Pictured is Norbert Kupper (European Newspaper Congress organiser), presenting the European Newspaper of the Year award to Neill O’Neill and Kevin Loftus (The Mayo News) alongside Johann Oberauer (European Newspaper Congress organiser).
A dream that became reality
I woke early on Saturday morning, tired and groggy with only a few hours sleep. I was a little nervous and anxious about the trip that lay ahead.
Having pre-booked our taxi, my girlfriend Sadhbh and I grabbed our bags and began the journey to Austria to collect the European Local Newspaper of the Year award. Our taxi driver was called Daniel O’Donnell but fortunately for us he had not a note in his head and the trip to the airport was peaceful.
Arriving there it hit me: ‘We are going to Vienna!’ I had dreamt about this day for so long and now the adventure was about to begin. Bags checked in we headed upstairs and tackled into one last full Irish breakfast before getting on the plane. I knew it would be a while before I would have another decent cup of tea so I savoured every drop.
Arriving in Vienna, I was mesmerised by the sheer beauty of the city. The architecture is absolutely stunning and as we walked down the street it felt like we were on a film set.
It was a wonderful privilege to be in such an amazing city for an event as prestigious as the European Newspaper Congress. To be among the elite in the media and design world was an honour. I sometimes forget that we are part of one huge industry, working towards a common goal in the world of media. I would be reminded of this at various stages throughout our stay.
One thing that struck me over the three-day event was how impressed other media outlets were with The Mayo News. They were amazed by the size of our dedicated team, small by their standards, and they were really impressed with how we produce such a high-quality product each week.
The Redesign process
The entire redesign process began in January 2014. Myself and Neill O’Neill sat down and discussed what direction we wanted to take the paper in. We wanted to create something that would continue to stand out from the competition on a weekly basis.
I began to compare our paper to others, researching fonts, colours and studying design principles from other papers across the continent. I found newspapers in Ireland all followed the same format, trying to fit as much text on a page and taking the advertisers’ preference over the readers’, something that I felt needed to change. I wanted our artistic statement and signature on each and every page and to bring life back to the paper, and I believe we have achieved this with the redesign.
We reworked the entire paper, a new colour palette, new elements, introducing half column gaps of white space to separate articles and adverts but at the same time we removed a lot of the clutter that had become distracting to readers. We also added our social media and online information to the front of each section and information boxes throughout the paper linking articles and directing our readers online, thus expanding their experience, not just in the paper but online too.
The front page got an entire overhaul, the big M dominates the page and is now our signature. The page itself is based on a single topic, a standalone image and teasers down the wing, often combined with cutouts, photos and supplement fronts, and this helps to distinguish The Mayo News from our competitors.
It’s not only about the front page though. We treat the whole newspaper as one complete product.
With each issue we bring the reader on a journey. Starting with News, through Notes, Sport and on to Living. This is where the real storytelling in the mind begins. We have such an array of talented writers, and it is my job as a designer to visually portray their stories to our readers.
Browsing through pages is the readers’ experience and we want them to enjoy it each step of the way.
We treat most pages as a spread, because this is how readers perceive and view them.
I believe the future is bright for local newspapers. We have a niche market with our local focus, and this information can only be obtained from your local newspaper each and every week.
A special thanks
I have to say a special thanks to all the staff at The Mayo News, for all their hard work and cooperation throughout the redesign process, especially to Padraic Geraghty, Keith Reilly and Brian McHugh in the production department. Also to my girlfriend Sadhbh for giving me such amazing support and for having great patience; I know it is not easy. To my parents Helen and James and the entire family for all their support over the years whilst I took over the kitchen table with my laptop and endless pieces of paper that continue to fill the house.
I would also like to say a special thanks to Fergus Kelly who took me under his wing when I first joined The Mayo News back in 2007. He taught me so much about the world of design, and without his input I would not have been in the position I was in Vienna - to accept the European Local Paper of the Year accolade.
It was an honour and a privilege to receive the award on behalf of The Mayo News but for now it’s time to get back to reality.
We have a paper to get to print and the deadline is looming.