Last year was a big year for Northland and 2013 has proved a rewarding year for the Northern Advocate and sister paper The Northland Age, with the pair collecting multiple awards at the APN Regional Newspapers Awards this week.
The Advocate and Age were up against APN's other regional daily and community papers, including heavyweights the Bay of Plenty Times and Hawke's Bay Today.
But when the judging was over the Advocate was deemed top of the pile, with the paper taking out most of the major awards, including Newspaper of the Year; Editor of the Year; Community Involvement Award; NSM Achiever of the Year.
The paper was runner-up in the Website of the Year category and was commended in the Front Page of the Year category.
Advocate editor Craig Cooper was delighted with the awards, saying they were recognition for the hard work of the newspaper and its staff last year and validation of the direction the newspaper was taking.
Mr Cooper said the way the paper and the community had embraced the Advocate's use of digital forums, such as its websites and Facebook pages, was particularly rewarding.
"We are using them to strengthen the newspaper and its presence in Northland as an advocate and leader. The awards recognise our readership is growing, which is unusual around the world at the moment for newspapers, and we are starting to attract attention for how we do this from others around the country," he said.
"But we would not be able to do any of this without support from our readers. We have growing respect as a trusted voice and a proactive voice for our community, but we won't be taking that for granted and have to make sure that we keep talking to and listening to our readers and our staff to keep growing the paper."
Northern Advocate General Manager Greg Alexander was delighted for the paper to scoop the best regional newspaper award for APN for the second consecutive year.
"It is recognition for the tremendous hard work from the entire team who pride themselves on delivering this region with the most relevant and compelling newspaper," Mr Alexander said.
"The reward follows on from the Advocate's achievements last year as New Zealand's fastest growing regional newspaper."
What the judges said ...
Newspaper of the year - The Northern Advocate: "This is a newspaper with 'verve' and personality, and its newspaper sales performance - the best in the regionals group - cannot be ignored. A simultaneous strong performance in online traffic indicates that readership can indeed grow on both platforms at once. The Northern Advocate is true to its name, taking a strong leadership role on issues affecting its readers and delivering a brand of quirky, individual yet authoritative journalism which has clearly struck a chord in the North."
Editor of the Year - Northern Advocate, Craig Cooper "The winner led his team to win APN Regional Newspaper of the Year in 2012, and has backed this up with; strongest readership and circulation performance in the group; thriving online presence as well; leads a team of talented editorial staff who produce a newspaper that shows sheer passion and flair. Plus, he puts his own stamp all over it - bold editorials, innovative campaigns, a true leader of the community."
Community Involvement Award, Dailies - Northern Advocate "Amid a strong field, the Northern Advocate stands out for the confidence with which it tackles its role as a community leader. The Advocate is a catalyst for debate, it gets people talking and it makes a difference. An editorial taking the town to task for its youth violence problem went viral and put the issue high on Whangarei's agenda; just one example of a newspaper which is wielding the power of the press to great effect."
NSM Achiever of the Year - The Northern Advocate (This award goes to the newspaper which best met objectives to grow circulation sales, either in terms of overall result for the year or by outstanding achievement in a single promotional campaign or initiative.) "The stats say it all, with best year on year circulation and readership results. It seems that everything from newspaper campaigns (such as Project Promise, Meet your Mayor), advocacy for 93-year-old Pearl (Sanger) whose home was torched by burglars, and a 15-year-old victim of teenage violence, to its strong design and layout, breaking news online, and frontline staff, this newspaper ticks all the boxes."
APN Regional Senior Reporter of the Year, Dailies - Northern Advocate Reporter Kristin Edge
"There were many good individual pieces of work in this category, but one very clear winner. Kristin knocks it out of the park. She gets great stories, with comprehensive packaging, multi-media approach and tenacity in following through. She cares about the people she writes about. She turned the burglary and arson of an elderly woman's home into five front page leads and an online sensation which gained a response from around the world in aid of the victim."
Kristin was was also runner up in the Feature Writer of the Year Award: "Kristin demonstrated her skill in digging out hard-to-get crime backgrounders with two searing features on local victims, one of domestic violence and the other, of apparent police brutality ... Must-reads, both."
Digital Innovator of the Year - Northern Advocate reporter Peter de Graaf
"Peter has grabbed the digital bull by the horns, using social media and the website to help connect Northland and the far North community. He lives and breathes digital and knows what his audience wants - quickly posting up quirky snaps he takes on his travels to the Northern Advocate Facebook account. Peter demonstrates that he not only has a passion and a hunger for social media and digital but he gets why it is important to us as a company."
Sports Writer of the Year - Northern Advocate sports reporter Cameron Leslie "Broke national news, served up provocative opinion, and put together a very readable feature on the America's Cup." Highly commended was Northland Age sports reporter Frank Malley.
APN Salesperson of the Year - Northern Advocate Motoring Account Manager Delwyn Hills
"One of the success stories of last year was motoring pillar growth for Northern Advocate and part of the reason why - Delwyn Hills - ten of 12 clients increased spend last year. Look out the other two this year!"
Columnist of the Year, Community - Northland Age Editor - Peter Jackson "There was no going past these brilliantly crafted editorials, which would rival those of any daily. Peter writes with authority, originality, and a delightful turn of phrase, fearlessly taking to task those he feels need to face Northland Age scrutiny."
Columnist of the Year, Dailies, Runner up - Northern Advocate Deputy Editor Christine Allen
"From the sassy to the sympathetic, Christine has a variety to her writing that many could not emulate in this category."
Junior Reporter of the Year, Dailies, Runner up - Northern Advocate Reporter Sophie Ryan
"Sophie displayed a good, clear writing style and a nice feature touch. She showed the ability to cover any story well. One minute a dramatic gas leak in Kamo, the next the charter schools issue."