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East of England Media Awards: What the judges said

Judges at the EDF Energy East of England Media Awards 2008 had over 200 entries to go through before making their final shortlist selections in the 20 prize categories.

The panel comprised: Bournemouth Echo editor Neal Butterworth; Western Daily Press editor Andy Wright; South London Press editor Hannah Walker; co-director of photographic agency John Connor Press Associates Nigel Bowles; former regional TV reporter and media trainer Karen Ainley; and EDF Energy’s head of regional media relations Claire Byrd.

Here is what the panel thought of the winners:

Print Journalist of the Year (Daily)
Jon Austin, the Echo, Basildon

Jon Austin is a political and investigative reporter and his entry included an outstanding slave labour investigation, also shortlisted for Front Page of the Year. His investigation revealed how some travellers were recruiting the vulnerable, homeless, drug addicts, runaways, mental health patients and illegal immigrants for cheap and sometimes forced labour on local sites.

Contacts told Jon the recruits were described as dossers, slaves or servants and were sometimes held against their will. He went to considerable lengths to build up evidence to support his coverage, including filming and photographing activity from a family’s house over several days.

Jon’s entry also included an investigation into a kennels employed by two local councils to look after stray dogs. Since the horrors at Novem Kennels were published, Basildon Council has launched two internal investigations around possible internal corruption and professional incompetency.

He also carried out several weeks of surveillance, including video and photographic evidence to expose an illegally run scrap-yard on green belt land. Jon’s work was praised for being thorough, well-detailed and superbly written.

Jon was singled out for differentiating the paper from many other regional titles and was summarised as “the complete package” who produced simply outstanding work.

Print Journalist of the Year (Weekly)
Maggie Gibson, Cambs Times

Maggie Gibson has worked in local newspapers and magazines for 32 years and still has the same enthusiasm for grass-roots journalism. She submitted an exclusive about a mother who stood paralysed with fear outside a shop as an out-of-control car hurtled towards her and her baby daughter.

She also covered a diamond wedding anniversary about a couple who risked their lives to snatch precious moments together when they met in unusual circumstances – he was a German prisoner of war forced to work in Fenland fields and she was a local girl from March who fell in love with him.

The judges said Maggie’s experience shone through in the way she captured and wrote her stories and was praised for some really great tear-jerking material. The panel said she stood out for being a really good community writer and exactly what weekly papers should be all about.

Newcomer of the Year – Joint Winners
Karen Davis, Yellow Advertiser; Chris Havergal, Cambridge News

Karen Davis started her working life as a teacher but, after a brain haemorrhage, decided to pursue her dream of becoming a journalist and gained a first-class BA in journalism in 2007.

She joined the Advertiser last year where she became the Southend reporter. Her entries demonstrated her strong local knowledge and judges praised Karen for picking up so many off-diary stories.

Chris Havergal was employed by the Cambridge News after a spell of work experience there. His story about students being banned from hat throwing at graduation ceremonies got him the front page on his first day in the office and was followed up by the nationals.

His other entries included a mother’s pleas following her daughter’s road accident and another tragic tale about the response of an ambulance service called to help a young woman who then died following an accident. The judges praised Chris for the obvious background work he put in to dig out his stories.

Daily Newspaper of the Year
Evening Star, Ipswich

The Evening Star is bright, alive and dynamic and now reaching its biggest combined audience in a generation. The results are down to campaigning and power-packed journalism that gets the title known both locally and further afield.

The Evening Star led the way with coverage of the trial of serial killer Steve Wright. When the trial ended the paper carried 13 news pages and a 32-page backgrounder, exploiting every angle of a story that captivated the nation.

The Evening Star spent a year planning and executing the “night of nights” for ailing soccer knight Sir Bobby Robson. The paper organised the 30th anniversary reunion of the Ipswich Town FA Cup winning side of 1978, bringing in players from around the world for one last celebration for ‘the gaffer’.

The Evening Star exclusively broke the story of Suffolk council’s new chief executive getting £220,000 a year, £70,000 more than her predecessor and more than the Prime Minister – a story which went global. The Star’s pressure led to a 2008/9 salary freeze for the chief executive concerned. The Star was praised for its strong news content and its particularly meaty coverage of the Suffolk murder trial. Overall, the judges said the paper provided its readers with excellent value for money.

Weekly Newspaper of the Year (Paid-For)
Essex Chronicle

The Essex Chronicle says its approach to news is simple – producing quality, grass roots journalism while keeping readers informed of the wider county picture. Every week the paper aims to have exclusives sourced from its reporters’ contacts and legwork alone.

These have included a multi-million pound retail and housing development planned for an industrial site in Chelmsford; and a serious case review started into the activities of a paedophile.

Campaigns in the last year have included Rally Round our Troops, which provided invaluable support to the armed forces; the highly popular Caught on Camera series, publishing CCTV pictures of petty criminals in the area; and, its biggest success, the A12 campaign, which has pushed improvements to the main road into Essex into the national consciousness.

The judges praised the Chronicle’s design and said it made good use of difficult shaped pages. They liked its high story count and strong community news elements as well as its good sports sections. It was singled out for doing a good job at representing a large, diverse area, having a nice, clean style and a good balance between traditional content and enough variety to keep its readers engaged.

Weekly Newspaper of the Year (Free)
Bedfordshire on Sunday

Bedfordshire on Sunday has a reputation for in-your-face, no nonsense content. Hard-hitting, exclusive news stories have been the hallmark of the paper and its reports are regularly followed by the national press and local TV and radio. Last year the paper was redesigned, giving it a contemporary look and feel. It still carries out investigations, sends reporters and photographers to court and attends council meetings to find the story behind the story.

Front page splashes included in the editions submitted with their entry included a story which revealed leaking mustard gas canisters were buried on a site which is planned for housing and the disgust felt when a teenage knife girl was let off with a caution after attacking two women.

The judges praised the title for being a big paper with strong news stories falling deep into its pages and were delighted to see so much news in a free sheet.

Front Page of the Year
Lowestoft Journal

Heartbreak was The Journal’s front page lead when it produced a special 48-page FA Vase supplement on 11 May. The souvenir edition of Lowestoft Town’s 2-1 loss in the Vase Final at Wembley contained photo match reports, analysis and articles linked to the day. The front page summed up the feeling of the fans and the team.

Website of the Year
Pink ‘Un

The PinkUn had more than 77,000 unique visitors in November. The website features news on Norwich City FC, Kings Lynn FC and all the local football in the region, updated throughout the day, every day.

The site has a vibrant message board community and there’s also a free bet feature, where visitors predict match results. Users can receive live text updates for away games, increased local football coverage and take part in games, such as Name That Team.

The Prediction League, now in its fifth year, still attracts hundreds of competitors with visitors guessing who will score for Norwich and when. The judges praised the website for its good level of interaction and its strong relationship with the sports fans it serves.

Feature Writer of the Year
Alice Ryan, Cambridge News

Alice Ryan became a feature writer in 2005, a job she loves because it is so diverse. Her entry included a mother’s story about how alcohol killed her son; a piece on a young woman given a year to live three weeks before her wedding; and a feature on another mother who wanted her disabled son to die with dignity.

The judges praised Alice for doing such a sound job while relatively new to journalism. They said she had used her contacts well and obviously reads the paper to pick up the letters that could become stories for her.

Judges praised her for writing sensitive stories that were easy to read and they were impressed with the way her work flowed and took readers into people’s lives.

Designer of the Year
Jon Elsey, Evening Star

Jon Elsey hoped that his entry showed the broad range of his work, from hard news to promotions or the quirky. His supplement on the Ipswich prostitute murders; a front page and other pages on the 30th anniversary of Ipswich Town’s FA Cup triumph; and 1 April spoof about the landmark Orwell Bridge, certainly proved that.

The judges said they were impressed to see such high quality design work on a regional daily paper and felt Jon displayed a broad range of skills, able to turn his hand to almost anything. His work didn’t just help illustrate a story but, at times, became the story itself.

Columnist of the Year
Stacia Briggs, Norwich Evening News

Stacia Briggs has written a column since 2001 and says that, to her horror, it doesn’t get any easier. The judges loved Stacia’s humour and said all of her columns were very readable and would often make you nod along.

She was summed up as an incredible writer producing national-quality work which was sharp and witty.

News Photographer of the Year
Martin Dalton, Yellow Advertiser

Martin joined the Advertiser in 1997 after a long career as a freelancer. His images went from a serious shot of soldiers on parade to a cheeky trader looking like Norman Wisdom. Martin was praised for including a broad range of work in his entry and a ‘warming’ set of pictures, any of which would grace the front page of many papers.

Sports Journalist of the Year
Chris Lakey, Eastern Daily Press

Chris Lakey has been an EDP sports writer for nearly three years. Covering Norwich City FC takes up most of his time, which was reflected in the articles he submitted. The first was about Glenn Roeder being appointed as manager of City and he also included a match report and a rare one-to-one with boxer Herbie Hide.

Chris was praised for his strong feature writing skills and being head and shoulders above his contemporaries, covering every element of his subject and for producing a match report seen as a template for how such work should be carried out.

Business Journalist of the Year
Sam Williams, Norwich Evening News

Sam joined the Evening News as business reporter in July 2007. His first article on the future of Norwich Union revealed 1,800 job cuts across the UK. He also included an exclusive interview with the head of Lotus, looking at the high cost of doing business in Britain; and an exclusive about plans for a new business park on the outskirts of Norwich.

Sam was praised for his good local business stories, producing work that was easy to read and getting so much business content on the front page of the paper.

Community Campaign of the Year
Cambs Times – Let’s Make a Safer Fenland

Cambs Times was inspired to launch ‘Let’s Make a Safer Fenland’ by the Fenland area of North East Cambridgeshire having one of the worst safety records of any part of the country. In the first ten months of 2008 there were 12 fatal accidents and 14 deaths. The editor met with councillors, the MP, road safety engineers and the education department.

The campaign persuaded the council to spend £30,000 on a new safety scheme, there was an online pledge encouraging motorists to slow down and more than 200 safety hammers were sold to help motorists escape if they went into the notorious Fenland drains that run along many of its roads.

The judges liked the way the paper quickly launched this campaign off the back of a news story and praised its slick execution. It was selected for being an emotive campaign that got the public involved and produced a good result.

Environmental Journalist of the Year
Jon Welch, Eastern Daily Press

Jon’s initial story about 25 square miles of Norfolk being surrendered to the sea contributed to increased daily sales and gave rise to further splashes, page leads and spreads, as well as numerous readers’ letters.

It was followed up by nationals, broadcasters and international media. Jon was praised for the work he put into his stories and submitting a great package of work, full of variety.

Television Journalist of the Year
Alex Dunlop, BBC Look East

For Alex Dunlop, reporting from a war zone for a week was a first for Look East. Alex and a cameraman delivered half a dozen live outside broadcasts, nine films, countless radio two-ways for several BBC local radio stations and website and video blogs for BBC online.

His film of life on the ground in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, one of three very different stories submitted, was described by the panel of judges as on a par with reports delivered on national BBC news and recognised the inhospitable conditions in which the work was produced.

Alex’s work was chosen by the judges for demonstrating a thorough approach to an important story, in what must have been very difficult conditions.

Radio Journalist of the Year
Jon Wright, BBC Radio Suffolk

Jon Wright has had a varied career as a stand-up comedian, care worker and wine retailer, as well as a maths teacher in rural Ghana. This clearly prepared him well for his career as a radio journalist at BBC Radio Suffolk, which he began in 2006 after undertaking a postgraduate diploma in broadcast journalism and a stint in commercial radio.

His piece on Ipswich’s heroin problems was the result of following up the issues highlighted by the Suffolk murders. His material was evocative and a sad reflection of the sign of the times.

He also captured the problems of anti social behaviour by talking to a troublemaker who had many ASBOs and managed the lighter end of the spectrum with the switch-on of the Bury St Edmunds Christmas lights.

Radio News/Current Affairs Programme of the Year
Breakfast with Mark Murphy, BBC Radio Suffolk

Mark Murphy ran a hard-hitting campaign to encourage people not to leave litter across Suffolk. This campaign was well executed, supported by excellent radio reporting from Mark about the not-so-nice
things you might find in a lay-by.

The East Anglian Daily Times newspaper also supported this project with its own reports, giving wider coverage to this campaign. The judges described the programme as taking a creative yet important approach to the issue in its entry.

Television News or Current Affairs Programme of the Year
BBC East – Inside Out

Inside Out aims to blend investigations and exclusives with strong human stories. All of the stories submitted were strong but one really stood out – that of the organisations fraudulently collecting used clothing from our doorsteps, purporting to be for charity.

Not only was the story in itself fascinating, presenter David Whiteley was determined not to let one of the alleged fraudsters off the hook and was persistent in his line of questioning while they tried to get away.