Scottish Press Awards See Donald Martin Depart Herald On High

THE Herald was named Newspaper of the Year at the Scottish Press Awards held in Glasgow last night along with a clutch of other prizes. As swan songs go, you have to say this was a belter for outgoing editor in chief Donald Martin.

His tenure at the helm of arguably one of Scotland's best known brands has been one laden with all manner of trials and tribulations as he plotted a rocky course between the needs of his management and the desires of the workforce.

But he showed a touch of class in today's edition by showering his troops with praise and affection across their page two celebration piece.

He leaves at the start of May, head held high and forever being able to point at the awards and say, I helped deliver that.

It has been done at a time when The Herald's circulation fall is only half that of some rivals, while its Sunday sister title is actually piling on sales.

The recent redesign has helped breathe new life into its pages; the website taking an important step on the road to digital sophistication.

Lucy Adams, his chief reporter, won the award for Reporter of the Year and Journalist of the Year in part for her story about the Lockerbie bomber which involved the sanction of a trip to Tripoli to secure the first interview with Megrahi him at his home.

Phil Miller won the Arts/Entertainment category,  while for the Sunday Herald, Iain Macwhirter picked up Newspaper Feature Writer of the Year and Kenny Kemp the award for Financial/Business Writer of the Year.

There were a raft of runners-up and highly commended mentions in despatches too for the group.

What was particularly impressive about the win, and indeed Martin, was how he used the occasion to pay tribute to his staff and acknowledge the difficulties they, as a unit, have all gone through together.

He said: "It's a tremendous achievement and I really want to pay tribute to all the staff, not just those who work for The Herald, but the Sunday Herald and Evening Times, who worked together as a team during a year of tremendous upheaval and difficult change.

"Their professionalism and dedication has ensured that we have continued to produce quality newspapers."

"I am really delighted for our winners tonight, and the nominees. It is testimony to their talent, work and dedication. At the end of the day it is quality that count and, across all three titles, we have that in abundance."

There had been plenty of criticism levelled at Martin in the past by some of his staff, but there was no sign of any last night, and the awards mean he can now leave on something of a high before joining the Sunday Post.

The wins will also be vindication for Herald and Times Group managing director Tim Blott who surprised some by naming Martin as Editor in Chief in December 2008.

Not only did the appointment achieve many of the strategic aims of the company in terms of its restructuring, no matter how controversial,  it has now delivered editorially too.

Blott has again been shrewd and resisted temptation to go down the expected route by appointing the hugely capable and experienced Jonathan Russell to succeed Martin when he joins shortly from his current berth at Trinity Mirror.

And as discussed in this week's Quiet News Day podcast (Episode 25), he doesn't lose an award winning editor, he actually gains one with energy, drive and a new perspective on where to take their stable of titles next.

The question for everyone else now is, where exactly that is.

Categories: Awards

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