THE South Gippsland Sentinel-Times came away from the annual awards event for the Victorian Country Press Association last Friday night as the major winner.
Not only did the newspaper’s staff claim the top award on the night, the overall Media Super Journalism award for newspapers with a circulation of 6000-plus but the Sentinel-Times also took out the APS Local Reporting award and a ‘commended’ in the Norske Skog ‘Best Use of Colour’ award.
It was the newspaper’s most successful night at the annual awards.
Other local newspapers also fared well with the Yarram Standard winning the Local Reporting award for papers with a circulation under 2000 and the Great Southern Star came second in the Journalism award (2000-6000 circulation). The Yarram paper also received a ‘commended’ award in the Journalism section.
The judges were effusive in their praise of the standard achieved by the Sentinel-Times in the past year:
“The pages of this paper are just packed with important community campaigns and a consistently high standard of news coverage which is down to a strong reporting team led by reporters like Danika Dent. All that matters to this community is covered; be it health, education, environment, transport, housing and good government. This paper is a prime example of community journalism at its best with journalists working together as community observers, guardians and champions.
“Particularly outstanding is the paper’s campaign around the impact of the ice epidemic on the local community and the shocking, in-the-real-sense-of-the-word, front page “System failure – how changes in government policy have cruelled the response to ice” was probably the outstanding front from this year’s entrants.”
Senior Lecturer at RMIT, Dr Mandy Oakham, the judge of the ‘Journalism’ section, also praised the comment pieces by the Sentinel-Times’ editor Nathan Johnston and Michael Giles as being “authoritative and commanding calls for action on important issues to the community such as cuts to youth services, the ice epidemic and the welfare of volunteer fire fighters”.
Dr Oakham also acknowledged that the “two-way flow between this paper and the audience is constant”, not only via response to the “Letters to the Editor” pages but also in ‘Voice of the People’ and increasingly online.
Judge of the ‘Local Reporting’ section, Patrick Elligett, said the top two articles or series of articles entered for this award were both submitted by the Sentinel-Times.
They featured the newspaper’s coverage of the shocking assault on two South Gippsland Shire Council staff members in May last year and the subsequent trial, also the on-going campaign against ice.
He said the paper’s “chronicling of the attempted murder of two local men represents crime reporting at its finest”.
“The Sentinel-Times is delighted to have been acknowledged by its peers at the industry’s annual awards night and thanks all staff members involved in production, advertising, journalism and administration, including former Sentinel journalists Danika Dent and Gavin Ross, for their contributions,” said managing director, Michael Giles.
“While there’s a dangerous corner on a local highway, a shire council that’s paying lip-service to the needs of its community, a court system that’s clogged with domestic violence, and local hospitals, police and schools that are poorly resourced; there’ll be a role for the local newspaper.
“And, at the end of the day, it’s the local businesses which advertise in the Sentinel-Times that provide this vital service… another good reason to shop locally.”
The South Gippsland Sentinel-Times claimed these top awards against more impressively resourced newspapers including the Pakenham Gazette, Geelong Independent and Bendigo Weekly.