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Austin takes on nationals in Foot award battle

Award-winning investigative reporter Jon Austin is flying the flag for the regional press in the race for this year’s Paul Foot Award.

Jon, of Basildon-based daily The Echo, has been nominated for the top journalism prize for his reports on the Dale Farm evictions.

His reports ensured the Echo led the way in coverage of the evictions with a host of scoops that were followed up by the nationals.

They included revealing the date of the eviction, the ownership of property in Ireland by some of the travellers, and the fact that the council was paying more than half of the occupants it wanted to evict to live there on housing benefits.

The judges citation read:  “The eviction of travellers at Dale Farm by Basildon Council became a national and international story in September 2011.

“The Daily Mail was the first to try to take a jump on the story when it claimed an exclusive splash on the fact that Essex Police had intelligence about anarchists who would be resisting the eviction attempt which could lead to violent scenes.

“This was actually a story that Jon Austin had broken 11 months earlier in the Basildon Echo when he also revealed that police feared it could cost up to £10 million to provide enough officers for the eviction.

“Jon continued to report the issue in a balanced way, giving equal coverage to the travellers’ campaign to stay, including breaking news of claims that the council enforcement notices were not all valid.”

Jon, the five-times winner of the Daily Journalist of the Year category at the EDF Energy East of England Media Awards, is up against competition from some of the industry’s biggest names.

They include Nick Davies of The Guardian who is nominated for his coverage of the phone-hacking scandal.

Jonathan Calvert and Claire Newell of the Sunday Times are shortlisted for exposing corruption at football governing body Fifa while freelancer Katharine Quarmby is nominated for a series of articles on disability hate crime.

Other nominees include David Rose of Mail on Sunday, Zoe Smeaton of Chemist and Druggist Magazine, Jerome Taylor of The Independent and Mark Townsend of The Observer.


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  • February 22, 2012 at 10:18 am

    I had the good fortune to sit on the same table as Jon at an awards ceremony in Leeds three-and-a-half years ago – without having a clue who he was! We won our award, he (despite talking down his chances) won his, and made a cracking emotional acceptance speech. Top man! Good luck Jon!

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  • February 22, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Well done Jon!
    You cannot beat hard-working reporters on the ground and sadly they are few and far between nowadays. While many national bods may have landed in the area for this story and then left it alone Jon has shown what good local reporters can do. They can stay on, look for the stories behind the stories, get to know the community and ultimately break great exclusive stories.
    I don’t know Jon but his inclusion should be a lesson to others on locals that you CAN mix it with the nationals.

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