The Ballarat Courier was named Media Outlet of the Year at the Rural Press Club of Victoria 2013 awards, with editor Andrew Eales attributing the win to the paper’s commitment to its readership.
“It’s a really significant achievement for our newsroom and some recognition of the interesting work that has occurred in the last 12 months,” he said.
Mr Eales believes that his newsrooms commitment to furthering digital journalism helped lift the profile of The Courier and the community of Ballarat.
“We’ve invested significantly in digital journalism. We have iPads that journalists and photographers can use so that they can deliver content from the field, without having to come back to the office. We’ve also invested in video and training so that we have a platform of skills across the newsroom instead of it lying in the hands of a couple of people.
“Our general readership has been really positive of our online coverage – our online numbers have increased. Our traffic has doubled in the last 18 months, with our website getting around 3 million hits per month.”
The Courier was up against some stiff competition and Mr Eales credits his competitors for continuing to champion great rural journalism.
“We think that regional journalism is really strong at the moment, despite all the changes in our industry. What makes a great newspaper and media business is the engagement with your community. It’s also about breaking as much news as possible, but as a paper you still need to maintain the link with the community that you serve,” Mr Eales said.
“From our perspective, a lot that has been done here has been driven by the community. Our newsroom has really taken what our readership wants on board and run with it especially in last 12 months. Even in the changing environment you can still be really relevant and critical to the community.”
Rural Press Club of Victoria judging panel co-ordinator Gareth Boreham said The Courier had taken its coverage to new levels with its online and digital presence.
“Through its multi-media platforms, the paper has broken significant national stories such as the NBN roll-out asbestos scare, as well as providing comprehensive reporting on health issues and the summer bushfires that wreaked so much havoc,” Mr Boreham said.
The prestigious Journalist of the Year award went to The Geelong Advertiser’s Danny Lannen. Judges said Mr Lannen stood out from the crowd due to his handling of prominent news and feature stories involving deeply personal accounts on issues ranging from refugee policy and forced adoptions to the impact of suicide on a prominent member of the Geelong community.
“All were handled with appropriate sensitivity and empathy, free of sensationalism, making Danny the standout,” said Mr Boreham.
This year’s competition attracted a record 365 entries, proving excellence in journalism is alive and well in the bush despite ongoing challenges in the media environment, he said.
Other winners were:
- Journalist of the Year : Danny Lannen, The Geelong Advertiser
- Photographer of the Year: Dean Koopman, The Hamilton Spectator
- Best Feature Story: Kim Quinlin, The Ballarat Courier
- Best Regional News Story : Tammy Mills, The Border Morning Mail
- Best Rural News Story : Emma Field, The Weekly Times
- Best Agriculture Story : Tim Lee, Ron Ekkel, James Fisher and Corina Scott, Landline
- Best Production : Mark Bogue, The Weekly Times
- Best News Photograph: Dean Koopman, The Hamilton Spectator
- Best General Interest Photograph: Rob Gunstone, The Warrnambool Standard