Journalism’s night of nights, the Walkley Awards, have been and gone for another year and Crikey was there to enjoy and review all the action.

The Walkley Awards went off without a hitch last night with a professional and entertaining presentation night at Crown Casino, a smooth SBS Broadcast and the right journalists mostly getting rewarded.

A lid was kept on the simmering tensions at The Fin Review when the 5-person “Team” entry on the Swiss Banking scandal picked up the Gold Walkley, rather than the competing three person individual entry. The three person entry didn’t even win its chosen category of “investigative journalism” as that went to Malcolm Knox and Caroline Overington for their stunning Norma Khouri exclusive in The SMH.

The AFR Team was always going to win its chosen category of business reporting but the big question was whether the three person entry put in by Shraga Elam, Neil Chenoweth and former editor Colleen Ryan would prevail in the investigative category and also take out the Gold Walkley.

The Walkley’s seems to have taken a middle course on the morning after the awards as this is what today’s MEAA’s E-Bulletin reported:

AFR Team Takes The Gold – Australian Financial Review journalists Neil Chenoweth, Rosemarie Graffagnini, Andrew Main and Colleen Ryan soared to the pinnacle of Australian journalistic achievement at last night’s 49th Walkley Awards in Melbourne. The team’s Gold Walkley effort unmasked a damning money trail from a $53 million payout on the Offset Alpine Printing fire to secret Swiss bank accounts held by Rene Rivkin, Trevor Kennedy and Graham Richardson. Other winners of the night included sports journalist Phil Wilkins for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism, full-time author Les Carlyon for Journalism Leadership, and Getty Images’ Adam Pretty for Press Photographer of the Year. Get the full list of winners and read about what makes them great at http://www.walkleys.com

Shraga Elam, the hot-headed international man of mystery who apparently got the Swiss Banking documents and shopped them around before finally settling on The AFR, was strangely left off the winning line-up in today’s E-Bulletin.

Then you have poor old Bill Pheasant, the undoubted “sixth man” whose 15 years worth of ASIC contacts were important to the story but not enough to get him on the winning “AFR Team” nomination.

Shraga and Neil Chenoweth both gave good but short speeches and there is no doubt they were the two most important players. In Chenoweth, Shraga found someone who actually understood the explosive nature of his documents as no-one had done more on Offset Alpine over the years than Chenoweth, a reporter who has produces many great yarns but is sometimes criticised internally for not doing it often enough.

It was a gutsy decision of Chenoweth to speak as it was carried on national television and he has a bad stutter at the best of times that was well contained as he addressed arguably the nation’s toughest media audience.

Most deserving Walkley winners

There were plenty of deserving winners last night including The Mercury’s tenacious Ellen Whinnett who did more than anyone else to bring down Tasmanian Governor Richard Butler. She picked up the “best newspaper news story” Walkley.

It was also good to see The Age’s Gay Alcorn, Malcolm Schmidtke and Liz Minchin take out the newspaper feature writing Walkley for “Young Latham”, which remains to this day the best read on Iron Mark that has been produced.

Jane Cadzow was another deserving winner in the Magazine Feature Writing category for “The Right Thing” – her Good Weekend cover story that brought down hypocritical love rat Ross Cameron.

The Media Watch team were popular and deserving winners of the television current affairs (less than 20 minutes) category for “Cash for Comment II and Professor Flint’s Fan Mail”.

The only major objection we had was the decision to give both the radio news reporting and television news reporting Walkleys to Peter Cave for that gripping story on the kidnapping of American truck driver Thomas Hamill in Baghdad, but his arguably even more brave cameraman Michael Cox was overlooked in the camera work category for a Seven crew on the Redfern riots.

Surely Cave could have got one and his cameraman the other. Still, Redfern allowed Seven to claim a comprehensive 1-0 win over Nine in the commercial television side battle.

The final Walkleys league ladder was as follows:

Fairfax: 12
News Ltd: 8
ABC: 6
SBS: 2
Getty Images: 2
PBL: 1
Seven: 1

We’d like your feedback on the most deserving and underserving winners so send your emails to [email protected].

For a full list of the judges – http://www.walkleys.com/judges.html
And for all of this year’s winners – http://www.walkleys.com/2004/index.htm

The Walkleys – a Downer for some

There are winners and there are losers at the Walkleys. And one of the losers this year wasn’t even nominated. Word is that Alexander Downer was hoping that Carmela Baranowska wouldn’t win the Walkley for her piece ‘Taliban Country’ aired on Dateline.

But Baranowska got the gong for best coverage of the Asia-Pacific. Apparently, Lord Downer of Baghdad was not happy about the reward for Baranowska’s critical analysis of Australian foreign policy.

But what of the rumour that he was overheard threatening to cut off all aid to the Walkleys – just like his recent threat to Vanuatu. He must surely realise DFAT doesn’t fund the Walkleys…

The Herald Sun’s churlish Walkley’s boycott


They really are a pathetic bunch at the Herald Sun sometimes. Here we had Australia’s most prestigious journalism awards hosted in Melbourne last night and the most senior person in attendance from the nation’s biggest selling paper was cartoonist Mark Knight, who deservedly picked up his second straight Walkley.

Andrew Bolt really set the tone with this column attacking the whole Walkleys process on Tuesday. Try these lines for size:

“Australia’s journalists will tomorrow at Crown casino honour their best by showing their worst. It’s jackpot time – the annual awarding of the country’s top media prizes, the Walkley Awards, to the finest in our craft. But watch this love-in on SBS and you’ll understand why you’re actually watching a media that suffers too often from group think.

“Three of the final four contenders in the best news report category, for instance, got there with stories on Americans being mean to Iraqis, Australians being mean to Taliban recruit David Hicks, and John Howard allegedly lying over children overboard.”

Bolt’s column was subject to ridicule from journalists of all persuasions last night and it was certainly noted that the heavies from the Herald Sun had boycotted after their paper had failed to make the short list for every category besides best cartoonist.

The amusing thing is that they still have this gloat from 2002 on their website where Terry McCrann is pictured proudly holding his Walkley from that year’s awards.

Of course, the great left wing conspiracy subsided briefly when McCrann was gonged, but HMV failed to turn up this time to applaud his peers for their fine efforts. Sad, really.

Memo to Peter Blunden: you either fully boycott the Walkleys or you fully participate. Boycotting just because your entries didn’t do very well is childish and petulant.

How ridiculous did it look to have Daily Telegraph political reporter and Walkleys Advisory Board chairman Malcolm Farr making speeches and handing our trophies last night when his local Murdoch tabloid comrades were nowhere to be seen.

Peter Cave on journalistic braveness

Dual Walkley award winner and number one ABC foreign correspondent Peter Cave responds to Friday’s sealed section in which we lamented that his cameraman did not share in his Walkley glories:

I have never regarded myself as particularly brave. In truth, I have always felt that what others have from time to time attributed to me as courage as I have been shot at, arrested, beaten up and put in front of a firing squads in various unfortunate parts of the globe over the past few decades, has actually been due to a combination of having no sense of direction whatsoever, not being particularly bright, and being too old and fat to run very well.

Like you I was surprised that my friend and colleague Michael Cox did not repeat his gold award winning feat at the AFI awards but there is a simple reason he did not win the radio and television news Walkley Awards. He did not enter for them. I personally think “he wuz robbed” in his section of the Walkley Awards as he was last year but that’s only because he is a mate and I have boundless admiration and feel pathetic gratitude for what he produces on those occasions when he remembers to put a tape in his camera. I had suggested we submit a joint award but he wanted quite rightly to stay away from the Blowies.

Now as to the matter of his being arguably more brave than your humble correspondent, that is something I would like to hear you argue. Perhaps next time you are skulking around the ABC Canteen at Ultimo doing a spot of eavesdropping we can have a game of Truth or Dare.

I had thought that placing one’s correspondent between oneself and a car full or hostile kidnappers, replete with deadly weaponry, masks and bad attitude was one of those mysterious techical things that camerapersons do in order to get them in the shot rather than to get them shot.

Likewise, when they insist you stand on the edge of a rooftop and train lights on one during those occasional outbreaks of sniper activity or mass displays of ballistic prowess, it was always explained that it was to “get a good background mate”.

It had never occurred to me that when a cameraperson suggested that I do a “Pizza to Canberra” in the middle of the murderous thugs who occupy the aptly named Thieves Market it was for any reason other than the purely technical stuff to which he was privy and about which ” I was not to worry my pretty head”.

Now thanks to Crikey I find out it was a contest of hairy chestedness.