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Croydon Advertiser staff choose their favourite stories from 2014

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CROYDON is among the newsiest areas of the country and 2014 has been no exception. Here Advertiser staff choose their favourite stories from the past 12 months.

Glenn Ebrey, editor 

It's bloody difficult so I'm picking three because I'm the editor – and I can!

In January, after a spate of stabbings involving young people, reporter Georgie Keate was invited into a school to talk to children of all ages about knife crime, and what drives teenagers to take to the streets armed with weapons. Getting that type of access to young people and being able to talk to them about such an issue is extremely rare but the results were fascinating and concerning in equal measure. It also showed how we try to get under the skin of an issue and was a more constructive and challenging approach than merely reporting the incidents themselves.

An obvious one, but Gareth Davies' investigation into honeytrap conwoman Neelam Desai was high-quality reporting and showed that local newspapers, in the era of chasing internet clicks and instant gratification, can still do proper, investigative journalism. The fact Gareth overcame a ridiculous police harassment warning and saw this through to the end – Desai being jailed – made this even more satisfying

Ben Haenow wins X Factor – a genuinely uplifting story for Croydon but I've chosen it more for the outstanding efforts of reporter Polly Albany-Ward, who covered just about every possible angle during Ben's X Factor journey. She spoke to his mum, his gran, his girlfriend, his brother, his favourite pub's landlord, his former teachers and, of course, the man himself. It was exactly what a local paper should do. For us it wasn't about what Ben was singing that week or what sort of career he may or may not have, rather it was our job to tell his back story and build up the picture of the local boy made good. Polly did this superbly.

James Booker, news editor

If Glenn's choosing three, I'm going for two.

Two would-be robbers smash their way into a pub only to be confronted by a topless, Celtic FC baseball bat wielding landlord who taught them a thing or two about breaking the law. Danny Foley's show of vigilantism won him many admirers from readers, offering to buy the landlord a pint and queuing up to give him a pat on the back. The dramatic CCTV footage of the incident was going to be used for a BBC crime programme, but it was rejected during production. The reason? It was too violent.

Then there was the Ukip carnival.

Following the debacle proved to be one of the most entertaining afternoons I've ever had in the newsroom. Our reporter's excellent minute-by-minute coverage of the day meant the whole occasion unfolded as vividly as if I was there in person. It attracted national media attention, but supporters, protesters and the media hoping to see Nigel Farage in Croydon were left disappointed. Instead, Nigel didn't show, the calypso band (yep) claimed they weren't told it was a Ukip event, and chaos quickly ensued. But at least the crowds got a dancing Winston McKenzie, armed with megaphone, to cheer them up.

Gareth Davies, chief reporter

I enjoyed covering BBC Three documentary Tough Young Teachers because Caleb Lall-King, the Year 11 pupil who terrorised his religious studies teacher, was essentially a good kid who epitomised head teacher David Clark's determination to give every pupil a chance, regardless of their background. It was also satisfying that our interview with Caleb was among the best-read stories of the year, without being breaking news (or a story about nude pictures of American celebrities). 

Reporter Ian Austen broke the political story of the year - that former council leader Mike Fisher had secretly given himself a £10,000 pay rise, prompting condemnation from his own party. His resignation as leader of the Conservative group in Croydon swiftly followed.

On the subject of politics, I'll also mention our coverage of Labour's playing fields fiasco, if only for our Spin-derella front page, probably the best/most ridiculous splash in my six years at the paper.

Finally, you should read the month-long series on domestic violence by Tom Matthews and Polly Albany-Ward. They worked very hard to produce four informative and engaging articles on an important topic, culminating in difficult but compelling accounts from victims of abuse.

Andrew Jameson, reporter

The Ukip carnival. The story that just kept on giving. Ukip has been inescapable this year but its Croydon 'carnival' was a perfect storm of slapdash organisation, misguided intentions and complete farce.

Earlier in the year we ran a story on a set of roads in Addiscombe named after Olympic heroes including javelin thrower Steve Backley, sprinter Linford Christie and 400 metre hurdler Kriss Akabusi.

A few weeks later, we received a letter from a slightly put-upon former race walker called Paul Nihill. Mr Nihill, who was born in Addiscombe, won an Olympic silver medal in Tokyo in 1964 and was understandably miffed he had been overlooked when the developers were handing out road names like Jaffa Cakes.

Mr Nihill said: "I'm a race walker which is a bit of Cinderella sport but it's still a tough achievement and I went to four Olympics, which is something not a lot of people have done.

"I've met the mayor a few times and whatnot but there isn't anything permanent. The other athletes are all fantastic and have obviously had great success but why don't they name a road in their hometowns after them?"

Quite right.

Tom Matthews, reporter 

I spoke to Danny, of the appropriately-named Danny's Fish and Chips in Old Coulsdon, back in November after a thief made off with his shop's poppy collection tin only the day before Remembrance Sunday.

He was absolutely gutted that someone had taken money his customers had meant for the Royal British Legion.

I was on holiday the following week but was chuffed to later hear that two sisters, Millie and Izzie, had visited Danny just days later with more than £50 they'd collected from their school friends after hearing of the theft. 

With theirs and other contributions from the village, Danny ended up raising far more for the Royal British Legion than was in the tin the thief stole. Heart-warming stuff.

Croydon Advertiser staff choose their favourite stories from 2014


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