Our writer takes out top News Award

THE Australian's Tony Koch was last night awarded the major prize at the 4th annual News Awards, capping off an evening of success for the newspaper in a number of categories.
Koch was awarded the Sir Keith Murdoch Award for Excellence in Journalism for his series of investigative articles that exposed the failures of the justice system in remote Aboriginal communities and prompted a national outcry.
His revelations that a number of men and youths, some from influential families in the Aurukun community on Cape York in Queensland, were not jailed for the rape of a 10-year-old Aboriginal girl, even though they pleaded guilty, resulted in a state government investigation and a number of prison sentences being handed down.
Koch beat the News Limited group's London correspondent, Charles Miranda, to the $15,000 award, accepting the prize at a black-tie event in Sydney attended by 250 guests, including News Corporation chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch.
The Australian's award-winning cartoonist Bill Leak, who recently came out of an induced coma after falling from a balcony last month, was named artist of the year for the first time.
Leak's son Johannes, 27, accepted the award.
``On behalf of my family and I, I'd like to extend my heartfelt thanks to those at The Australian who have helped ... so much during this difficult and worrying time,'' Mr Leak said.
``The driving forces getting him through this ordeal and out of the hospital bed are his love for his job and his mates at The Australian and I can assure you he'll be back in his chair in front of his desk as soon as he gets the all clear.''
Cameron Stewart was named Business Journalist of the Year for his articles on price-fixing allegations surrounding billionaire cardboard magnate Richard Pratt, becoming the third of the paper's writers to win the award in as many years.
Having won the features category last year, he also became the only person to have been a winner or finalist every year since the inception of the News Awards, which recognise excellence among News Limited titles throughout Australia.
The Sunday Times in Perth was named Newspaper of the Year for its transformation from a weekly newspaper into a growing round-the-clock masthead with the integration of its newspaper with its website PerthNow.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Murdoch congratulated the winners and finalists on their work.
``I'm always impressed by the energy, enthusiasm, skill and talent we have in Australia,'' he said. ``The passion we all share for what we do is deservedly celebrated on a night like this.''
Mr Murdoch said News remained ``in great shape to ride through this downturn and come out the other side stronger than ever. And a big factor in that will be the quality of our journalism.
``It might be in a newspaper, on a website, on a mobile -- wherever -- but it will always be about the journalism.''
The Australian remains the only masthead to have been a finalist in the Newspaper of the Year category every year since the awards started in 2005 and has won the title twice.