Bringing a city together in the wake of tragedy — inside Stoke’s ‘most memorable story’ award
The Sentinel, StokeonTrentLive and its journalists won three awards and were highly commended twice in the O2 North West Media Awards.
The Sentinel and StokeonTrentLive also won the award for the for Most Memorable story of the year for its coverage of the Ryan Evans tragedy at Westport Lake and subsequent SwimSafer campaign.
Ryan, aged 13, drowned at the beauty spot during this year’s summer heatwave after getting into difficulties while swimming with friends.
It prompted The Sentinel/StokeonTrentLive to launch its SwimSafer campaign in conjunction with Stoke-on-Trent City Council which saw more than 1,000 children receive water training courses and swimming lessons. It is a campaign which is set to be repeated each year in the Potteries.
Ryan’s dad Glynn surprised The Sentinel/StokeonTrentLive team by making the trip to Chester to present the award to them.
Editor Martin Tideswell said: “The Ryan Evans tragedy touched everyone in our city because it was an awful accident which could so easily have happened to any family.
“It saw an incredible, humbling coming together of people in support of Ryan’s family and the emergency services personnel who worked tirelessly for days, in extremely difficult conditions, until his body was recovered.
“From the beginning, our journalists were acutely aware of the sensitivity of the subject matter. We worked closely with the emergency services and developed a relationship with Ryan’s family — helping to plan a lakeside vigil, for example — and being the only media allowed to attend the funeral and share it with those unable to attend.
“We were struck throughout by the remarkable courage and fortitude of Ryan’s dad, Glynn, and the entire family when dealing with such an unimaginable, life-changing tragedy.
“We were also able to recognise, with the approval of Ryan’s family, the work of our emergency services to whom we presented one of our Our Heroes Awards.
“I am extremely proud of our team. Recording local life and championing our patch is a responsibility our journalists take extremely seriously. People — our communities — our readership and audience — are always paramount in our thoughts and planning.
“It is gratifying to be recognised for the work we do 24/7 at the largest awards event of its kind in the UK.
“Having Glynn present the award was very humbling and we asked Ryan’s brother Kieran to switch on the city centre Christmas lights which was very well received by the public. We are proud that something positive came from a tragedy which brought our whole city together.”
Film-maker Martin Brough won for Visual Media and live reporter Tom Burnett won in the Emerging Talent category in a ceremony at Chester Racecourse.
Meanwhile, Chief Photographer Steve Bould was highly commended for his photography and the efforts of Head of Events and Special Publications Jenny Amphlett and graphic designer Andy Stoddard’s across print publications, campaigns and events were also highly commended for their work in the team of the year category.