Vote against Crikey at next week’s Melbourne Press Club AGM and also vote against Steve Price’s lawyer Adrian Anderson.

All members should check out the nominations and print out a proxy form through this link and appoint Crikey and then send it to PO Box 3018, South Melbourne 3205 or fax it to (03) 9696 0452 so we can vote against Steve Price’s lawyer and also probably vote against myself.

But before we get into the campaign platform, this is what subscribers have been told about the upcoming contest.

MELBOURNE PRESS CLUB COMMITTEE BATTLE

Sealed section from May 2, 2002

Our dear friend and Press Club committee member [email protected] got into a bit of slanging match with Eddie McGuire at the Tim Lane debate yesterday when trying to ask a question which has made us think twice about a planned campaign to have him removed from the Press Club committee at this year’s AGM.

President Neil Mitchell sent a pretty strong message at lunch yesterday that they already have more than enough nominations ahead of the May 31 AGM. But Crikey loves nothing more than a good contested election so will probably throw the hat into the ring.

We’ve got until May 24 to decide whether to nominate but would encourage press club members who received their proxy forms this week to appoint Stephen Mayne as their proxy as I’ll definitely be attending and would love a block of votes to cast on the day.

It appears that you can only vote at the meeting so if the 21 committee members and office bearers all vote for each other on the day it might be hard to dislodge any of them.

Crikey will be promoting the idea of maximum diversity and strongly opposing the presence of any spindoctors on the committee. Lawyers are more marginal but after Adrian Anderson’s effort in attempting to destroy Crikey through the courts on Steve Price’s behalf we are wondering whether someone who sues a journalist for defamation and contempt and then injuncts the sale of his family home is really appropriate for the committee of a body that should be advancing the cause of free speech and defamation law reform.

We’d be interested in your feedback on all of this. Do you think Crikey can remain an independent media critic if we join all the establishment players on the Press Club committee. Chances are I’d get voted down by the Herald Sun-3AW members anyway give the burnt bridges with these two outlets.

That said, Crikey is not planning to oppose Neil Mitchell’s continuation as president as most Press Club people reckon he does a good job, especially in bringing the sponsorship dollars in.

TILTING AT THE PRESS CLUB

Sealed section May 3, 2002

A subscriber and journalist writes:

Stephen,

Yes, you should stand for the Melbourne Press Club committee. If elected, your responsibilities will be to the club, its members and its stated purposes, which are:

* To improve the standards and quality of written works in the community generally and for mass communication particularly, including works for the press, radio, television and other media;

* To promote the exchange of information between the media and other sections of the community;

* To promote the exchange of information between members and encourage excellence in professional and personal contributions by members for written and other media;

* To sponsor informative addresses by speakers drawn from leaders in the community, knowledge of whose experience and views would contribute to achievement of excellence in the community;

* To sponsor events, annually or otherwise, to judge works published in the media and to make awards for excellence;

* To do all such other things as are conducive or incidental to the attainment of the above objects or any of them.

Acting in the club’s interests is unlikely to conflict with media criticism on Crikey.com.au as your intention is consistent with the first three purposes above.

You also act in accordance with the penultimate purpose with the annual Crikey awards.

I suggest you go for it.

Now, how about a bit of old fashioned branch stacking? I’m not a member, but if I fax you an application form, can you organise a proposer and seconder to sign it? If I can get accepted before the meeting, there’ll be one vote you can count on 🙂

Cheers, Name Withheld

CRIKEY: Anyone else fancy joining? I suspect it will be too late as the committee has to approve the membership.

PRESS CLUB TILT

Sealed Section May 27

Crikey belatedly faxed through a nomination to run for the Melbourne Press Club Committee at 4.52pm on Friday and trusts this was accepted as having come through before the 5pm deadline.

It is shaping up as an odd process because you can only vote at the meeting which is this Friday so candidates such as myself don’t get long to canvass for votes and must physically take any proxy forms along with us on the day.

The prime reason for running is to oppose Corrs Chambers Westgarth lawyer Adrian Anderson who keeps banging on about the commitment that he and his predecessor, the late Grant Hattam, have to free speech when Corrs have launched more defamation actions against The Age than any other firm.

Naturally, I’m conscious of the fact that Anderson acted for Steve Price in trying to destroy Crikey with 15 court appearances over 15 months that spanned defamation, contempt of court and an injunction over the sale of our family home.

In my view it is completely inappropriate that a lawyer acting for a millionaire shock jock and backed by a $600 million company that set out to destory an independent outlet, be allowed to remain on the Press Club committee.

The club itself needs to get far more active in campaigning for free speech and defamation law reform, but how can it with someone like [email protected] on the committee.

So, if you’re a member of the Press Club, drop us an email ASAP as we’d love to pick up your proxy. Given Crikey’s unpopularity with some sections of the Melbourne media (ie the Herald Sun and 3AW especially) we’re not too confident of breaking into the Club given the voting system and the compositon of the current committee as can be seen: here

PRESS CLUB DELAYS AGM

May 28 sealed section

Crikey’s nomination for the press club committee has been accepted but the meeting has been delayed by a further four weeks. GM Mary Cotter explains as follows:

27 May 2002

Dear Member

The Melbourne Press Club’s AGM due to be held on Friday 31st May 2002 at RACV Club at 12.30pm is postponed until Friday 28th June 2002 at the same time and venue.

Due to an oversight the changes to the Rules of Association approved at last year’s AGM, were not registered with the Consumer and Business Affairs Department, and accordingly will be re-submitted for members’ approval.

Please also find attached a proxy form in case you can no longer attend.

Yours faithfully
Mary Cotter
General Manager

Anyway, the full list of members is here and we’d love to receive your proxy if you’re on this list.

CRIKEY AND THE PRESS CLUB

June 13, 2002

There are 17 nominations for the Melbourne Press Club committee with the only two newcomers being Crikey and Age online hack and former Walkley winner Hamish Fitzsimmons.

The other 15 are just the existing committee and they will doubtless all vote for each other. Crikey would be happy to miss out provided that the other unsuccessful candidate is my very good friend [email protected] – the lad whose legal advice to Steve Price saw the Crikey East Melbourne bunker taken from us.

Angry also brought contempt proceedings against us which in our estimation makes him an inappropriate person to site on the Press Club which is supposedly journalist friendly, not a haven for lawyers who get paid to try and destroy fledgling publications such as Crikey.

If you’re a member, we’d love your vote.

The Nominations for Press Club positions

President: Neil Mitchell, 3AW

Vice President (two to be elected): Ian Henderson, ABC TV
Peter Bartlett, Minter Ellison

Treasurer: Rod Wiedermann, The Age

Secretary: Mary Cotter

Committee (fifteen of seventeen to be elected):
Adrian Anderson, Corrs,Chambers Westgarth
Gayle Austen, Channel 7
Marco Bass, ABC TV & Radio
Eileen Berry, The Age
Hamish Fitzsimmons, The Age
Mary Gearin, ABC TV
Bob Kearsley, Channel 9
Richard Leder, Corrs Chambers Westgarth
Stephen Mayne, Crikey.com.au
Keith Moor, Herald Sun
Corrie Perkin, The Age
David Poulton, Minter Ellison
John Rees, RACV
Andrew Rule, The Age
Mike Smith, Inside PR
John Trevorrow, Herald Sun
Geoff Wilkinson, Herald Sun

Crikey has recently received stinging emails from Keith Moor and John Trevorrow defending their boss Peter Blunden so they will probably rally all the Herald and Weekly Times numbers to vote against me.

Similarly, the 3AW-Corrs Chambers Westgarth numbers will obviously not support Crikey. We’ve had scraps over the past year with Marco Bass and Mike Smith but these might not be permanently burnt bridges. Relations are either non-existant or neutral with everyone else with the exception of President Neil Mitchell who has hated Crikey ever since our on-air fight during the last state election campaign when I accused him of being soft on Kennett.

Unless there is some rule against it (which I’m not aware of at this point), anyone who appoints Crikey as their proxy for the meeting is entitled to a free 12-month subscription. Fax your forms through to (03) 9696 0452 or send them to PO Box 3018, Sth Melbourne 3205, but get in quickly. If you know anyone on this list you may want to let us know where we can find them or get in touch with them yourselves and click here to check out the nominees and print out a proxy form.

The full list of Press Club members

Ryoko Adachi, Bram Alexander, John Allin, Annette Allison, Peter Alston, Jodi Amor, Adrian Anderson, Greg Anderton, Angela Ang, Kate Arnott, Kate Ashley-Griffiths, Gayle Austen, Giulia Baggio, Rachel Baker, Lisa Ballard, Glenda Banks, Naheda Barakat, Peter Bartholomew, Kerrie Bartholomew, Eliza Bartholomew, Peter Bartlett, Vincent Basile, Marco Bass, Jennifer Batchelor, Eric Beecher, Georgina Bennett, Thomas Bennett, Fiona Benson, Paul Bentley, Eileen Berry, Stephen Berry, Matthew Betts, Bill Birnbauer, Ray Blackbourn, Lyn Blackbourn, Peter Blunden, Yvonne Bolland, Craig Borrow, Kristen Boschma, Jude Bourguignon, Wendy Bowran, Wayne Box, Lucy Bragg, Nikki Brazil, Di Bresciani, David Broadbent, Ross Brundrett, Brian Bull, Howard Bull, Mick Bunworth, Creighton Burns, Anne Burrows, Wayne Buttner, Aynur Cagli, David Caird, Rosemary Calder, Rowan Callick, Charmaine Camilleri, John Candido, Lahra Carey, Michael Carr-Gregg, Anne Carragher, Shane Castleman, Antony Catalano, Ellise Chapman, Michael Cheshire, Kevin Childs, Ondine Childs, Petra Chisholm, Lucinda Christian, Jim Clarke, Nathan Cochrane, Timothy Colebatch, Brooke Conboy, Berne Condren, Richard Conrad, Jim Conway, Christopher Coombes, John Coppock, John Corr, Mary Cotter, Caroline Cottrill, Joyce Coussins, Linda Crawley, Paul Crisp, Lisl Cropper, Wendy Cross, Liana Cross, Marisa Crowe, Mike Cullen, David Cullinane, Leo D’Angelo Fisher, Tony Darvall, Sushi Das, Julie-Anne Davies, Gaye Davies, Ken Davis, Peter Davis, Kelly Davis, Peter De Groot, Leela De Kretser, Shannon Deacon, Donna Demaio, Luke Dennehy, Romarna Dichiera, Michael Dobbie, Karen Dodd, Graeme Domm, Brendan Donohoe, Barry Donovan, Patrick Donovan, Brigid Donovan, Geoff Doolan, Steve Dow, Mark Dreyfus, Stephen Drill, Susan Driscoll, Geoff Drucker, Inge Drucker, Keith Dunstan, Jayne Edwards, Sam Elam, David Elias, Peter Ellingsen, Paul Elliott, Daniel Elliott, Samantha Evans, Andy Evans, Jon Faine, Leslie Falkiner-Rose, Tim Farquharsen, Jane Fenton, Martin Field, Sally Fisher, Linda Fisicaro, John Fitzgerald, Hamish Fitzsimmons, Kate Flanders, Jacqueline Fletcher, Michelle Fonseca, Mark Forbes, Claude Forell, Harold Fraser, Peter Fraser, David Galbally QC, Susan Gallagher, Fiona Garlick, Ian Garnier, Mikaila Gaskell, Mary Gearin, David Gilbertson, Ross Gilmour, Nat Giraud, Michael Gordon, Robert Gottliebsen, Louise Graham, Kelly Graham, Peter Griffin, Ashley Jane Hackett, Rohan Hamilton, John Hamilton, Phillip Hankin, Alison Harding, Gary Harkin, Cathy Harper, Peter Harrington, Steve Harris, Bob Hart, Michael Harvey, John Harvey, Seamus Haugh, Belinda Hawkins, Pat Hayes, Sarah Henderson, Ian Henderson, Sue Henderson, John Henderson, Nigel Henham, Stephanie Herbert, Gwyneth Higgerson, Laura Hill, Peter Hitchener, Jillian Hocking, Richard Holdaway, Ric Holland, Saria Holmes, Geoff Hook, William Houghton, Bruce Howard, Samantha Huddle, Rupert Hugh-Jones, Craig Hughes, Peter Humpleby, Prue Innes, Robin Jacklin, Tom Jarvis, Roger Jenkins, Peta Jennings, Susan Jennison, Georgina Jerums, Katherine Jess, Lyall Johnson, Natasha Johnson, Nick Johnston, Derek Jones, Mycaila Jones, Marc Jongebloed, John Jost, Keith Joyce, Dulcie Kanatopsky OAM, Grant Kay, Robert Kearsley, Daniele Kemp, Nassim Khadem, John Kiely, Bronwen Kiely, Karen Kissane, Peter Klages, Bev Knowles, Ramona Koval, Ellissia Kowal, Heather Kudeviita, Wolter Kuiper, Mimi Kwa, Ron Kyne, Marie Kyne, Victoria Kyriakopoulos, Amy Lally, Carolyn Lamplugh, Katie Lapthorne, Barbara Latham, Kelvyn Lavelle, Michel Lawrence, Yvonne Lawrence, John Lawrence, Tess Lawrence, Richard Leder, Erica Lehmann, Stephen Letts, Jane Lindhe, Sam Lipski, Peter Loder, Philippa Long, Enrica Longo, Andrew Lonzi, Davy Loo, Colin Lovitt QC, William Lowden, Cathy Luxford, Ranald Macdonald, Dorothy Mace, Natalie MacGregor, Kathryn Maddox, Michael Magazanik, Richard Maguire, Peter Maher, Terry Maher, Troy Mansell, Melissa Marino, Anne Marshall, Randall Marshall, Jacqui Martin, Anna Marulli, Kane Mason, James McCausland, Geoff McClure, Bruce McComish, Lelde McCoy, Ian McCubbing, Brendon McCullough, Richard McGarvie, Matthew McGrane, Judy McGregor, Frank McGuire, Lorna McIlroy, Andrew McKay, Zane McKenzie, Stephen McKenzie, Ian McMahon, Bryan McNicol, Trevor Menzies, Louise Micallef, Jon Michail, Matthew Miles, Neil Miller, Claire Miller, Neil Mitchell, Pauline Moffat, Gordon Moffat, Beauty Mokoba, Lawrence Money, Keith Moor, Michael Moore, Letlhogonolo Mopipi, Stephen Morgenthaler, Sally Morrell, Linley Morton, Robert Mott, Nick Mountstephen, Louise Muir-Smith, John Mullen, Ian Munro, Katehrine Munro, Rachel Murnane, Bob Murray, Heikki Murto, Bjorn Nansen, Eimear NcNelis, Jocelyn Nettlefold, Peter Nicholson, Russell Nowell, Peter O’Donahoo, Anne O’Donovan, Frank O’Loughlin, Brian O’Neil, Kerry O’Shea, Mandy Oakham, Bob Osburn, Kristin Owen, Joanne Pafumi, Kelly Parkinson, Mick Paskos, Mark Paterson, Katie Paynter, Bernadette Peace, Anne Pearce, Brian Peck, Clifford Peel, Tim Pegler, Donna Pelka, Angela Perez, Corrie Perkin, Susan Phillips, Rebecca Philpot, Lauren Pike, Beverley Pinder, Elizabeth Potter, Ben Potter, David Poulton, Brooke Powell, Bev Poynton, Joe Poynton, Steve Price, Andrew Probyn, Anna Quarrell, Justin Quill, Susie Quillinan, Phil Quinn, Meg Quinn, Tricia Quirk, Ineke Raby, Jon Ralph, Paul Ramadge, Carolyn Rance, Joanna Ransome, John Rees, Andrew Rennie, Liane Reynolds, Albert Ricardo, Mike Richards, Jon Richards, Kate Rielley, Robyn Riley, Nan Rivett, David Robertson, Russell Robinson, Andrew Robson, Blake Rogers, Darrell Rolfe, Lesley Rosenthal, Michael Rowland, Andrew Rule, Dianne Rule, Peter Ryan, Paul Ryan, Anastasia Salamastrakis, Ian Sanderson, Raffaela Santilli, Xiomara Santos, Joan Saxton, Michael Scammell, Angela Schaftenaar, Raymond Scheicher, Georgina Schoff, Gail Sedorkin, Terrence Shannon, Maureen Short, Kamal Siddiqi, John Silvester, Carol Simpson-Bull, Tina Sist, Mark Skulley, Amber Sloan, Roger Smart, Alistair Smith, Michael Smith, Cameron Smith, Neil Spark, Michael Spencer, Niomi Starke, Parthena Stavropoulos, Judy-Ann Steed, Anthony Strahan, Robin Stuckey, Gregory Studdert, Michael Styles, Katherine Swan, Lucy Swinstead, Daryl Talbot, Suzana Talevski, Aaron Tan, Michele Tardini, Andrew Tauber, Jim Tennison, Noel Tennison, Oaitse Oteng Thatayadne, Richard Thomas, John Tidey, Regina Titelius, Bruce Tobin, James Tonkin, Jay Town, Lucy Townsend, Mary-Anne Toy, Kate Tozer, Gabrielle Trainor, Dion Travitz, Faye Trebilceaux-Kollosche, John Trevorrow, Virginia Trioli, Ron Tripp, Gary Tuck, Bruce Upton, Andre Van Der Zwan, Bernadette Vaughan, Vena Vaughan, Lesley Vick, Josie Vine, Campbell Walker, Brian Walsh, Courtney Walsh, Peter Ward, Megan Warrin, David Warwick, Katherine Watson, Nerida Webster, Elizabeth Webster, Douglas Weller, Simon Westcott, Peter Whatmore, Michael Wheelahan, Jude Whelon, Lita Whitechurch, Dion Whitehead, Tony Whitlock, Rod Wiedermann, Jamie Wilczek, Graeme Wilingham, Geoff Wilkinson, David Wilson, Sarah Wilson, K Windmeyer, Andrew Wise, Heather Witham, Susan Wood, Michelle Wood, Robert Young, Jacqui Zabarauskas, Mike Zafiropoulos, Mandi Zanneveldt, William Brind Zichy-Woinarski QC

ends

Finally, this is the piece that we carried from Hugo Kelly after the 2001 Quill awards:

Crikey at The Shandwicks

By Hugo Kelly

Phillip Knightly is one of the best reporters to start his career writing beautiful lies for the Truth.

He left home in the ’60s to discover the world in the great Aussie tradition of wandering minstrel journalism. Knightley’s latest book, Australia, is understandably an affectionate biography of his birthplace from cold, plague-ridden England.

And getting him as guest speaker at last Friday’s Quill awards, while on a promotional visit for the new book, was a nice coup by the Melbourne press club.

What would he make, then, of media awards in which half the prizes are judged by the public relations industry?

One particular influence peddler, the multinational PR firm Weber Shandwick (formerly IPR), has an iron grip on the Quills, the new and eager rival to the Walkleys as the nation’s premier journalism awards.

At the centre of the Quills takeover is Shandwick’s Australian chairman, former Age editor Mike Smith. He has used his position as press club committee man, buddy to club president, Neil Mitchell, and all-round Melburnian of influence, to stack the awards with his people.

Shandwick consultants were on judging panels for ten of this year’s 30 awards. Various other PR types were represented on five other panels. Mike Smith himself chaired four panels, his colleague, former ABC TV Washington Correspondent Peter Ryan, chaired three.

So let’s drop the pretence. These awards are not the Quills – they’re the Shandwicks.

Having dropped its old name – IPR – Shandwick is also cleverly trying to distance itself from the soiled “public relations” image. The global PR behemoth now describes itself as “reputation managers”.

And Shandwick boss Smith has been managing – for very fat fees – some pretty dodgy reputations.

Smith’s highest profile job has been feeding the media positive spin on the fugitive Mexican banker Carlos Cabal, who stowed away in Brighton a few years ago with millions of Pesos.

The Mexican authorities finally tracked him down and have lots of evidence to say Carlos is corrupt – and they want him back. He has hired Smith and a team of lawyers to keep him and his photogenic family as far away from justice as possible. For his troubles, Smith’s outfit has reportedly been collecting $80,000 a month.

Smith has set up a fun website worth checking out: www.carloscabal.com. It contains some great propaganda, including a pretentious little editorial from Mike Smith’s buddy, Neil Mitchell, about the need for justice in the Carlos case.

Aside from the Cabal production, Mike Smith’s also being paid to use the media to convince Australians that whales aren’t cute, harmless, endangered species – they’re a plague that needs to be slaughtered and eaten by our Japanese friends.

I wonder if anyone told Knightly who was really running the awards? Probably not Neil Mitchell, who doesn’t let his press club presidency stop him entering – and winning – his own awards.

Last year, Mitchell won a quill for his “exclusive” interview with the father of a girl who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion. Who set up that interview? Mike Smith, acting on behalf of the family.

It’s a small media town, Melbourne, and deserves better than the PR boss and press club committee man feeding his mate, the press club president, an interview that goes on to win a press club award.

Has Mitchell no shame – or understanding of conflict of interest?

On the positive side, several hundred filled the Hyatt ballroom at $90 a pop for the award ceremonies. There is a demand for an alternative to the Walkleys, and the Quills’ problems don’t outweigh their potential.

The tone for the night was set by former Herald editor John Fitzgerald, who presented Hun hack Peter Game got a lifetime achievement award, and a fair roasting.

Fitzgerald treated us to a rundown of the glory days of the Herald in the 70s, when Melburnians religiously picked up a copy of the Last Race Extra before jumping on the Glen Iris tram for home, and the beating heart of the H&WT empire lay in the chief-of-staff’s safe – a few dollars petty cash beer money and a black tie speckled with chunder suitable for those formal occasions.

Back then, when lifestyle journalism consisted of cooking with Margaret Fulton and the technology section advised readers on how to lube up the Victa Mower, the young bucks on the up would vie for the shipping round.

The best things came by sea, including the young lady Phillip swept off the wharf and kept in his apartment, apparently for the enjoyment of sundry journalists. Or at least this was the drift of Fitzgerald’s rambling reminiscence.

When Knightly got to the podium he reeled out a couple of familiar yarns, including the one about his days at the Truth spent inventing – and helping capture – the notorious public transport pervert, The Hook. This tale gets better with age, and now sounds so apocryphal it’s probably true.

He gave a great speech a week earlier to launch the C.E.W Bean Foundation, drawing attention to Australian journalists’ record on the war front.

It was the Herald Sun’s night. Their people won 10 awards. Michael Harvey and Andrew Probyn won two, including the Gold Quill, for keeping the Peter Reith telecard story rolling.

Now, we sledged Michael last year as the “Costello candidate”, but on Friday he was kind enough to put bygones behind us and accept our handshake of congratulations.

Katrina Beikoff rightly won best sports story in any medium for her exclusive report on CJ Hunter’s positive Olympic drug test. It was a scoop that shook the Olympic world – not that the Hun news desk thought so at the time. Bizarrely, they ran it on page three.

We had a brief chat with Hun editor Peter Blunden before he ostentatiously turned his back on us after learning our Crikey connections. His former secretary, Anna, now his girlfriend, had a few quiet words to us about the point in question: we ran a piece last year revealing their relationship. As I recall it, Stephen wrote the piece in response to the Hun leading the media charge to unveil in salacious detail Dick Pratt’s private affairs.

It seems to me that media types who object to their personal lives being aired had better be careful about how they use their own privileged positions to dissect the private lives of others. But confronted by Anna’s genuine distress, I had to admit it seemed a little harsh on her.

Not surprisingly, Peter Blunden was upbeat about his paper’s award winnings, and his own. Apparently he had a big win at Club Keno the previous night.

“230 to 1 it paid, two hundred and thirty to one!” he told anyone who’d listen. Well, they’re about the odds of Peter taking over from Michael Gawenda as Age editor.

Michael’s poor health has cruelled his pitch and the word at the Shandwicks was that he will stand down gracefully inside the next two months, possibly to take up a writing role.

If he does stand aside, he will go down as a solid performer who, like Mike Smith, probably didn’t have long enough in the job to truly make his mark.

The question is whether new publisher Greg Hywood will seize the day and bring in an outsider and a cultural change at Spencer Street.

Another Age editor also missing on the night was Creighton Burns, who is also in poor health. Creighton, and fellow judges Jennifer Byrne and Eric Beecher, made a popular choice in awarding the Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year to the Oz’s Darwin correspondent, Paul Toohey, for his series of reports on the devastating consequences of Aborigines sniffing glue in the Top End.

The Graham Perkin

Perkin, we were reminded, time and again throughout the night, was the superhuman Age editor who changed the face of Australia’s media and without whom we would be working in a barren industry dominated by matey nepotism and the public relations industry…

Perkin’s life is fast becoming a media fairy tale. This, from the quills program: “…until the night he died, not long after the first edition went to bed, he remained passionate about (the Age’s) history, its people…” etc, etc.

Another small point. The Perkin award is for newspaper and magazine journalists. How can the Perkin award be the “most prestigious annual recognition of journalistic excellence” when it excludes the electronic media – radio, TV, the internet…?

Press Freedom?

While most of the prize winners were not controversial, Crikey had to blow the whistle on one piece of pettifoggery.

The Grant Hattam award is “presented to the person who makes the greatest contribution to journalism or press freedom through courage and determination against the odds”. Peter Blunden, Mike Smith and Steve Price gave this prize to a lawyer, Adrian Anderson from Corrs, who is currently suing Crikey for defamation and attempting to have him punished for contempt of court for continuing to talk about Steve Price’s case.

Now this fellow, Anderson, the fearless defender of media freedom, is acting on behalf of …Steve Price!

How much “courage” does it take for a big city law firm to use Australia’s repressive defamation laws against a small independent outfit like Crikey? And how courageous of Judge Price to give the prize and the money to his own lawyer!

Mates, etc

Even some of the more deserved award winners were not necessarily clear-cut. For a start, there’s the David Wilson-Lindsay Murdoch connection. These blokes shared many a byline on the Age’s now defunct Insight team. Now Wilson’s working with his mentor, Mike Smith, at – you guessed it – Shandwicks. He was on the panel which awarded Murdoch the prize for best international or national report in any medium.

Hard-living Murdoch, who has been enjoying his posting in Bangkok for the Age/SMH for some years now, won for award reporting on East Timor. Did David Wilson excuse himself from the selection process when his old mate was shortlisted? Of course he should have.

And then there were the awards that just went wrong. Jason South is a fine lensman who rightly won a Walkley last year for his outstanding photos from East Timor. But his winning feature photo, “Where’s the remote?”, is pretty derivative and – albeit unconsciously – a patronising whimsy.

Capturing two tribesman in a TV store, one holding his bow and arrow while peering at a screen, South’s photo belongs back in the old Australasian Post. Age old-timer John Lamb was the master of the “native-meets-white man’s magic” genre, which enjoyed its heyday in the 80s and should have stayed there. Lamb’s best pic of this type featured two Aborigines in traditional costume trying to figure out the wiles of a telephone booth planted out in the desert.

The winning entry reflects the world view of a veteran photographic judging panel. Former Hun pic ed Terry Phelan, revered ex-Age pic ed Ray Blackbourn, and retired Herald and News Ltd editor, Bruce Baskett, make this panel a little heavy on the nostalgia factor and light on contemporary ideas.

Age resident crimefighter John “Sly of the underworld” Silvester’s dad was a copper, and when he shuffled on stage to accept his award for best investigative report, looking every inch a detective sergeant from the armed robbery squad, the old man would have been chuffed.

Silvester and Age court reporter Steve Butcher won awards because they know their beat inside out. Butcher revealed the Melbourne magistrates’ uprising against their boss, Michael Adams, and Silvester won for his feature on police whistleblower Lachlan McCulloch.

The Quills suit the big papers because they always get a slice of the action and it’s an easy chest-thumping exercise. No wonder no-one’s rocking the boat about the PR infection.

And reading the papers on Saturday was no exception. The Quills were a triumph for the Age – in the Age. And the Hun scooped the pool – in the Hun. This “something for everyone” grab bag prize pool suits all main players…

At least the Age had the good grace to acknowledge the achievements of rival winners. The Hun whacked itself silly, filling page two with self-praise. Under the heading “We scoop the Quill awards”, it highlighted 22 staff who had won awards or received commendations. Didn’t even mention who won the Perkin award.

Then in its sports section, under the modest heading “We’re the best”, they went at it again: “Herald Sun sport scooped the pool at last night’s prestigious Quill awards…”

Now, we’re not impugning the integrity of the Quill judges. It may be that the PR types are perfectly capable of putting aside their hopelessly conflicted day jobs. It’s the perception that counts, and the perception is that if the Quills want to grow as a recognised arbiter of media excellence, they’ve got to lose their PR baggage.

Journalism awards should be characterised by independence and transparency. Let’s disclose the criteria for selecting judges. They should be chosen from a broad cross-section of the community, not a narrow section of the PR community.

So what are we going to do about it? For starters, Crikey plans to nominate for the press club committee. We’ve done some PR spinning in our time, so surely they’ll welcome us with open arms. Let’s give this thing a shake up from within.

Crikey, meanwhile, has awarded its own prizes for the night.

Dancing Queen:
A tie between ABC bella Giulia Baggio and Channel Ten “10” Mignon Henne.

Karaoke King:
Michael Harvey – never have the Bee Gees sounded so good.

Fight of the Night:
Lamentably, only one flare up. Channel Nine’s deputy news director Michael Venus pushed a well lubricated Seven news director Rob Olney after a bit of a verbal warm up.

Embarrassed silence of the Night:
The air was cool when Neil Mitchell collected another prize and cheque from the club he chairs.

Speech of the Night:
John Fitzgerald. A groovy 70s flashback. He deserves a cameo in the next Austin Powers movie.

Presenter of the Night:
Terri Bracks. Turned MC Ian Henderson into quivering putty just by stroking his trim new haircut.

Peter Fray

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