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Seven up for Austin as Essex daily triumphs

The Basildon Echo emerged as the big winner at today’s EDF Energy East of England Media Awards after being named the region’s Daily Newspaper of the Year.

The Newsquest-owned title – described by judges as “page after page of page-turning news” – triumphed over the Eastern Daily Press and the Ipswich Star to scoop the top prize at this afternoon’s ceremony in Newmarket.

In addition to its Newspaper of the Year win, there were two more awards for the Echo’s acclaimed political and investigative reporter Jon Austin.

Jon made it an incredible seven wins in a row in the Daily Print Journalist category and also added the newly-created Specialist Journalist of the Year prize to his haul.

His scoops including lifting the lid on a holiday scam, going undercover to expose the dodgy dealings of an accountant, and a series of investigations into police failings, possible corruption and suspected use of informants.

“A holiday scam, a rogue accountant and police failings all get the ‘Austin treatment’ resulting in page after page of exclusives and follow up reports,” said the judges.

All the winners with their awards at the end of the ceremony. Picture by James Fletcher.

Echo editor Martin McNeill put the paper’s victory down to the quality of its news reporting team.

“What a team we’ve got.  The fact that we had four reporters from the Basildon newsroom shortlisted shows it’s a great news team,” he told HTFP.

Of Jon Austin he said:  “Jon is a complete one-off.  I’ve never worked with such a determined digger.  He will just keep going until he gets to the bottom of a story.”

With typical modesty, Jon played down his latest win saying: “I was up against my own colleagues so I would have been happy for one of them to get it, but it’s still a real honour to get it again.”

Other multi-award winners included James Drummond of the Essex Chronicle, who won both the Weekly Print Journalist and Newcomer of the Year prizes, and Archant Norfolk which won six prizes in all.

They included two wins for the Norwich Evening News with Front Page of the Year for its coverage of the death of former Norwich City manager John Bond, and Community Campaign of the Year for ‘A Friend in Need,’ designed to encourage readers to look out for vulnerable people in their neighbourhoods.

There were also two awards for the Cambridge News, with Emma Higginbotham named Feature Writer of the Year and Paul Kirkley triumphing in the Columnist of the Year category.

The Free Newspaper of the Year prize went to Bedford Midweek, which only launched last May.  Its former group editor Chris Gill received a special mention at today’s ceremony on his last day as editor of the Herald and Post series in Northamptonshire.

The awards, held in association with HoldtheFrontPage, are now in their eighth year in the region. All the winners received a £100 cheque, certificate and trophy.

The  judging panel comprised Ian Murray, editor, and Gordon Sutter, assistant editor at the Southern Daily Echo, Mark Carter, programme editor at BBC Sussex and Surrey, Adrian Seal, editor of Trinity Mirror Southern, Nigel Bowles, director of John Connors Press Associates, Ian Carter, editorial director of the KM Group, Glenn Ebrey, editor of the Croydon Advertiser, Dan Pritchard, EDF Energy’s regional media manager, and HoldtheFrontPage publisher Paul Linford.

The full list of winners was as follows:

Newcomer of the Year –  James Drummond, Essex Chronicle

Digital Journalist of the Year – Michael Bailey, Archant Norfolk

Specialist Journalist of the Year – Jon Austin, Basildon Echo

News Photographer of the Year – Denise Bradley, Archant Norfolk

Sports Journalist of the Year – Dave Gooderham, East Anglian Daily Times/ Ipswich Star

Feature Writer of the Year – Emma Higginbotham, Cambridge News

Columnist of the Year – Paul Kirkley, Cambridge News

Designer of the Year – Annette Hudson, Archant Norfolk

Radio Journalist of the Year – James Melley, BBC Essex

Television Journalist – Kate Prout, ITV Anglia

Weekly Print Journalist of the Year – James Drummond, Essex Chronicle

Daily Print Journalist of the Year – Jon Austin, Basildon Echo

Website of the Year  –

Community Campaign of the Year – A Friend in Need, Norwich Evening News

Front Page of the Year – Farewell to a City Legend, Norwich Evening News

Radio News/Current Affairs Programme of the Year – The Dave Monk Show    BBC Essex

Television News/Current Affairs Programme of the Year – ITV Anglia

Weekly Newspaper of the Year (Free) – Bedford Midweek

Weekly Newspaper of the Year (Paid-for)Brentwood Gazette

Daily Newspaper of the Year – Basildon Echo