For a full and frank account of the Walkleys, only an independent outlet such as Crikey can deliver the real story. We were there and we tell it how it really was.

The rest of the media have an interest in what happened and only really reported how they went. The only outlets that Crikey has ever heard of that haven’t publicly congratulated themselves for Walkleys are The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun when Crikey won the “business reporting” category in 1999.

It was a great night and there was plenty of interesting gossip, scandal and drama but let’s first look at what Hillary Bray sent out to subscribers on Thursday night when the Walkleys were in full swing.

OUR EDITOR LOSES THE PLOT

All the litigation must be getting to him. Last night, guests arriving at the Walkley Awards at the Melbourne Grand Hyatt were confronted by a tall, thin maniac wearing the $5000 Crikey foam suit who shoved a flyer in their hands at the top of the escalators.

The maniac got to shake hands with the Bumbling Bookkeeper, Fred Hilmer, scared away Daily Telegraph deputy editor Madonna King, gave a flyer to former Shandwick PR boss and Age editor Mike Smith as he came up the escalator and Crikey Man went down. The escalator encounter also prompted excited and curious murmurs of “Is that Stephen Mayne?” as Saint Steve Bracks and his massive entourage swept by.

No-one arrested or restrained the maniac, so he then headed home, changed into an “I’m Hillary Bray” t-shirt, underneath his best friend’s appalling red suit and returned to the big do as a guest invited by the union hosts from the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA).

And the flyer? For those of you who weren’t there, here it is:

FIGHT POLITICAL MOGUL-GROVELLING AND COME TO THE CRIKEY AWARDS

Thursday, November 29, 2001

The time has come for Australian journalists to fight the mogul grovelling by politicians of all persuasions that has been going on for decades.

John Howard’s push to unwind the cross-media ownership laws is the latest sop to Murdoch and Packer and must be opposed by all journalists who support the concept of media diversity.

Both political parties should adopt an anti-mogul line right now to claw back the billions ripped off governments and consumers by the media moguls.

A new television licence should be auctioned off tomorrow to provide more competition to the free- to-air cartel who have all doubled the value of their investments in the past 5 years.

And rather than weaken the ACCC’s powers, the Howard government should strengthen them so there can be forced divestments of newspapers by Rupert Murdoch who continues to abuse his powers time and again with a 70 per cent market share.

Finally, Australia’s best known independent website, www.crikey.com.au, will be hosting the alternative Walkley Awards next month with the second annual Crikeys Awards.

It will be a glittering affair to be held at the Imperial Hotel opposite State Parliament on Monday, December 10, from 5.30pm and you’re all invited.

If you’d like to nominate Australia’s most boring columnist or the most objectionable shock jock, get your nominations in by emailing [email protected]

Winners could receive a prestigious set of steak knives from the Demtel Man Tim Shaw as occurred at last year’s Crikeys.

For further information: www.crikey.com.au

Ends

ABC FISTICUFFS

Okay, let’s get into the nitty gritty of what happened on the night and start with the fight. I didn’t see it but the combatants were former union man and former ABC industrial reporter Mike Sutherland and Marco Bass, the head of ABC radio and television news in Melbourne.

It was over pretty quickly and Sutherland is said to have finished up with a blood nose. I’m not sure what it was over but Sutherland spent many years fighting management as the man running the journo’s union in Victoria so you could reasonably assume it was related to his working conditions which are no more as he has recently left the ABC. Both chaps can be pretty feisty.

TALKING TO THE SPHERE OF INFLUENCE

The Sphere of Influence, Laurie Oakes, is said to have boycotted the Walkleys for many years after his scoop for Channel 10 when he got all the key budget numbers early didn’t win. But the Shane Stone memo was always a lay down misere for Laurie and he picked up the Walkley for best television news reporting.

Crikey had heard that the Packers were being really tight-fisted and refused to pay for finalists to travel to Melbourne this year so I popped over and asked Laurie who paid for his ticket and he confirmed that ACP did, but then suggested I check with other finalists as to who paid.

It appears that A Current Affair refused to pay for their finalists whereas the Sunday program did the right thing by the likes of John Lyons and producer Paul Steindl.

MICHAEL GILL TELLS CRIKEY TO GET FUCKED

The only person who had a truly harsh word for Crikey all night was Fairfax Business Publications chief Michael Gill and the exchange went as follows:

CRIKEY: Hi Gilly, how are you?

GILL: Get fucked.

Poor old Fin Review hack Nina Field was chatting to Crikey at the time and didn?t feel particularly comfortable.

Gilly is the man who created Jeffed and Crikey after refusing to take me back on the Fin Review as Rear Window columnist after the candidacy to stand against Jeff in his seat of Burwood during the 1999 state election was ruled ineligible.

There are plenty of people who reckon he’s done a pretty ordinary job and quick search of the Crikey archive will demonstrate why he so hates Crikey.

But this did not reflect the broader mood as Crikey even got a kiss on the cheek from out-going Fin Review editor Colleen Ryan and had a polite conversation with Jill Singer – the first since we parted company acrimoniously in Vienna back in 1998. This could only have happened very late in the evening.

THE BIG GUNS ON THE BIG STORIES

It was good to see Paul Barry pick up the Walkley for best news reporting after his series on tax-dodging barristers. We had a chat later and in terms of impact, this story led to 18 barristers being struck off and thoroughly deserved some recognition. Paul was talking up his upcoming One-Tel story claiming some fascinating new revelations.

The best news of the night for Crikey was the fact that Four Corners legend Chris Masters is on the case of Alan Jones and we’ll be seeing a 45 minute expose on the appalling parrot early next year. Hopefully the man who brought down the corrupt Bjelke Petersen regime in Queensland will also be able to knock the parrot off his perch.

THE FOUR CORNERS CREW

After the past couple of sealed sections about Four Corners and the Burnie coroner, Crikey found himself having chats about all this with Sally Neighbour and her producer Linda Larsen who has just given evidence at the coronial inquiry this week.

Suspect we haven’t heard the last of this as both sides seem pretty adamant about their position.

Sally and producer Morag Ramsay picked up the politically correct Walkley for “Coverage of Indigenous Affairs” for her wonderful hatchet job on that Northern Territory lawyer who’d been ripping off local communities. Crikey regards Sally Neighbour as one of the top 10 journalists in Australia but I am biased because she pulled together the piece on Kennett’s share dealings in 1997.

Personally, I was a bit disappointed Deb Whitmont and Peter McEvoy didn’t win the politically correct Walkley for “Social Equity Journalism” for their Four Corners piece on detention centres, just because it would have put Howard apologists Piers Akerman and Andrew Bolt back in their boxes for doing the government’s bidding in trying to discredit the story. It would also have really stuck it up Ruddock once and for all.

PINCHING THE GUEST LIST

The union organisers were very tolerant of Crikey turning up in the 7-foot foam suit and handing out flyers to guests as they arrived at the top of the escalators but were not quite as tolerant to the usual tactic of pinching the guest list at the end of the night.

A very polite lady came along and gently relieved me of them when I’d nearly got the lot off the wall and then when I made moves to retrieve from the box, another union bloke came along and actually managed to take my belt off before moderator Chris Warren made him hand it back. I think his argument was along the lines of “you’re taking something of ours so I’ll take something of yours”. Hope that is not the way the union negotiates with Rupert and Kerry.

When you’ve had about 10 glasses of wine and agitated unionists are relieving you of your belt, it is really is time to stumble off home so after a quick inspection of the bar downstairs it was over and out for the night.

SOUTHERN CROSS BROADCASTING

The most tight-fisted union-hating media company in the country, Southern Cross Broadcasting, was conspicuously absent, with 2UE news director Sandy Aloisi and Neil Mitchell making the only company appearance on the program as a judges in the radio news and sports journalism categories respectively.

They didn’t have a single finalist in any category and I didn’t spot anyone from 3AW which is the most profitable radio station in the country and likes to think it is good quality. Given that Southern Cross have just closed regional television newsrooms in Canberra, Alice Springs, Darwin, Cairns and Townsville, they don’t deserve to win a Walkley with such a contemptuous attitude to the question of adequately resourcing their television stations.

Herald Sun editor Peter Blunden may have bagged the Walkley’s for union bias in last Thursday’s Australian, but at least he turned up although he appeared to be sans former secretary and new lover Annie Brodie.

MEAA President Alan Kennedy had a passing shot at The Australian for Andrew Dodd’s piece on the Walkleys which you can read: here

And whilst doing links, click here for the full list of winners.

OUR TABLE: CRIKEY, CHASER AND LABOR FRONTBENCHERS

I warned the union to be careful not to seat me with the growing legion of Crikey enemies and they duly obliged.

Julia Gillard has a tough job for Labor as the shadow Immigration spokesman so someone obviously decided she needed toughening up and sat her next to Crikey for the night on table 54 right up near the back. She’s a lovely lady and far friendlier than grumpy Lindsay Tanner who didn’t appear to welcome Crikey congratulating him for retaining his seat of Melbourne.

Maybe the problem was this piece we sent around about Lindsay a few weeks ago, which has only just been picked up by the mainstream media this weekend:

PAYING FOR LINDSAY TANNER’S HONEYMOON

A subscriber has sent this in about the man that Crikey might be voting for in the seat of Melbourne:

“Stephen,

Very interesting piece of news reached me yesterday regarding Lindsay Tanner.

Apparently he got married for the third time a couple of months ago. His wife is an ALP staffer (of course). Where most people might go on a honeymoon in the weeks following the wedding, Lindsay and his new bride took off on a government funded study tour of Vietnam. Lindsay boasted to a recent branch meeting that he had done the right thing, and paid out of his own pocket when he and his wife stayed in a resort for a couple of nights – some of his branch members thought maybe the whole thing should have been paid out of his own pocket.

Regards, Subscriber”

Fairfax management work the pollies

Fairfax company secretary and general counsel Gail Hambly popped over to say hello to Julia Gillard as did Fairfax spindoctor and inhouse lobbyist Bruce Wolpe. I raised this earlier sealed section with Wolpe which was sent out a few months back:

FAIRFAX SPIN DOCTOR BRUCE WOLPE

We sent this email that came in from a newspaper journalist to Fairfax spin doctor Bruce Wolpe the other day:

“Also, another thing … been listening to ABC a bit lately and Richard Glover has Bruce Wolpe on for a Monday night forum. Now that’s fine but the only references to Bruce’s credentials (on the two occasions I’ve heard it, anyway) are that he is an American and a former White House adviser and a man who now works in “Sydney business”. I never heard a mention of Fairfax and his job a spin doctor for “F2 Freddie”. They have clearly agreed it won’t be mentioned because it’s such an obvious thing to exclude in the introduction.

I reckon that’s a shocker for a drive-time-high rating program on the ABC Bruce gets a free kick on everything and anything, including media policy, without his sponsor being identified — I’ve only heard the Glover-Wolpe show twice but to avoid the F2 Freddie disclosure on even two occasions smells a wee bit fishy to me. Anyway, it’s on about 5.30pm Monday nights if you want to set Crikey’s Hounds of Disclosure loose.”

Anon

Now Crikey is prone to publish first and ask questions later but on this occasion I actually emailed Bruce Wolpe and asked him to respond.

He refused unless I identified the journalist raising the question. I then told him that he should just take it as Crikey asking the question and he still refused to respond.

So now we have 1660 subscribers – including 29 per cent who work in the media – being told of this exchange without Bruce getting his side of the story across.

Some spindoctors never learn. We’ll happily publish Bruce’s response if he ever deems it appropriate to answer an issue based around a question asked by someone who was listening to the radio. It’s hardly classified information that justifies the federal coppers being called in Bruce.

ends

CRIKEY: Unbelievably, Wolpe was maintaining this line at the Walkleys. He really does have his head in the sand if he can’t answer a basic question unless the person who gave the original tip is identified. If Bruce or Richard Glover ever get around to dealing with this we’ll happily publish it. For all I know they might be disclosing it now, but Bruce certainly didn’t volunteer this at the Walkleys.

Denton’s influence on The Election Chaser

We also had Charles Firth from The Election Chaser who tried very hard to make ours the rowdiest table in the Hyatt ballroom. The poor Chaser blokes reckon they hardly made a cracker from their four-part series on the ABC because so much of the budget went on props. And for those of you wondering, Andrew Denton was a big part of it. He would get up at 4am for his radio shift, get into the ABC by 11am and work with the boys through till about 8pm each night. Denton also protected them from all sorts of flak being thrown by the likes of Greg Wilesmith and other management heavyweights.

ROY AND HG

Given that we are debating the decoupling of the Labor Party and the union movement at the moment, it was illustrative that the union-organised awards night would have Victorian Premier Steve Bracks handing out the trophies.

And how ironic that Bracks is currently getting beaten up by the media like never before over the appointment – since reversed – of his great mate Jim Reeves to head the Urban and Regional Land Authority.

There is an excellent piece by Ewin Hannon in the Saturday Age which pulls together why this is such a scandal for Bracks. The cronyism is not the problem, it’s the obfuscation and attempted cover-up which gets the Premier into such trouble. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it on The Age’s website to run a link.

Roy and HG made some introductory comments where they sledged a few favourite targets of the left such as Miranda Devine, Piers Akerman and, of course, Jonathon Shier. HG said he loved a fresh cliche51 and then came up with “I’ll be fucked” as his special for the night.

The lads really should have had the gig all night as Bracks didn’t crack any gags and was pretty sterile reading out the winners. He was pleased that “my good friend Bob Carr” was featured in the winning photograph on page 1 of the Daily Telegraph crowd surfing after the Olympics. And Mary Delahunty would have loved his line that “this will date her a little bit” when Bracks reminded the audience that Victoria’s education minister won the Gold Walkley in 1983 for her story about how the Marcos regime in the Philipines was rorting Australian aid.

CJ HUNTER DRUGS STORY

Daily Telegraph sports reporter Katrina Beikoff has been dining out on her great Olympic scoop about CJ Hunter’s drug record for the past 14 months and naturally picked up the sports Walkley last night from judges Eddie McGuire, Neil Mitchell and Nicole Jeffrey. That would have been a fun experience for Nicole.

Former editor Steve Howard and current deputy editor Madonna King (who ran a million miles from the Crikey foam suit on arriving at the top of escalator) can never be forgiven for burying this story as a single strip on page 3. Hell, as the judges pointed out, Beikoff scooped 15,000 journalists and it was the biggest scandal of the Olympics but it didn’t even make the front page or even qualify to be the page 3 lead. Katrina can be a feisty journalist and she resigned from the Telegraph whilst I was chief of staff in 1999. Col Allan said at the time that she’d never darken a door in News Ltd again but she was back a few months later as part of the Olympic unit and then cracked the biggest yarn of the games. Thank god the Olympic unit was independent of people like Col.

ends

Your feedback on the Walkleys

Seeing how he won the Gold Walkley, it seemed strange that Andrew Rule then didn’t win the Walkley for Coverage of Indigenous Affairs. After all, the story sure as hell was about Walkley for Coverage of Indigenous Affairs!

Can’t wait for the Chris Masters piece on the Parrot.

Just for you ABC stuff – Beverley O’Connor is a Director of a Company called Voss Communications Pty. Ltd.

Cheers, Leachy

Why does a leak win a Walkley

Steve,

I don’t understand how a story based on a “leaked” document, obviously from someone with a problem with the Libs, warrants an award.

Where was the skill? Did Laurie do anything other than take advantage of the exposure that his station affords him to publish a leaked document? What am I missing and was that the best that the industry could do in that category for the whole year?

Regards, Malcolm

Peter Fray

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