The programme beat off competition from the BBC and Sky News to scoop the award, which was accepted on behalf of the programme team by Jon Snow and Jim Gray the programme’s editor who is stepping down after 14 years in the role.
The winning entry was anchored live from Sendai by Jon Snow two days after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan. It featured a memorable report from Alex Thomson – the first journalist to reach stricken Minamisanriku.
Back in the studio, Krishnan Guru-Murthy was the first to ask Energy Secretary Chris Huhne about the implications for nuclear power in the UK. Programme Editor Oliver King paid tribute to the team who only learned late on the morning of the broadcast that the programme had been specially extended.
He said: “The piece that stands out for me is that by Carl Dinnen which showed families being reunited with the loved ones they thought had been killed. The whole newsroom was in tears”.
Tsunami revisited: see our picture gallery of Alex Thomson and the team’s return to the tsunami-hit areas
Edited by Oliver King, the programme also included a report from Lindsey Hilsum in Benghazi on Libya’s uprising against Colonel Gaddafi.
Jon Snow, presenter, Channel 4 News said: “A fitting tribute to the most brilliant editor in television news – Jim Gray.
“This award is for his imagination in sending the programme to Japan. His remorseless drive had us on the air in Sendai. He gave us our heads and we tried to do the rest.
“This was a heartbreaking story of natural disaster and human loss and we feel honoured to be awarded for the way we covered it.”
Jim Gray, Editor of Channel 4 News added: “Some stories involve such enormous human tragedy that they can only be done justice by reporting with your head and your heart. We tried to cover Japan’s natural disaster with the right mix of empathetic storytelling and intelligent analysis.
“We’re thrilled that the whole team has been recognised with this prestigious award.”