British Press Awards: Times is newspaper of the year

Full list of winners
Photos of all the winners from the night
Live blog: The awards as they happened
Audio: Times editor James Harding on winning newspaper of the year (1:20)
Videos from the night on the British Press Awards website
Axegrinder goes to the British Press Awards

The Times has been crowned newspaper of the year at the 2009 Press Gazette British Press Awards.

The judges said new editor James Harding had “miraculously transformed” the title in its recent redesign.

“The redesign has been a great success and put right the issues left unresolved by the move to compact form,” one judge said.

Another added: “The Times has impressively raised the depth and quality of its reporting, especially its international coverage, while retaining a highbrow populist approach.”

Times editor James Harding told Press Gazette: “We get up tomorrow and get to do it all again, and it does feel like we’ve got a lot of work to do at a very challenging time in the economy,

“We have a hugely complex set of challenges facing us an industry, but if you’re sat here this evening and seen all these people win outstanding awards for outstanding journalism you have to believe there’s a great place for us.”

The Times won two other awards at the ceremony in London’s Grosvenor House Hotel last night – campaign of the year and sports journalist of the year.

It was awarded campaign of the year for its family courts campaign, led by Camilla Cavendish.

Cavendish told Press Gazette: “We realised there were children being taken away from their parents and taken into care for the wrong reasons.

“There was a system of expert witnesses and secret courts in which there was no accountability and where we weren’t able to interview them or report the stories.

“What we did at the Times was try to unravel some of those injustices and the fact that there all these things were going on behind closed doors.”

The Times’s Matthew Syed won sports journalist of the year.

He told Press Gazette: “It’s funny in sport – one develops self-esteem as they get to the top. There’s a very objective way of measuring that.

“In journalism it’s easy to get insecure. Some recognition is something that I’m very grateful for.”

Big winners

The Guardian and the Mail on Sunday each took home four awards.

For the second year running, website of the year went to Guardian.co.uk – described as “the big daddy of newspaper websites”.

The site’s London blogger Dave Hill was named digital journalist of the year.

Columnist of the year went to the Guardian’s “entertaining and wonderfully surreal” Charlie Brooker, and Decca Aitkenhead was awarded interviewer of the year.

The Mail on Sunday’s coverage of the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand controversy won scoop of the year. The judges said it “dominated the news agenda for weeks”.

Tom Harper from the Mail on Sunday was named young journalist of the year and the paper’s You magazine won supplement of the year.

The paper’s Christopher Leake won reporter of the year. He told Press Gazette: “The Mail on Sunday has been a great experience for me. We do news, and that is the main thing.”

MoS political editor Simon Walters added: “He is an object lesson to every aspiring journalist. He gets out there, does his research, takes people out for lunch, makes contacts. He gets it done.”

‘Best wordsmith in journalism’

Mail on Sunday sister title the Daily Mail left with three awards. Political journalist of the year went to Quentin Letts – “the best wordsmith in British journalism”.

Letts dedicated his award to House of Commons speaker Michael Martin. “He’s the sketch writer’s muse. He’s absolutely useless at his job and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.

The Mail’s Stephen Wright won specialist journalist and the year and his work with Richard Pendlebury on the New Scotland Yard “race war” story was awarded this year’s Cudlipp Award.

Wright told Press Gazette: “I believe in old fashioned values – and being as honest and open as possible.

“I’m very fortunate to have a newsdesk and a paper that still belives in journalists and journmalism and which gives me the freedom to do the stories I want to do.

“I’m not shackled to a desk waiting for the phone to ring and I’m very grateful for that.”

The prize of journalist of the year went to Gillian Tett from the Financial Times. The judges said she was “consistently in front of the curve as the world’s economy went into meltdown, with clear sharply written stories”.

Accepting the award, she said: “I’m really stunned and thrilled to have won. It’s been a good time to be an anorak, covering the finer details of how the financial system works.”

Showbiz writer of the year, James Desborough from the News of the World, was recognised for stories about Fern Britten’s gastric band, Peaches Geldof’s divorce and Heather McCartney which were all published in the face of strong official denials.

He told Press Gazette: “A lot of deals are done these days between PRs and papers – but these stories were all old-fashioned journalism where we said: ‘We know this to be true, would you like to comment?”

He added: “It’s a very difficult time for the whole tabloid market – but we are a big team at the News of the World, we really get on like a house on fire and I hope that comes across in the paper.”

The awards were presented by Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, with a special guest appearance from Liberal Democrat deputy leader Vince Cable and a musical performance from Britain’s Got Talent contestants Escala.

Some 540 entries were received for this year’s event – the same as last year – and all the national newspaper groups took part.

The entries were reviewed by 88 judges drawn from senior independent figures from the world of journalism, regional press editors and two nominees from each newspaper title.

Pictured above: Times editor James Harding is flanked by Jon Snow and Vince Cable as he picks up the award for newspaper of the year. Credit: JB Young

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