Humphrys takes Sony journalism award

The veteran Radio 4 broadcaster, John Humphrys, has won news journalist of the year at this year's Sony Radio Academy Awards.

Humphrys, who this year marks his 20th anniversary on the station's flagship morning news programme, Today, beat BBC colleagues Mike Thomson, Peter Allen from FiveLive, and Shari Vahl from BBC Manchester to the gold award.

The only commercial radio station to be shortlisted for the news journalist award was the news team at Emap's local radio stations in Manchester, Key 103 and Magic 1152.

Accepting the award, Humphrys paid tribute to the correspondents who he felt should have been nominated for the award, including the missing BBC Gaza correspondent, Alan Johnston.

"To be perfectly honest, I shouldn't have had this award," he said.

"I did a perfectly competent job when I did that stuff in Iraq and all the rest of it. But I went there for a bloody week and I went there with an absolutely first-rate team including two producers who nearly got blown to bits.

"All those other people are doing what I did for one week, day after day, week after week. And frankly, if we weren't so obsessed with personalities and celebrities, they're the people who should have had the award."

Speaking backstage at last night's awards, which fell on the 50th night that Johnston had been missing, the BBC's head of radio news, Helen Boaden said Johnston's disappearance was unlike any other kidnap in Gaza.

She said: "In the past, with the kidnaps that have happened in Gaza, the people have been reasonably well treated — some better than others. But this kidnap is unlike anything that's happened in Gaza before, in the sense that it's gone on.

Boaden said that this Thursday, on World Press Freedom Day, an image of the Gaza correspondent would be projected onto the side of the BBC's Television Centre in west London.

Boaden added: "We had a huge scare eight days ago when a press release was put out saying Alan had been killed. But since then we've had absolutely no evidence that is the case. We have no proof of life, but we have no proof of death either.

"There's a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes. People have been working so hard on this from day one. It's frustrating that nothing has come of it so far, but we continue to hope.

Boaden said Johnston had been "incredibly well trained in dealing with hostile environments" and she maintained that the BBC would not give up on reporting from difficult places as a result of Johnston's disappearance.

Radio 4's Today programme picked up the award for best breakfast show at last night's ceremony, with BBC London's coverage of the London tornado winning the gong for best breaking news coverage.

The FiveLive breakfast show, presented by Nicky Campbell and Sheelagh Fogarty, was awarded news/current affairs programme of the year.

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