PETER BARRON, the editor of The Northern Echo, today won a prestigious national award for outstanding services to journalism.

The Northern Echo also picked up two "highly commendeds" at the Society of Editors' Regional Press Awards in London, one for photographer Stuart Boulton's portfolio of pictures and the other for the double front page which reported the two sides of feelings on the day of Baroness Thatcher's funeral.

The Northern Echo:

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The Northern Echo's double sided front page on the day after Baroness Thatcher's funeral

Mr Barron's award comes hard on the heels of the MBE he received in the New Year's Honours for services to journalism and community life. It is an acknowledgement of the strength of the Echo's campaigning during his 15 years as editor, of the paper's pivotal role in the North-East, and of his work on bodies such as the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

He said: "This has come completely out of the blue. I am very proud of being able to say that I am editor of The Northern Echo, and I am very proud of this award.

"It is an important reminder of how important local newspapers are, and how much of a difference they make, to their communities."