Daily Mail carries off top BPA award for fifth time

Rothermere: “great privilege”

Loved and hated in equal measure, but never ignored – the Daily Mail, which has won National Newspaper of the Year in the British Press Awards more times than any other title, carried off the top award for the fifth time at the Hilton on Tuesday.

The award was accepted this time by the paper’s proprietor, Lord Rothermere, and acting editor Alastair Sinclair because editor-in-chief Paul Dacre had undergone surgery that day.

Rothermere, who said of Dacre “What a man; what a great journalist”, told Press Gazette he would take the BPA trophy to Dacre to help speed his recovery. “He will be thrilled. This will be the best medicine he could have,” he said. “I’ve no doubt that Paul, when he gets better, will be trying much harder for another award so he’ll be here next time.”

For himself, Rothermere said he was buoyed up at owning such an award-winning title: “It’s a wonderful thing – what a great privilege it is to be me!” he quipped.

Did he not sometimes wish he was in the Mail editor’s chair? “I think my father said, and he is right, that all the fun in a newspaper is the editor’s job, but the truth is you have to let the talent edit the newspaper. The proprietor might own it, but that doesn’t make him a good editor.”

Dacre has often described him as a great proprietor. Rothermere thinks this is because “I believe in journalism. I believe in financing journalism and I believe in letting Paul and my other editors get on with the job without harassing them or trying to impose my own personal point of view.”

There were several absentees at the awards – The Sun and the News of the World were at the Grosvenor House Hotel holding their own niche awards night and the four Express Newspapers titles were also missing – but it was still an occasion to remember for the British national press.

From the moment when cartoonist Steve Bell, eschewing the obligatory black tie for shirtsleeves, accepted his top category award with the parting shot of “Fuck the war” and Critic of the Year Waldemar Januszczak’s windy acceptance speech was drowned in a storm of cat-calling and foot-stamping, the BPA lived up to its reputation as a “lively” night.

Reporter of the Year was the Daily Mirror’s Steve Dennis, whose close and continuing friendship with Royal butler Paul Burrell secured the paper Burrell’s story after his trial.

But Dennis saw his accolade as not being just about the Burrell scoop but for his coverage of injustice in investigating the deaths of sapper Ian Collins in Macedonia and Christopher Alder, who died in police custody in Hull. “This is classic Daily Mirror – small person versus big institution, fight for the small person,” he said.

Scoop of the Year went to the Daily Mirror’s 3am girls for revealing the affair between TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson and England football coach Sven-GÅ¡ran Eriksson.

Eva Simpson of the 3am girls said the award was a team effort and would be shared with former showbiz reporter James Scott.

By Jean Morgan

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