MURRAY Valley Standard journalist Peri Strathearn says he was surprised and humbled to be named the State's best rural or regional journalist at this year's SA Media Awards onSaturday.
The award recognised three stories he had submitted to the judging panel, including one published in The Standard: "Ratepayer rebellion", about the public resistance to Coorong council's proposed office at Tailem Bend.
He had also nominated two stories from The Recorder, the Port Pirie newspaper for which he wrote until he moved to Murray Bridge last February: "Last dance at Napperby", about the end of a New Year's tradition in a tiny Mid North town, and "Newcastle's fate questioned", which investigated the covering-up of advice against the demolition of an historic hotel.
"It was a surprise, but a welcome one," he said of the win.
"I'd like to dedicate it to all the hard-working country journalists out there.
"Though we sometimes have scant resources and huge distances to cover, we have the luxury of the time to get to know our communities, become part of them and get things right, and that's something I wouldn't trade for anything."
He attributed his success to God - "though it's unfashionable to do so" - his wife Keren and the teams at the two newspapers.
In their comments, the award's judges said those debating the future of the media often overlooked rural and regional journalism's continuing importance.
"The 2013 entries are notable for a focus on the news value of the stories to communities, and for the high standard of journalism exhibited," they said.
"In a competitive field of contenders the winning entry stood out with excellent writing, balanced reporting and a clear demonstration of a willingness to probe for information beyond the obvious."
Mr Strathearn received a glass trophy and certificate at a ceremony at the National Wine Centre on Saturday night.
Anthony Caggiano, of The Times, The Standard's sister paper at Victor Harbor, was a finalist for the award, while photographer Sean McGowan of The Islander was highly commended for his sports photography.