Old and new Crikey took out half a table at the Melbourne Press Club Quill Awards on Friday night, and for the first time in five years we weren’t stuck in the corner at the back. Must be a our new found respectability because table 14 was very close to table one.

And table 14 actually cleaned up with a Quill and two commendations! Alas, that was for the other half of the table, the fine journalists from the Law Institute Journal (circulation 11,000).

As usual, there were plenty of good stories to be had but none of the papers have done any of them justice over the past 48 hours.

For instance, The Australian’s Strewth column today reported that some wag yelled out “say hi to Jaspan” when their newly promoted associate editor Cameron Stewart (along with the new Mrs Chris Mitchell, Christine Jackman) took out the Quill for “best feature in print” for their hatchet job on Mark Latham, “Losing it”.

(You have to feel sorry for Iron Mark. Labor’s primary vote rose in Werriwa and the piece in The Australian that he went feral about with complaints to the privileges committee and the like has been gonged. Check out our coverage here.)

This was a reference to new Age editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan trying to hire Stewart, only to see The Australian come back with a better offer. On being trumped, Jaspan then gave Stewart an undignified spray when addressing Age staff, something most hacks can’t recall ever happening after confidential negotiations.

But Strewth only got half the story. After collecting his Quill, Stewart actually pointed at Jaspan from the stage and then waved the trophy in his direction, not unlike the way Michael Slater reacts on scoring a century at Lord’s.

Jaspan didn’t have a good night as he took to the microphone and proceeded to only say hello to everyone past and present from The Age on what was meant to be a night to celebrate everyone in the industry. He then appeared to forget to introduce 3AW Morning host Neil Mitchell, the man many people believe Ron Walker wanted to become the new editor-in-chief of The Age.

Mitchell then got up and dropped the most inappropriate sledge of the night on introducing guest speaker and lifetime achievement award recipient Les Carlyon. The former Press Club President eulogised Carylon saying he had an uncanny ability to detect spivs. Alan Bond, fair enough, but Mitchell then said that Carlyon’s spiv detector also went “bling” when confronted with Paul Keating and Tim Costello.

Tim Costello a spiv? Hardly. The World Vision CEO criticised Mitchell about five years ago for being too close to the gaming industry and he’s been banned by the bearded burbler ever since. Tattersall’s were once again the gold sponsor of Friday’s Quill awards, and it was Mitchell who was instrumental in extracting the $40,000 a year from the insidious gaming giant.

Bev O’Connor stoicly hosted proceedings which was never an easy gig given that she was fired as Seven’s sports presenter a couple of weeks back and the acoustics at Zinc in Federation Square were pretty ordinary.

Check out a full list of Quill winners and commendations on the Press Club site here.

We liked the acceptance speech given by young journalist of the year and former honoray Crikey yoursay editor Nick McKenzie. He dutifully thanked his colleagues and bosses at Aunty for helping get his police corruption stories up, but then also thanked journalists on The Age, The Herald Sun and The Australian for giving him many of his ideas.

He didn’t thank Crikey which is not surprising given the spray he and his boss gave us when we remarked that underworld king Carl Williams should have been up on stage with them when the same stories won a Walkley last year. Our theory is that Carl Williams leaked the dated and widely circulated reports into slain police informer Terry Hodson to try and muddy the waters.

Other hacks claimed they declined to run the story because it would have played into the hands of Williams but Aunty’s reporters reject this theory and they have collected the various gongs so well done.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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