Clare Henderson of the Grimsby Evening Telegraph received a tip from Norman Lamont's mother, whom she had previously interviewed, saying that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had phoned to tell her he had resigned from the Government, some hours before the official announcement.
The journalist Russell Davies, announcing the award at a London lunch, said that the incident highlighted the virtues of the regional press and had left the national papers 'looking weak and helpless'.
Journalists from the Guardian collected three awards, one of them posthumous. Suzanne Moore was named columnist of the year, Steve Bell cartoonist of the year and the late Jill Tweedie received the Gerald Barry award for a lifetime's contribution to journalism.
The investigations unit of the Financial Times, led by Robert Peston, formerly of the Independent, won the Investigation of the Year award.
Another former Independent journalist, Jonathan Fenby, was also honoured when the Observer, the paper that he now edits, was named Newspaper of the Year. Richard Stott, of Today, won the Editor of the Year award.