Richard Girling of the Sunday Times Magazine has been named journalist of the year at the inaugural Press Gazette Environmental Press Awards.
Entries were invited from broadcasters, online publications and from across across regional and national newspapers as well as the magazine industry.
Just four winners – and one highly commended finalist – were selected by the judges.
The awards held yesterday at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and were sponsored by car-maker Peugeot which used the event to highlight the fact that it is involved in a project to capture two million tonnes of CO2 by planting an area of rainforest and to tout the environmental credentials of its more fuel efficient cars.
Girling was praised for his portfolio of features investigating the Government’s ‘ecotown”proposals, looking at the true environmental cost of the bio-fuels and asking whether environmental lessons have been learned from the Great Storm of 1987.
One of the judges said of his work: “He argues complex issues with clarity, an unassailable knowledge of his subject, intelligence, and humour, offering all sides of the debate without preaching.
“His writing style is captivating, keeping even the most hardened eco-sceptic turning the pages through more than 2,000 words.”
Because this category was a particularly close call, the judges decided to give a highly commended certificate to Fiona Harvey of the Financial Times.
Story of the year went to The Independent’s Johann Hari for The Cruel Sea, his investigation into the possible effects of climate change on Bangladesh.
The judges said: “It may not be an exclusive saying that Bangladesh is going to flood but what he did was really put flesh on the bones of that story – everyone knows it but no one cares.
“There can be a prejudice against stories about the Third World and it was great to see so much space devoted to this story.”
The prize for campaign of the year went to Ban the Bags by the Daily Mail, which has succeeded in persuading many retailers to stop giving away free plastic bags.
The judges said: “This campaign was executed brilliantly, the editor got behind and they were brave enough to put it on the front page consistently. The objectives were simple and achievable.”
The Judges’ Prize for the publisher or broadcaster which has done most across the board to cover environmental issues went to the Evening Chronicle for its year-long series of Go Green initiatives.
The judges said: “Many local newspapers embarked on similar projects but the Chronicle stood out for the breadth of its coverage and the way its green initiatives and events involved journalists across the paper, the readers and other media for a year.
The awards were judged by BBC Newsnight’s Justin Rowlatt, former Gloucestershire Echo editor Anita Syvret, Co-op Environment manager Chris Shearlock, Greenpeace communications director Ben Stewart and Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford.
Journalist of the year (£1,000 cash prize)
Winner: Richard Girling, Sunday Times Magazine
Highly commended: Fiona Harvey, Financial Times
Story of the year
Johann Hari, The Independent: “The Cruel Sea”
Campaign of the year
Daily Mail – ‘Ban the Bags”
Evening Chronicle, Newcastle