We did it again! Belfast Telegraph scoops newspaper of the year
Newspaper showered with accolades as journalists are honoured at annual Press awards
The Belfast Telegraph has scooped the Newspaper of the Year title at the prestigious CIPR Northern Ireland Media Awards.
It is the second year in a row the Telegraph has been awarded the top prize, with its reporters also sweeping the board in four other categories at Friday's glittering ceremony in the Mac.
Weekend magazine was named Supplement of the Year, Deputy Editor Gail Walker was named Features Journalist of the Year, Consumer Correspondent Claire McNeilly was named Business Journalist of the Year and Deborah McAleese won Scoop of the Year.
This year was the first time the annual ceremony was held in the new Metropolitan Arts Centre in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, where broadcaster Eamonn Holmes was ceremony host.
Among the big stories making the headlines over the past year for the Belfast Telegraph were its coverage of the historic handshake between Martin McGuinness and the Queen, the flag protests which paralysed Belfast before Christmas and top sports stories including extensive coverage of the Olympics.
Judges praised the Belfast Telegraph's "stylish design" and described it as a "formidable newspaper with a mixture of news, sport, features and supplements."
Editor Mike Gilson said that the Newspaper of the Year award was a tribute to a "great team effort".
"It reflects the hard work and creativity that we thrive on," he said.
"We try to reflect the news accurately, becoming the centre of debate for those issues, and know when we should also come off the fence and get involved.
"That was evident during the flag protests in which our reporting was second to none, but when we needed to help we launched our Backing Belfast campaign."
The Coca-Cola CIPR Media Awards' judging panel consists of a team of highly esteemed media professionals, headed up by Bob Satchwell, Executive Director of the Society of Editors.
Deputy Editor and Features Editor Gail Walker impressed the judges with her indepth interview with Stephen Nolan, and a feature on the Queen meeting Martin McGuinness.
"Her Stephen Nolan series was a 'tour de force' of superior celebrity interviewing – really getting into the psyche of her subject, Stephen Nolan, and one suspects she extracted more than he wanted to reveal," the judges stated.
"The Queen meeting and shaking hands with Martin McGuinness was also outstanding and perceptive."
The Weekend Magazine, also edited by Gail, was described as a "polished product, incorporating strong celebrity interviews, real life stories, lifestyle issues and of consistently high quality, both in terms of content and design".
The judges also lauded Deborah McAleese's 'Provo spy is a Derry school's deputy head' scoop as "a definite jaw-dropping revelation".
Deborah revealed that Rosa McLaughlin, a former IRA spy, had been appointed vice-principal at St Mary's College in Londonderry – several years after a judge warned she would never work in a school again.
Claire McNeilly, who was also highly commended in the Specialist Journalist category, was praised by the judges for coverage of the Ulster Bank IT crisis, the flag protest-prompted 'Backing Belfast' campaign and exclusive coverage of British Airways' return to Northern Ireland after 11 years.
"Excellent digging on the Ulster Bank crisis made the Belfast Telegraph a focus for consumer information and her stories highlighting the plight of shopkeepers in the aftermath of the flags protest put Claire's personal safety in danger," said the judges.
"She maintained a relentless energy."
Sister newspaper the Sunday Life also had success in the CIPR awards. It was crowned Sunday Newspaper of the Year, while news reporter Sara Girvan was named Newcomer of the Year and Sports Editor Paul Ferguson was named Sports Journalist of the Year.