PHOTO: Liam Mulhall, Lee O’Connor (Editor), Angie O’Connor and Maddison Pawley did not come away empty handed from the 2023 Country Press Association NSW conference and awards dinner held in Sydney last Friday.
Regional newspaper publishers gathered in Sydney last week for the Country Press NSW conference and their 123rd awards ceremony with the Coonamble Times team picking up the prize for Best Digital Innovation and starring in three other categories.
Four members of the Coonamble Times team made the trip for the 12 and 13 October event. While they were away, the newspaper was left in the capable hands of former editor Lisa Wheeler and administration assistant Annabel Barrett.
Cadet Journalist Liam Mulhall was recognised with a Highly Commended in the Best Young Journalist category, behind Blake Jarrett from The Courier in Narrabri (Runner Up) and Emily Middleton from the Gilgandra Weekly (winner).
Maddison Pawley claimed an award for the team as Runner Up in the Best Sports Photograph with a shot of Sam Turnbull and Imogen Pawley in a leaguetag game against Narromine in April.
The Coonamble Times was also recognised with a Highly Commended in the most prestigious Best Paid Newspaper category behind the Gunnedah Times (Runner Up) and The Courier in Narrabri (Winner).
Managing Editor Lee O’Connor said that the team were very excited – and surprised – to receive a major award among such a strong field of contenders.
“The Coonamble Times is one of the smaller independent newspapers and we don’t have the resources of the bigger publications, but we are blessed with enormous support from our local community and an amazing level of investment from all our staff.”
“In terms of Digital Innovation, this extends to a further team of people who work on our Western Plains App but I want to give special mention to Alan Dodd, who literally keeps our very tech-based business working behind the scenes, our website designer Andrew Drane who has been with us since 2017 and is currently re-designing our website, and design guru Angie O’Connor who manages our Google Showcase as well as making both the Coonamble Times and the Western Plains App look their best.”
This year’s awards were adjudicated by a panel of industry experts drawn from three states, and chaired by Country Press NSW Life Member Barry Wilson.
Special guests at the gala event, sponsored by Google, included the Minister for Regional NSW, Agriculture, and Western NSW, The Hon Tara Moriarty MLC.
Also attending were NSW Nationals Leader Dugald Saunders MP, Shadow Ministers Sam Farraway MLC, and Gurmesh Singh MP, joined by key rural stakeholders, NSW Farmers Association and Country Women’s Association.
Country Press NSW President Lucie Peart said the 2023 awards were strongly supported by country independent mastheads, which reflected a growing confidence in the industry and a determination to continue coming back to financial health after the economic decimation caused by COVID-19.
She said the organisation has achieved a 25 per cent increase in membership during this year, as more mastheads join Country Press NSW in order to continue presenting a unified regional newspaper industry to State and Federal Governments, and local councils.
Ms Peart urged the NSW Government not to forget the vital role that public interest advertising, in print, plays in the long-term future of country newspapers.