On Tuesday this newspaper, its website and sister titles had their best night in years at that annual self-congratulatory jamboree, the Press Awards.
We had 10 nominations, and walked away with four “highly commended” awards – and three of the biggest prizes.
To put this in some context, The Guardian was highly commended twice, and won one award; the Financial Times was highly commended once and won two awards; and The Sun came away with nothing, despite having a strong year.
I know this might seem like gloating, but maybe I can get away with it because I didn’t actually win anything myself. The whole evening was recognition for some brilliant and brave journalists. Our magnificent Chief Sports Writer, Ian Herbert, was highly commended in the Sport category. Patrick Strudwick, whose extraordinary interview with Christian rock singer Vicky Beeching (in which she revealed herself to be gay) was followed up around the world, was highly commended as Feature Writer.
Howard Jacobson was highly commended in the Columnist category, which sets him up nicely to win next year, after we’ve entered his column on page 37 of today’s paper. And Steve Connor, who has so eloquently championed Enlightenment values in our pages for years, was highly commended in the Science and Health category.
Our two individual winners have also been writing for us for many years. Mark Steel, whose radio series has a following of millions, and whose column on the death of Tony Benn was one of my favourite pieces in my time as Editor, won Columnist of the Year. He is simply one of the funniest columnists (and men) in Britain, who never fails to make me laugh out loud. And yet his prose takes its power from a set of profound moral convictions, without which any columnist is useless. As someone who can’t write funny sentences myself, I’m in awe of how Mark’s mind works.
Many people who know Patrick Cockburn, who won Foreign Reporter of the Year for his hugely erudite, compassionate and courageous reporting from Iraq, are in awe of him too. I’m delighted to say that, on Monday, we’re starting a major new five-part series by Patrick, who has been back in Iraq over recent weeks. Don’t bet against “Inside the Islamic State” winning him next year’s prize too.
Finally, our sister paper The Independent on Sunday won “Front Page of the Year”, for its “Here is the news, not the propaganda” splash after the death of Isis hostage Alan Henning. That front page, which refused to do the work of Isis, went viral online and won huge plaudits around the world. When we retweeted it on Tuesday, there was huge support again for the principle behind it. Credit to Lisa Markwell, the paper’s Editor, for a great decision.
These were individual wins, but the sheer breadth and volume of nominations reflect a fantastic team effort. We work tirelessly to produce the journalism in which we so strongly believe. I’m grateful to the judges who recognised that – and above all to you, our readers, for believing in us. You’re the judges we care about most of all.