MONGST the best and brightest in the European newspaper world, The Mayo News stood shoulder to shoulder last week, when the paper was honoured at the sixteenth annual European Newspaper Congress in Vienna.
The Mayo News was awarded the prestigious accolade of Best Local Newspaper in Europe last November, seeing off competition from 194 publications from 28 countries in the process. The awards are decided upon by taking criteria in relation to strategy, content, design and concept into consideration, and are judged by a jury of newspaper professionals, professors and experts from right across the continent.
Winning the award means that The Mayo News is the only Irish newspaper to ever have claimed the prize, and the only in Europe to ever have won in twice - the previous victory coming in 2007.
The European Newspaper Congress was attended by in excess of 500 delegates from 35 countries, and took place over three days last week in the Austrian capital of Vienna. Representing The Mayo News at the event were Managing Editor Neill O’Neill and Head of Design and IT, Kevin Loftus. Both made a combined presentation about County Mayo and The Mayo News at the congress, seizing on a rare opportunity to showcase what Mayo has to offer to some of the most influential newspaper professionals and publishers in Europe.
The event was held in the historic Rathaus (Vienna City Hall) which hosted some Eurovision Song Contest events last weekend. A welcome reception was held at the magnificent Schonbrunn Palace, the home of the Habsburg Dynasty for 600 years on day one of the Congress, where newspaper editors, publishers and designers mingled in opulent surroundings and discussed the latest trends and challenges in their respective countries.
On day two of the Congress the delegates gathered in City Hall to hear some of the great newspaper minds of modern times discuss many aspects of the industry. Speakers came from as far afield as The New York Times and Israel, while as a major award winner, The Mayo News representatives had to take to the main stage to demonstrate how this paper came to stand out in the face of such stern competition from so many countries.
Addressing the Congress, Neill O’Neill spoke of how there are many challenges in the local newspaper industry in Ireland but also of his pride that, in the context of some of the publications being honoured and represented in Vienna and the vast and densely populated areas they serve, The Mayo News could stand on equal footing with the best in the business.
He explained that being a family-owned independent title brings both challenges and advantages.
“Having the autonomy to produce the entire Mayo News in-house each week from start to finish, from editorial concept to advertising features, to discussing the various elements of the paper across departments, and then being able to see these planned actions materialise under one roof to create our paper each week, gives the staff at The Mayo News the autonomy to try new things, to be innovative and creative and to control each step in the process. As the only newspaper in Mayo that is owned, operated, and produced entirely locally, this gives us the opportunity to be different, to stand out more. This is one of the major reasons that we are here before you in Vienna,” he said.
“We are here today among publications with 100 editorial staff, with circulation figures running into the millions, and a pool of expertise available to them that cannot be matched. Yet coming from, by European standards, a relatively small and rural county on the western edge of Ireland, on the western edge of Europe, The Mayo News is here today in this magnificent venue in Vienna, in the company of the very best in our industry from right across Europe. That is testament to a great team, who work together and who dare to be innovative, who dare to believe that we can stand amongst the best and brightest on the continent, and who dare to dream,” he said.
After watching a video showcase of County Mayo and The Mayo News, which impressed delegates and left them with plenty of questions, Kevin Loftus discussed the redesign of The Mayo News which he spearheaded last year, detailing his reasoning behind the changes to each section and explaining the process of doing a full redesign of a paper that has long had an emphasis on its aesthetic quality.
Some of the buzzwords and concepts of newspaper design, as embraced to great success by Kevin, were explained by him, and he discussed how storytelling happens also in the mind of the designer, and not just the editorial staff, which was his interpretation of one of the themes of the conference. Several hundred copies of The Mayo News, for delegates to browse and keep, were present throughout the Congress, along with a display stand decorated with samples of the paper which had been put together by the organisers and which was a big attraction. The hard copies were snapped up and there were a lot of attendees with questions about The Mayo News over the three days, and a lot of commentary on the quality and consistency being produced by, relative to other publications, a comparatively small number of staff.
At the gala winners dinner in City Hall, the event organisers had another presentation of images from The Mayo News office and of Mayo itself, playing on a loop on the big screen, which further emphasised the appeal and beauty of the region to all in attendance.
Accepting the award with Kevin, Neill O’Neill thanked Kevin and the rest of the staff at The Mayo News for their hard work and dedication. He said the accolade was an endorsement of every member of the team in The Mayo News and their exemplary work from week to week.
Read our Head of Design Kevin Loftus's take on the prestigious event in Vienna here