A quarter of a century on, Laurie Oakes
is still said to be miffed that his Channel Ten scoop in getting a leak
of the 1980 Federal budget didn’t win a Walkley. The Sphere of
Influence may not enter his yarns but he is firmly back in the tent and
last night delivered a brief but powerful lecture on the merits of
television journalism.

Oakes said he was annoyed that newspaper
journalists still say their electronic counterparts are constrained in
what they can do, a comment he heard regularly on leaving The Sun News Pictorial in the late 1970s and still hears to this day.

“Television
has greatly expanded journalism,” Oakes said, citing several incidents,
including Mark Latham’s power hand-shake with the PM on election eve
last year, where the small screen captured something that “print
journalists can only envy.”

He also pointed out that a crisp 15
paragraph newspaper story is exactly what can be fitted into a
90-second television story – plus all the vision, and then finished
with a proverbial two-fingered salute telling the print hacks to “eat
your heart out.”

Network Ten sponsored the television news
reporting category, so we had Paul Bongiorno on stage handing out the
prize, Laurie at the microphone and their Channel Seven rival, Mark
Riley, in the running for his scoop on Tony Abbott’s son that wasn’t.
When Tim Palmer’s name was read out, Bongiorno was heard to say “thank
god for that”.

Oakes also came up with one of the better gags of
the night. An earlier technical hitch saw Seven’s Chris Bath and SBS
co-host Anton Enus do the cha cha up and down the stage to fill-in some
time when the sound went down. When Oakes introduced Bongiorno he said,
“If there’s a technical hitch I am not going to dance with him.”

As
Oakes left the stage, another big man seated near the front rose to his
feet and they warmly embraced. Who knows what the connection is with
Fairfax chairman and former Liberal Party bagman Ron Walker, but they
greeted like long lost friends. Maybe Laurie remembered that James
Packer declared Ron was “an inspired choice” to lead Fairfax.

Then
again, Ron was in a friendly mood last night and appeared to have
forgotten everything I said at the Fairfax AGM as he came up and shook
hands, even introducing me to his wife Barbara who said “so you’re the
one” when I jokingly apologised for attacking her husband.

Barbara’s
hair must have taken hours as it just went straight up. As one Fairfax
hack observed later, “They really are some couple and Ron is starting
to think he’s the next Lord Beaverbrook.”

Indeed, leaking that story to The Australian’s Steve Lewis yesterday about James Packer calling to complain about a picture The SMH ran of him in his togs was classic Beaverbrook.

Barbara Walker sat next to new Fairfax CEO David Kirk as Fairfax flew the flag at journalism’s “night of nights.”