The Ballarat Courier has claimed the coveted Rural Press Club of Victoria Media Outlet of the Year title, beating off finalists The Warrnambool Standard, The Border Morning Mail and The Hamilton Spectator.

The Courier, long the provider of news and information to the Ballarat region, had taken its coverage to new levels with its on-line and digital presence, said judging panel co-chairman Gareth Boreham.

“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 paper is leading the way with new technologies. Reporters and photographers file using Iphones and Ipads and are constantly learning new skills to update content as it happens.”

The Geelong Advertiser’s Danny Lannen was awarded Journalist of the Year for his folio of 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.

The Hamilton Spectator’s Dean Koopman, having only returned to photography six months ago after a decade-long absence, was named RPCV Photographer of the Year.

“Dean’s images tell their stories powerfully – the epitome of good news photography,” said photography judge and former News Ltd picture editor, Vince Calati.

Ray Frawley Young Journalist of the Year, The Weekly Times’ Alex Sampson, edged out her competition for a tenacity that “could not be taught” said her editor and RPCV president Ed Gannon.

The other winners were Kim Quinlin, The Ballarat Courier (Best Feature Story); Tammy Mills, The Border Morning Mail (Best Regional News Story); Emma Field, The Weekly Times (Best Rural News Story); Tim Lee, Ron Ekkel, James Fisher and Corina Scott, Landline (Best Agriculture Story); Mark Bogue, The Weekly Times (Best Production), Dean Koopman, The Hamilton Spectator (Best News Photograph) and Rob Gunstone, The Warrnambool Standard (Best General Interest Photograph).     

The RPCV Journalism and Photography awards recognise and celebrate excellence in agricultural and rural journalism and photography, in both the print and electronic media.

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, said Mr Gannon.

Keynote speaker, Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, congratulated attendees at Friday’s night’s event in Melbourne for their dedication to their communities.

“The greatest thing we could do for people who are new to the state, new to country Victoria, is give them a 12 month-subscription to their local paper. Nothing helps someone new to a community understand better how that community works,” said Dr Napthine.