AWARDS SUCCESS: West Highland Free Press is named as Newspaper of the Year

Free Press editor Keith MacKenzie receiving the award from sponsors Diageo Pic Alison White

The West Highland Free Press has been named as Newspaper of the Year at the annual Highlands and Islands Media Awards.

In awarding the prize to the Free Press for the first time since 2007, award judges praised the newspaper for the strength of its reporting and its weekly news and feature content.

On a night of double success for the Free Press team columnist Angus Peter Campbell was named Gaelic Writer of the Year, retaining a title he also won in 2022.

The night’s award winners. Pic Alison White

Judging panel chair Gordon Fyfe said: “Under the editorship of Keith Mackenzie, the West Highland continues – 50 years on – to be a voice of and for the communities it serves.

“It is a lively, well-presented paper with in depth reporting, excellent sport and features and fearless comment and when the big story breaks, the team are there to report in a comprehensive but sensitive way.

“Keep up the good work team and here’s to another 50 years of serving your communities.”

He added a tribute to former Free Press editor Ian McCormack, who died in June 2022.

“We were all so sorry to learn of the passing of former long serving editor Ian McCormack since we last met.

“Ian was a former winner of the Barron Trophy (2000) and a much valued friend of the Press Ball, receiving a special recognition award in 2020 following his retirement.”

Mark Harcus of The Orcadian was named Diageo Journalist of the Year, while the island newspaper picked up a second award thanks to Ethan Flett winning the Alex Main Trophy for being Young Writer of the Year.

And long-serving photographer Ken Amer made it a hat-trick for Orkney by being presented with a Special Recognition Award for his contribution to journalism on the island over 37 years and for promoting an important health message surrounding prostate cancer.

The Press and Journal picked up two awards. Stuart Findlay won the Jim Love Memorial Trophy for being Reporter of the Year and Donna MacAllister won the prize for best entry in the Environment and Sustainability category. Freelance Peter Ranscombe won the Business Writer of the Year Award for articles that appeared in The Business, Press and Journal.

Andrew Henderson, Highland News and Media, is Feature Writer of the Year, while Paul Campbell, an Inverness freelance, is Photographer of the Year.

The Chatterbox, which serves the Black Isle, won Community Newspaper of the Year.

Donald Wilson, recently retired reporter with the Highland News and Media, based in Nairn, received the Barron Trophy for lifelong achievement in journalism.

Gaelic writer of the year, Angus Peter Campbell. Pic Alison White

The awards were presented at the 34th annual edition of the Highlands and Islands Press Ball, the only event that brings together industry colleagues from across a huge and dispersed region. Nearly 250 media representatives, politicians and heads of public and private organisations attended the event on Friday 3rd February at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness. 

The ball, and associated Highlands and Islands Media Awards, attracted journalists from Shetland to Argyll and from Moray to the Outer Hebrides serving print, broadcast and online media.

Principal sponsor of the evening was Diageo, with additional support from Statkraft, Chivas Brothers, the National Union of Journalists, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Hub North Scotland, the Kane Partnership, Highland Tourism and Bord an Gàidhlig. 

The event raised £4,111 which will benefit four local charities: Highland Hospice, Centred (formerly Birchwood Highland), Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) and the Liam Colgan Music Fund. The ball has now raised nearly £120,000 for good causes, with all the money staying in the Highlands and Islands.   

Ball chairman John Ross said: “We are delighted the Press Ball continues to bring together colleagues from across the area where they are an essential part of local communities.

“Our charity fundraising is also a vital part of the occasion and we are extremely pleased to be able to contribute in a small way to some fantastic local causes.” 

The full list of award winners is:

Environment and Sustainability (Highland Tourism Award)

Donna MacAllister, Press and Journal

Business Writer of the Year

Peter Ranscombe, Press and Journal

Gaelic Writer of the Year (Bòrd na Gàidhlig Award)

Angus Peter Campbell, West Highland Free Press

Young Reporter of the Year (Alex Main Trophy)

Ethan Flett, Orcadian

Sports Writer of the Year

Mark Harcus, Orcadian

Photographer of the Year

Paul Campbell, Inverness Freelance

Reporter of the Year (Jim Love Memorial Trophy)

Stuart Findlay, Press and Journal

Feature Writer of the Year

Andrew Henderson, Highland News and Media

Community Newspaper of the Year

Chatterbox, Black Isle

Newspaper of the Year

West Highland Free Press

Diageo Journalist of the Year

Mark Harcus, Orcadian

Barron Trophy for Lifetime Achievement

Donald Wilson, Nairn

Special Recognition Award

Ken Amer, Orkney