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Panpa Bulletin : September 2006
22 | PANPA BULLETIN September 2006 COVER STORY It's the night of nights for newspapers. The Norske Skog PANPA Newspaper of the Year Awards. And although the Jupi- ter's Gold Coast venue was trans- formed into a 1920's 'speakeasy', there was nothing 'easy' about the feeling in the room. These awards are still a coveted and fiercely competitive event. All up, 35 categories were award- ed (a full list of the winners and judges comments are an insert in this month's Bulletin) and the tension kept rising until the final category 'Newspaper of the Year' was announced. For the second year in a row The Herald Sun took out the top honour. Deputy editor John Trevorrow took to the stage and in an emotional speech credited editor in chief Peter Blunden with "being the best editor I have ever worked with in newspapers." The time seemed obvious for PANPA Bulletin to ask Blunden, not just what had turned The Herald Sun into a winning news- paper but how had they achieved the consistency to make it two in a row? It's true The Herald Sun's en- try looked good and the judges' comments were glowing. "This category attracted the most entries and was the most com- petitive. The Herald Sun owes its award to its high readership appeal and vigorous coverage of its market. Its marketing efforts were outstanding." However, in assessing his win- ning entry Blunden went straight back to basics. "It's just getting the combination right and our con- nectivity with the community. Melbourne is a big events city and we cover big events well. We had the Commonwealth Games this year which helped. We also broke stories. Victoria also had some 'notorious' people like Rex Hunt and Mr.Baldy. There is a lot of hu- manity in this paper, my favourite cover was a full bleed pic of Tyler Fishlock who we called the 'brav- est little boy in Australia'," he said. Connectivity with the readers has also been important with a great deal of attention paid to the letters page. "At the end of the year we pulled together a read- ers' summary to 80 questions -- and we had many thousands of replies from every age group and every demographic and ran it as 'What Victorian's really think' as a double page spread." Blogs have also played a big part in the connectivity drive. "We love to publish feedback and have found we have articulate and innovative readers." When pressed on more formal interac- tion with readers, such as expert panels or research, Blunden says he thinks you can over-research, and prefers to trust the editors' gut feelings on what is important and what readers want from their paper. "You can research all you like but a good editor knows that Steve Irwin is worth 8 -10 pages." This year has also seen The Herald Sun launch a new eight page business section Business Daily. "There is so much more business and industry (happen- ing in Melbourne) and more people are investing in the share market, we felt the new section made the paper more complete. The Herald Sun also worked hard on NIE schemes such as a 14 part wildlife survival series and has distributed such marketing innovations as 'Lion King' DVD's. Blunden has been in the posi- tion 10 years now and calls it "the world's easiest job." "Every day is different and you make literally hundreds of dec- isions on the run. It's an ideas' factory (and) it is important to have people around you can talk to. You need the right team but you also need the best team do- ing the 'right' jobs -- that is, they're good at it and they know what to do. We've got terrific people (but) I don't put people into things that aren't their strong points." Blunden says that the Award comes at a time when newspa- pers are going through the big- gest change the industry has ever seen. "We still put our energy into producing a daily paper but the convergence of printed and elec- tronic media is stretching our imagination every day. We are going into uncharted territory." As for The Herald Sun be- ing named Newspaper of the Year Blunden says that he was delighted. "The PANPA Awards are very important. It's great to be recognised especially when you know there are so many great pa- pers around. We've got two tro- phies on show now in our office and I really need to shout the bar but I do say that the greatest rec- ognition of all is that people buy our paper." In assessing his winning entry Blunden went straight back to basics. "It s just getting the combination right and our connectivity with the community." Herald Sun wins Newspaper of the Year It was the second year in a row The Herald Sun took out the top prize at the Norske Skog PANPA Newspaper of the Year Awards. Lynelle Johnson asked editor in chief Peter Blunden how they did it An excerpt from The Herald Sun s submission
November December 2006