheets' average of 13 broadsheet pages you have only got an average of 67.

"I think the Evening News serves its market better than any other newspaper in Scotland."

Next up was Best Sports Coverage, where the nominations were the Daily Record, Sunday Herald and the Herald.

Here the Daily Record dummied its rivals to score a well-deserved victory in this category.

The judges concluded that while the Sunday Mail's sports coverage is good, its sister title, the Daily Record, is way ahead of the pack, particularly the broadsheets, in catering for its readership. While its dedication to covering sports such as cricket and golf was criticised, Endell Laird said: "It's the old thing of selling to your market. If the Record included five pages of rugby when there wasn't an international, people would think they had gone mad."

Features is always a tricky category to judge, particularly for the Scottish editions of UK nationals, as questions always arise as to how much of their features content is produced from Scotland but, nevertheless, the nominations here were the Scottish Daily Mail, the Sunday Herald, the Herald and the Sunday Times Scotland.

Of the winner in this category, the Sunday Herald, John Brown said: "The Sunday Herald tackled some difficult issues in the editions which we saw. But it is difficult to compare the Sunday newspaper features with the daily newspaper features because of the pressures on the daily writers. The Sunday Herald is the best for features but it has a lot more time to get it right over the dailies."

And so to Best Business Coverage, another much sought after accolade as business news and features continue to climb up the agenda in most publications. The nominations were the Herald, Business am, Edinburgh Evening News and the Sunday Herald. But, defending its crown from last year's competition, Business am was still deemed to be the best for business.

Appleton said: "Business am is still doing a very good job, but it is a business-to-business newspaper so it should. I think it has a very important role to play in the Scottish marketplace and hope that it continues to."

"It covers the unlisted companies, the small companies, the growing companies, extremely well. You have to think, if you were a businessman where would you look first? Business am."

From Best Business to Best Supplement. After intense debate over what should constitute a supplement the nominations were finalised in this category as the Sunday Herald Magazine, Scotland on Sunday's Spectrum, the Herald's Saturday magazine and the Daily Record's Saturday magazine.

Speaking of the winner, the Sunday Herald magazine, Colin Imrie of the Scottish Executive said: "The job here is to find a supplement which is doing something different and the Sunday Herald is doing that, particularly with the Jonathan Wilson piece. The Sunday Herald magazine is also very professionally produced and I feel has had much more substance over the last few months than other supplements."

The best Arts and Entertainments coverage is another fiercely contested category, particularly since Metro Scotland came into the marketplace and made everybody increase their arts and entertainment coverage. The nominations here were Metro Scotland, the Herald, the Daily Record and the Evening Times. The Scotsman, which scooped this category last year, was unable to defend its crown as the vastly improved Herald was awarded this accolade, with Appleton saying: "The Herald's arts and entertainment coverage has again improved vastly over the last two years, really since Mark took over. It also has some good critics."

Last year's Best Opinion Pages winner, Business am, scored a nomination in this category this year, sitting alongside the Herald, the Edinburgh Evening News and the Sunday Herald.

However, the Herald, for the second time in three years, was judged to have the most insightful and wide-ranging opinion pages of any Scottish newspaper.

Brown said: "As ever, I think the Herald is streets ahead in this area. It has excellent writers and insightful columnists.

"The Herald has the best letters page in Scotland. What those letters say is another thing, which I have found out through bitter experience. It covers a wide range of subjects and presents them in an acceptable way."

The next category, Best Foreign Coverage, drew gasps from the on-looking audience. The judges nominated the Sunday Herald, Business am and the Herald. However, all the judges agreed that during the last year foreign coverage had taken a back seat at all Scottish newspapers and was in steady decline. They therefore decided to give no award in this category.

Endell Laird said: "I don't think anyone deserves it this year. The Sunday Herald does make an effort to analyse foreign affairs, but none of the Scottish newspapers is particularly strong in its foreign coverage.

"One test I have is to say, if I read a particular newspaper would I have a good view of what is going on in the world. Unfortunately, I would have to say the answer is no at the moment for Scotland's newspapers."

The reasons given for this decline in the standard of foreign coverage were put down to a number of possible factors - the tough economic conditions of the past six months, which have seen many foreign correspondents disposed of, and an increasingly inward-looking Scottish press since the Scottish Parliament was born. Whatever the reason, it is an area the judges were universal in their agreement that the area needs to be addressed to avoid the Scottish press becoming increasingly parochial.

Next, on to Legal Coverage, a category that was judged by the Law Society Scotland, co-sponsor of the Newspaper of the Year review. The nominations here were Business am, the Aberdeen Press and Journal and the Herald.

Speaking of the winner, the Press and Journal, Joe Platt, vice-president elect from the Law Society Scotland, said: "The P&J has a consistent interest in legal stories in spite of having no dedicated home affairs or legal correspondent. Its coverage is accurate and informative both of arguments in a case, the judge and his or her comments and the views of those involved, including the victim. The paper also covers all aspects of law from intellectual property to legislation and commercial property to family mediation. It compliments the copy produced by its journalists with good use of agency copy."

Next, on to a new category this year, which aimed to award the Best Scottish Edition of a UK National Newspaper. Here there was only one nomination. The newspaper was roundly praised as the most complete and comprehensive newspaper package available in the market. Drawing off a huge resource in London and backing that up with strong Scottish news, business, opinion and features, the judges awarded the Sunday Times Scotland the accolade in this category.

As the newspapermen and women scurried back to their office with their certificates, or with their tails between their legs, what lessons had been learnt from the review?

Foreign coverage needs to be addressed as Scottish newspapers continue to run the risk of becoming inward-looking. Also, traditional news values are changing radically and what is front-page news today wouldn't have even made a nib fifteen years ago. Is that progress? Answers on a postcard please.


Before any of the national boys took to the stage to collect their certificates of greatness it was the turn of the local newspapermen and women to discover which of their papers would be awarded Royal Bank of Scotland Local Scottish Newspaper of the Year 2002.

"Excellent. This newspaper is everything a local newspaper should be - a clear identity, comprehensive coverage and strong, relevant stories," was how Dean Nelson, editor of the Sunday Times Scotland and a member of the Local Newspaper Judging panel, summed up this year's winner, the Dunfermline Press.

Nelson's fellow judges, who included David Hamilton, editor of the Scottish Daily Express, Charles McGhee, editor of the Evening Times and Alan Rennie, editor of the Sunday Mail, also roundly praised the Dunfermline Press for being 'sharp and professional' and for its 'lively and varied front pages'.

The hat stand trophy was collected on the day by Bill Livingston, editorial director of the Dunfermline Press Group on behalf of the Dunfermline Press editor, Tom Davison.

The runners-up in this competition were the Scottish and Universal Newspapers title, the East Kilbride News, and the title previously owned by Regional Independent Media, but now part of Johnston Press, the Dumfries and Galloway Standard.

Of the East Kilbride News, the judges said its coverage of the 11 September attacks was particularly innovative and David Hamilton added: "It has a very tidy layout with easy-to-read pages. A good balance of the worthy and human interest with good thought put into the front-page displays."

Of the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, the judges concluded that its coverage of the foot and mouth outbreak last year was excellent, it is packed with local issues and is overall a good product.

So, the Wee County News, last year's winner, was unable to defend its crown, but no doubt it will be back in next year's competition to try to recapture its lost glory.


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