Raise a glass to Star team

IN A GLITTERING ceremony at The Hilton Hotel, London, last Friday, The Evening Star was named Britain's Evening Newspaper of the Year 2002. Here Editor NIGEL PICKOVER tells what the accolade means to our staff and our readers - and makes a pledge that our newspaper will continue to fight relentlessly for the people of Suffolk.

IN A GLITTERING ceremony at The Hilton Hotel, London, last Friday, The Evening Star was named Britain's Evening Newspaper of the Year 2002. Here Editor NIGEL PICKOVER tells what the accolade means to our staff and our readers - and makes a pledge that our newspaper will continue to fight relentlessly for the people of Suffolk.

FIGHTING a just cause can be a lonely watch.

When every part of your instinct tells you something stinks; when you know that you want to do something to uncover the rot, but you are out there on your own.

We're often out there, on our own, in the investigations and campaigns we mount at the Star.


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We're sometimes the subject of criticism, much of it inspired by those who have something to hide, or from those who believe it is a better world than it actually is.

We're sometimes called terrible names - by those whose knowledge of fairness and decency has been lost in the mists of times gone by.

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But we're always out there for our readers - always prepared to take up their causes.

A powerful, independent, free spirit, in the pocket of no one individual and no one business or organisation.

Sometimes there are vital issues to investigate, other times poignant causes to support.

Our "watch" is, sometimes, a place where you have to live and breathe on knife-edge judgements, taken in a "pressure-cooker" zone, with a clock that ticks relentlessly from one edition to another.

It was just so in the case of our Ambulance Watch campaign, which started in 1996 and continues, on your behalf today, six years on.

Then, my colleagues and I, sniffed out the scandal that was The East Anglian Ambulance Watch.

We rooted it out, we forced a public inquiry, we watched the hard-pressed, ill-at-ease, chief executive crawl slowly towards the exit door.

We pursued our inquiries with relentless vigour. But we were on our own, The Evening Star, fighting for Suffolk, fighting for East Anglia, on our own.

Happily we were able to watch as a new executive swept in - and we are keen, but watchful, supporters of the rapidly-improving Trust in 2002.

We are often on our own in the campaigns and scraps we have on behalf of our readers. In ongoing crusades such as Name and Shame, aimed at seasonal drink drivers, and in our bid to free Felixstowe of seafront perverts, we have been a lone voice. True, Suffolk Police came in with their own campaign - but it was two years after we started naming and photographing the drink drivers.

But there are many other occasions when we have delighted to join readers in a crusade.

When we helped to force then Health Secretary Frank Dobson to lift the axe that hung over the Bartlet Hospital, we did so with a community and campaigners right behind us.

When we helped to save Ipswich market, earlier this year, we did so with the people of Ipswich right behind us.

The alliance between a newspaper and its readers has never been more potent. It is why politicians beetle their way to our door, as did Premier Tony Blair last month.

I had a wry smile on my face then when a reader (who had every right to) roundly criticised us for being too kind to the Prime Minister.

We carried the criticism, as we do with other attacking letters, in our Postbag. It is a painful, but healthy, thing to do. The wry smile was because we had been so hard on Mr Blair over the foot and mouth debacle and again over his spelling gaffe, in a hand-written spin letter on the eve of the Ipswich by-election last November.

Indeed it was our Toony Blair front page which featured in the major national award we have just won.

I was immensely surprised - and honoured when called upon to collect the award from BBC royal correspondent Jenni Bond. It meant a lot.

Top newspaper industry figures had shortlisted huge title titles the Belfast Telegraph, Manchester Evening News and The Bristol Evening Post. They citation read: "The Evening Star was a clear winner in the voting and praised for its great news values and brilliant presentation.

"Its superhuman effort" in getting out an edition immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Centre was singled out.

"It is brimming with confidence, full of passion and doping a great job for its community."

Heady stuff - but it means a lot to our staff who, without doubt, are the darlings of the regional press.

In recent years we have taken more industry honours that any other regional title. Currently we hold the title of Newspaper of the Year for this region, another major honour.

For our staff of writers, photographers, designers, printers colleagues in pre-press, advertising and distribution it is great that they and Ipswich are yet again on the national map - in the Premier League of newspapers across the country.

This gives us the continued power, passion and enthusiasm to go on fighting for our community - when so many groups and individuals are just busy looking after themselves.

Yes, we can be cocky and jaunty sometimes. Yes, we can get things wrong.

But we are, in general, sound in judgement and quick to apologise if we err.

Our pledge is to continue to campaign for our readers. To fight for the weak against the strong - it is the very lifeblood of YOUR Evening Star.

We want to be inclusive of all communities in our patch. We will work hard to meet up to high expectations.

Today we raise a glass to ourselves and to our readers. Please get in touch if you want us to help you, to investigate on your behalf.

Our motto continues to be: Who Cares Wins.

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