Best wishes from your caring Star

A VERY Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to Evening Star readers everywhere.Our best wishes go out to our wonderful readers and advertisers who read the newspaper in Suffolk - and to the thousands who read this website.

A VERY Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to Evening Star readers everywhere.

Our best wishes go out to our wonderful readers and advertisers who read the newspaper in Suffolk - and to the thousands who read our online publication, in this country and other parts of the world.

Now the holiday period is with us, it is vitally important to share special moments with friends and relatives - and to think of others if they are living on their own. In a world of frantic pace, we hope readers can find the time for togetherness, relaxtion and enjoyment.

If 2002 is anything to go by, most people will need to store up strength for the busy months ahead.

It has been a phenomenal year for The Evening Star - a hectic 12 months when we pursued our readers' interests with vigour - and when the newspaper industry continued to look at what we have been doing for our community.

As we entered our 118th year, we showed a sprightly step for our age.

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Looking back to spring and summer, your Star made history on the British regional newspaper scene.

We were shortlisted for each and every award available for regional dailies, a feat that has never been performed before.

When the shortlisiting turned into to award ceremonies, we stormed to THREE major victories. We became:

Regional Newspaper of the Year (South and South East)

Regional Website of the year (South and South East)

Evening Newspaper of the Year - Press Gazette national awards.

The Evening Newspaper of the Year title was particularly pleasing in that, from our Suffolk base, we smashed all the big Metro titles. These included London, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast. What a victory for everyone associated with The Evening Star.

While all of this was going on we were, with print colleagues, in preparation for the installation of our new £1.5 million press, bought from Goss to double the number of colour pages available in our product.

It was with great honour that we managed to organise a "virtual" inauguration of the Lower Brook Street facility, by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, when she visited Ipswich in July.

The Queen's visit, planned in the dark days of winter when organisers feared low turn-outs, was a triumph and we were proud to play our part in turning out the crowds. The new unit is now installed and we hope to enjoy the full benefits of it in 2003.

Another great day came when The Star held The Ipswich and Sufolk Press Ball, in aid of the dedicated volunteers at Disabilty Care Entreprise. Our evening smashed all previous records, and raised more than £40,000 for special children.

As this year comes to an end we are, with some special friends, again on the campaign trail, raising cash for the volunteer doctors of the Suffolk Accident Rescue Service, or SARS as they are known.

You'll be pleased to know, that with ongoing help from the Ipswich and Norwich Co-op, a company with a long and proud histroy in our area, we have started well in the quest to raise £20,000 for vital communications equipment.

During 2002, we have continued to tackle the issues of drugs and drink-driving.

Our Name and Shame campaign against drivers who drink is now in full swing. We make no apologies for targetting, via pictures and words, those who risk the lives of our readers. To those who take the gamble, we'll see you at court.

This year we've again taken on the drug dealers. The year has seen a huge increase in crack cocaine usage, something that is worrying police chiefs in our county. The extra dimension this year has been the arrival of gangs from London, who are not afraid to use firearms to make their money. Our revelations in this arena will continue.

The Evening Star this year continued to take on the thugs who blight our communities - and has won a series of court battles to name yobs who are, seemingly, above the law. With their pictures in our newspaper, at least you'll know what the culprits look like, if they you active in your area.

Our pledge is to continue a battle to ensure decent people can go about their lives without the interference of thugs and vandals.

Early in the year, the Star took the lead in saving Ipswich market. It could not survive in its "temporary" home outside Civic Centre - a "temporary" home for 18 years where the number of stalls had dwindled to a fraction of its former number.

Public pressure, focussed by the Star, led to a council climbdown - and now it is going from strength to strength at its new home on the Cornhill.

The first storms of autumn brough chaos to our power supplies - and The Evening Star immediately raised the issue of 24seven and appalling service to Suffolk customers.

Our revelations helped to prompt at least two inquiries - and changes are now underway which should prevent a repeat of the fiasco which, bluntly, badly let down the people of Suffolk. We'll be watching to see if 24seven (which we know, has some wonderful people working for it) can even approach its pleadge of delivering "world class utility services" in 2003.

As the autumn progressed we launched an important marketing campaign aimed at promoting our colourful new Evening Star.This co-incided with the arrival of The Ticket, our Tuesday look at the world of entertainment and listings.

Many peoople have warmed to The Ticket, which will expand in 2003. On top of that we'll be introducing new content, new columns and some brand new ideas, so watch out!

At the turn of the year we've finally had some very good news from the Ipswich Waterfront as a developer has been chosen to take on the largest single project there so far - the regeneration of Cranfields Mill.

And 2003 should see new flats taking shape around the Waterfront area - this has been the roughcut diamond in Ipswich's crown for too long. Let's hope these developments will really signal the start of a total transformation.

During the year we've continued to watch the workings of The Esat Anglain Ambulance Trust. This newspaper forced a public inquiry into failings in the trust and it is our dutybound to monitor performance, especially now that a new management structure swept in successful reforms.

Meanwhile, we've been on alert for the comings and goings at Ipswich Hospital, where a marvellous, committed, bunch of workers are to be found. There's another new management team in place here as well - and we want to help and encourage improving services for our readers. Bed-blocking and the deadly MRSA bug are just two of the huge issues to be tackled.

During the year our community has lost some great friends and public servants.

Our Christmas preayers go out to the family of Felixstopwe's Ian Hook, who lost his life fighting for others in a refugee camp. We salute you, Ian Hook.

As we lost great people, former county council stalwart Ron Sudds amongst them, we also lost a great institution, the Tolly Cobbold brewery in Cliff Quay. What a sadness for our county town of Ipswich, now that a brewing tradition which spanned four centuries has been lost.

Of course, we lost the Premiership status of our football team, ITFC.

Tis newspaper supports its team like no other - we have thousands of examples of coverage that clubs up and down the land can only dream of.

But we will not flinch in asking questions about the Portman Road state of affairs as we turn the year.

It was this newspaper that asked the hard questions - and ran a compelling series detailing the Super Blues fall from Premiership grace - and the subsequent cash crisis that arrived in failure's wake.

Like many of you, we'll be watching (Sky Sports 6.00pm Thursday) and praying for a Boxing Day win against Leicester City.

Of course, we'll be watching, anxiously, to see if there will be any star player departures in January. But we'll still have all fingers and toes crossed - praying for a play-off spot in May.

But, on your behalf, we'll be asking questioins of charismatic chairman David Sheepshanks and his team, not just towing the party line - even if it does lead to our reporters being thrown out of press conferences!

Moving to the world of "press-office speak" - spin in short. Tow examples come to mind.

Back to the world of 24seven.

In the immediate aftermath of the gales, the company was quick to tell us that 579,000 people had swamped their helpline, which then collapsed. But we asked a different question; how many people talked to an operator?

That figure was 7,000 people, or 1.2 per cent.

Furthermore, we showed you how the Star had got on the wrong side of 10 Downing Street's spin machine a year before Cheriegate hit the headlines. We asked about Premier Tony Blair's spelling gaffe in a pre-Ipswich by-election letter. It was denied for two days - and the Prime Minister confirmed it himself in a speech.

The facts and figures we uncover, therefore, allow to make your own judgments, about press offices, power companies, or football teams. They help you to know about about drivers who drink, about drug dealers, about thugs and criminals.

We pledge to continue to bring you the news, views, comment and analysis that matters.

Gook luck and good forture to you all and a peacfeul and relaxing season of good will.

PS: Come on you Blues!

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