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Kelner: phoned proprietor O’Reilly to tell him his investment had paid off

The Independent crowned five months of circulation growth since offering a tabloid version by being named Newspaper of the Year at the Press Gazette British Press Awards.

Jubilant editor Simon Kelner said: “I’m delighted for all the people who have worked at The Independent for a large number of years without any recognition who have been producing a brilliant newspaper. It’s fantastic to get recognition from your peers – it’s not just about format, it’s about content.”

Picking up the prize, he had a dig at The Guardian’s media commentator, saying: “Thank you to Roy Greenslade, who predicted in the week we launched the compact that this was the demise of The Independent.”

Kelner immediately phoned proprietor Sir Anthony O’Reilly to inform him that the multimillion pound investment in The Independent’s tabloid experiment had paid off. He said: “I think he felt as proud as we all did.”

The launch of a compact version has given The Indy its biggest share of the market since April 1996 and Kelner said sales of the tabloid are still rising.

Last Friday’s poster front following the Madrid bomb was reportedly the paper’s biggest tabloid sale yet.

Judges praised a skilful transition, which they said had reinvigorated The Independent and changed the face of British newspapers.

On Thursday The Indy published in tabloid-only format to force the onethird of readers still buying the broadsheet to try the compact.

The second most hotly contested award of the night, for Scoop of the Year, went to a reporter who brought in the story while still a trainee.

The Daily Mirror’s Intruder at the Palace exposé of slack Royal security and the Queen’s penchant for Tupperware also won 26-year-old Ryan Parry the Hugh Cudlipp award for outstanding tabloid journalism.

Mirror editor Piers Morgan said: “The biggest award for any tabloid is Scoop of the Year because we are in the scoop business. The excitement of what he did that day will live with me for years.”

David McGee’s undercover investigation into security failings at Soham murderer Ian Huntley’s prison, also a very close contender in the scoop category, won the prize for Best Front Page.

Editor Andy Coulson expressed concern that McGee was still facing criminal charges over the story. He said: “It was praised by the Home Secretary and prompted a series of changes to the way our prison service is run – yet in the next few months, Dave McGee will find himself up in court.”

Sun veteran John Kay became the first journalist to have won Reporter of the Year twice. His entry included scoops on accusations of war crimes against Colonel Tim Collins and Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea purchase.

The Sunday Telegraph had winners at opposite ends of the age spectrum, with Young Journalist of the Year Elizabeth Day and veteran cartoonist Trog (Wally Fawkes). Editor Dominic Lawson described Day as “probably the most brilliant young talent that most of us have seen in 20 years”.

For full results, see the awards supplement with this issue. More pictures and reaction next week.

By Dominic Ponsford

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