The Walkley Awards have thrown up plenty of debate which has been captured in these recent sealed sections to Crikey subscribers.

November 28 sealed section

Crikey is headed to Sydney this afternoon for tonight’s Walkley Awards and we rate ourselves a 33.33 per cent chance to pick up the online category with this entry.

But we’re backing out of an earlier commitment to unveil the true identity of Hillary Bray if we win the Walkley. It has to be a Gold Walkley for Hillary to come out.

The team at AFR.com have emailed their best wishes and at this stage they are hot favourites to take but the prize for their splendid market meltdown coverage.

WALKLEY GOLD TO THE HERALD

November 29 sealed

By Hugo Kelly

Kate McClymont and Anne Davies, the SMH gals who brought down a big bad rorting footy club, last night won journalisms highest award, the Gold Walkley. The Herald duo won for their series of scoops in August revealing the massive salary cap rorting by the Canterbury Bulldogs that resulted in the club being kicked out of the comp for 2002. Celebrations at Sydneys Westin Hotel were long and spirited.

Last night’s award ceremony was an anticlimax for Crikey: we got pipped for the best online report Walkley by abc.net.au’s Michelle Feuerlicht with The Timber Mafia. The other finalist in the category was afr.com.au.

Our shortlisted entrant – Hillary Brays notorious “Democrat Letters” – did get some powerful support on the night. As Crikey was chatting to Lateline producer Peter Charley, ABC Chairman Donald McDonald walked over to commiserate with words along the lines of: “Crikey was robbed! You should have won the Walkley.”

Very nice of him to favour Crikey over his own organisation, although Aunty’s entrant was a deserving winner.

HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDED:

* Best gossip of the night: The exodus at Channel Nine continues, with Sixty Minutes Executive Producer John Westacott quitting, and starting talks with Seven to become their head of news and current affairs. However, Kerry Stokes then objected to the amount of money Seven CEO Maureen Plasvic agreed to pay him so Westacott is back Nine.

*MEAA union boss Chris Warren and guest of honor, Howard government chief union basher Tony Abbott, trying to get along at the top table.

*Abbott’s night got a little chilly when Bill Leak strolled up to the stage to accept his award for his cartoon of John Howard’s “Brown Nose Day” – and gave Abbott’s nose an extended onstage tweak. The look on Abbott’s face was priceless.

THE TOP AWARDS:

“It is an absolute fact children were thrown overboard.” With those words, Peter Reith signed his political epitaph and 3LO broadcaster Virginia Trioli won a Walkley for best radio current affairs reporting. Her “minister overboard” win was probably the most popular prize of the night.

Her fellow ABC 774 broadcaster Jon Faine was on a 10:30pm flight back to Melbourne after bowing out in the radio news category. His Greg Combet interview was rolled by Alison Carabines September 11 live report for 2UE.

Terry McCrann won the business Walkley for his series on Solly Lew and Lindsay Fox’s bid for Ansett. Although he went soft as jelly on Solly over Coles Myer, McCranns Ansett series included some hard-nosed analysis of Lew’s role in the bizarre bid. They were good columns – but in our opinion, McCrann did not give enough credence to News Ltd’s contribution to the collapse and the business Walkley should have gone to the Fin Reviews Colleen Ryan for her HIH coverage.

Michael Southwell from The West Australian won best print story for – “Investigation: Alcoa Pollution”. Check the huge debate which has broken out about Southwells journalism here

FOUR KEY AWARDS:

*Journalism Leadership: Peter Meakin – Director of News and Current Affairs, Channel Nine.

*Most outstanding contribution to journalism: Quentin Dempster, 7:30 Report.

*Press photographer of the year: Nick Moir, SMH.

*Gold Walkley: McClymont & Davies, who also won the investigative reporting gong. Anne, partner of Herald executive editor Tom Burton, got so excited she gave Tony Abbott a hug.

ENTERTAINMENT

On the entertainment front, the Chaser boys did a good job – including rounding up Alan Jones and John Laws and offering them cash-for-comment, in the form of $50 notes waved in their faces.

Best line from the Chaser lads: “Give the story to Crikey – they’ll publish anything.”

John Clarke & Bryan Dawe had a little sledge at Kerry O’Brien’s love of a drink at a journalism awards ceremony – any awards ceremony. O’Brien, who was hosting at the time, took it well: “I’m now free to indulge in a little formation flying, with or without John Clarke,” Kerry told the audience, as he headed off in search of a nightcap.

Table 47 was the Nine Network power table, headed by network boss John Alexander, and populated by staffers including Helen Dally, Hugh Riminton, Peter Meakin, Gerald Stone and Mark Day.

Meakin, written off by some after a heart attack this year, served notice while accepting his industry leadership award that he is not going anywhere, despite the turmoil at the network being driven by JA and offsider Paul Bailey.

A minor blunder by the MEAA in apparently releasing the winners early. ABC TV’s news update named the Gold Walkley winners an hour before they were announced. News filtered through. Let’s hope no-one broke any embargoes.

Check out all the results at www.walkleys.com

UNION PROTEST OVER ABBOTT AT THE WALKLEYS

December 2 sealed section

One person not at the Walkleys top table was MEAA journalist section president Alan Kennedy who apparently had himself moved off it when he found that Mad Monk Tony Abbott was guest speaker last Thursday night.

Lefty Kennedy was apparently miffed that there had been no consultation about Abbott being there and were not too sure if federal secretary Chris Warren knew too much about it as Tom Burton apparently presented his old school mate as a fait accompli.

The Mad Monk certainly did not get a warm reception and his attempt to reach out and pretend he was still one of us went down like a lead balloon.

Many journalists guests were annoyed by Abott’s presence but made Billy Leak a hero for his wiping of Abbott’s nose. Abbott also was critical of judges during dinner complaining about the number of asylum seeker stories.

Must have been a bit for him seeing his old mates Reithy and Howard exposed as manipulative liars.

Alan Kennedy was spotted at the CUB table with Patrick Smith, one of the night’s winners. He told friends when he went up to hand out a gong he tried not to shake hands with Abbott but the old monarchist insisted.

Kennedy is one of those real warriors for the left and there arent too many left in journalism these days.

OZ TO DUMP A BUCKET ON THE WALKLEYS

Dec 4 sealed section

The word is out. Tomorrow’s Media section in The Oz is all set to dump a bucket on the Walkleys. Editorial heavies Chris Mitchell and Michael Stutchbury were not happy when Natalie O’Brien’s kids overboard story missed out on the Gold Walkley which went to the SMH’s Anne Davies and Kate McClymont for their Bulldogs salary cap exclusive which was a good story but did not travel nationally like the O’Brien piece did.

There may be an attack on the Walkleys Board for having Tom Burton on it given that he’s married to Gold winner Anne Davies. Burton wrote to all board members before judging and said he was totally out of the picture when it came to those areas and indeed left the room for quite some time while the matters were discussed. When it came to judging it would seem there was just one Fairfax person on the panel and News did have Mark Day and Malcolm Farr in there.

ARE THE WALKLEYS RIGGED?

As predicted yesterday, The Australian have given the Walkleys a big spray in their Media supplement today which you can read here

Interesting to see Fairfax spindoctor Bruce Wolpe going on the record saying McCrann shouldnt have won the business Walkley ahead of Colleen Ryans HIH pieces for the Fin Review.

Meanwhile, someone calling themselves Brendan Donohue writes:

Two points on the Walkleys, which, I believe are seriously rigged, sometimes for personal reasons, and often to ‘even things up’, so no single outlet gets too many prizes. This is partly because the awards are run by the union, so there’s a built-in vested interest in not alienating any paper or channel, for fear of losing members and support. If the Pulitzers or the British Press Awards were done in this way, no-one would stand for it, but here we seem to accept it as if there were no alternatives. (The Pulitzers are run by a trust set up from a pulisher’s will, the British Press awards by the independent UK Press Gazette).

WHY DID WALEY BEAT TONY JONES?

1. There was much bemusement on publication of the shortlist at the fact that Jim Waley was in there for a couple of fairly soft interviews, while Tony Jones’ extremely powerful interviews with Howard on the Children Overboard were passed over, as were people like Kerry O’Brien. But since Waley’s appointment to succeed Brian Henderson as Nine’s newsreader, it all looks a bit murky.
Conspiracists are pointing to the fact that John Westacott of 60 Minutes, a very senior member of the Nine news and current affairs hierarchy, was on the judging panel for that category. I know the Walkleys are ‘judged by their peers’, but a decision should be made to ensure that such conflicts of interests are rigorously avoided. There’s no reason why broadcast interviews have to be judged by broadcast journalists — indeed, if as sometimes happens, a fellow broadcast interviewer is included,
issues of unspoken jealousy may intrude. Why not keep things separate, and have newspaper journos judging the broadcast categories, and vice versa?

WHAT ABOUT THE 4 CORNERS JOURNALISTS WORKING ONLINE

2. You nominated as a fair dinkum editor in the online section, contributing a vast amount to editorial input. I agree that Michelle Feuerlicht did a lovely job of putting the Timber Mafia story on the web — but the fact is that much of the content in it comes from the reporter, producer and crew who did the
story for Four Corners. They get no credit from the Walkleys, even though the content involves Stephen McDonell’s road diary, full transcripts of all Stephen’s interviews, a portfolio of photos taken during the shoot, etc. It’s a newish category: now they have to make a real decision about what it
really represents. If this decision is a precedent, it will put online in the same category as the awards for layout subs or headline writers — perfectly respectable, but not the same as the ones you get for major writing and editing jobs, or journalistic work in the field.

Regards, Brendan

Peter Fray

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