The Yorkshire Post to withdraw from Society of Editors awards

A letter to our readers from editor of The Yorkshire Post, James Mitchinson

Editor of The Yorkshire Post James Mitchinson
Editor of The Yorkshire Post James Mitchinson

I tweeted at the time through vision blurred by happy tears my unfettered joy at being crowned the Society of Editors’ Regional Newspaper of the Year, just last year.

It is the one award that captures and celebrates the contribution of every employee in the newsroom. The skill and pedantry of the sub-editors, the organisational rigour of our admin colleagues, the journalistic tenacity of the reporters, the pin-sharp eyes of our photographers, the craftsmanship of our illustrators, even the caution of the lawyers - everyone in the room.

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Since entering the trade almost two decades ago, it has been my one; the award I so, so wanted, so when it came last year it felt like a career ambition realised.

And so it is with regret but absolute conviction that in light of recent events I will not be entering The Yorkshire Post into the Society of Editors’ awards for regional journalism this year. I have decided to withdraw from all team and title categories. It will be up to the members of my team whether or not they choose to enter the awards of which, unquestionably, they are so deserving.

As the editor of the reigning best-in-class regional daily in the country, an accolade that each and every one of the people I am proud to lead merits, I believe it is in the best interests of my team, my title and our wider trade to step aside and allow the Society the space it needs to reflect on what has happened. Rightly or wrongly, I can hear my conscience telling me that I must not withdraw on the coattails of someone else’s principles, but my own.

I came into local journalism because I wanted to be of service to local people. As a coal miner’s lad whose accent is greeted with disdain, I cast myself as a chippy champion of underdogs.

I wanted to offer a voice to those who have none. Here is one such moment where I have a choice to make. Here I am, troubled at the prospect of accepting adulation from an organisation that cannot see the prejudice before them, even when it screams in sans serif caps lock, 200pt.

As a forty-something white man, I feel woefully short of credentials to bring to this fight, but I will be damned if the colour of my skin and my perceived social status is going to prevent me from listening, learning, bettering myself and my workplace.

It is now up to the Society to decide how it betters itself, for the sake of decent journalism and, critically, the sake of a more decent, tolerant society.