NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR:

In a year of turmoil for Fairfax, The Australian
has had a stellar 12 months, cleverly using its close links with the
federal Government, but still pursuing the powerbrokers with its
ferocious FOI campaigns. Yes, it wears its conservative politics on its
sleeve; yes, its news judgement is sometimes distorted by that
ideological worldview; yes, some of its commentators are insufferably
self-important and even pompous. But The Australian is an
increasingly lively and consistent newspaper in a sea of largely grey
sludge, and even readers who strongly disagree with its politics should
find plenty to nourish the other side of their brains. And those people
should at least acknowledge the independent presence of two influential
columnists of the left, Michael Costello and Phillip Adams, wedged
conspicuously between the op-ed pillars of conservatism.

Honourable mention: Just three years old, The National Indigenous Times
has become a most provocative print publication. Editor Chris Graham
and reporter Brian Johnstone were recognized with a Walkley Award for
their series of cabinet leaks, prompting a raid by federal police.

BEAT-UP OF THE YEAR:

It’s rare that a tabloid beat-up leads to an attempted suicide and the destruction of a stellar political career; step forward Daily Telehatchet man Luke McIlveen. McIlveen tried to get in the good news books later in the year with an attempt to cure cancer.
But even this front page effort couldn’t mitigate the efforts of editor
Dave Penberthy in taking that one egregious step too far and pushing an
already disturbed John Brogden over the edge.

Crikey readers say: Dave ‘Sluggo’ Wilson for that shameful coverage of the Muslim youths ‘not wanting to assimilate’ – Alex Flood.

MOST NAUSEATING MOMENT IN CHEQUE BOOK JOURNALISM:

It’s
hard to pick a single winner in this undistinguished category as the TV
networks and “women’s” magazines continued to add noughts in order to
add circulation and ratings. Our choices are:

Woman’s Day,which stole the mother of all celeb mag stories right from under the noses of arch-rival New Idea
by securing a $1 million Lleyton, Bec n’ baby package which gives the
mag a year’s access to the golden couple’s fresh offspring, signed off
on while daughter Mia was still in the womb. Readers can look forward
to a year of insights like the new dad’s doozy in last week’s sickly
sweet cover story: “To see a baby coming out of your wife’s body
after nine months, and to think you made her together…there really
aren’t any words to describe it.” Puke making.

Ten Network, for Sandra Sully’s cloying $400,000 + interview with Douglas Wood, opportunistic contractor turned all Australian hero.

And the woman-in-bootKorp family of Melbourne for trying to sell a story that even Today Tonight
wouldn’t touch. Networks pegged their noses and briefly considered
buying the suicide diaries and home movie of husband/alleged murderer
Joe Korp that brother Gust was peddling, but common decency finally
prevailed and news outlets nixed it.

SHOCK-JOCK MOMENT OF 2005:

Bob Francis, for his stunning example of how to respect the nation’s elderly.Sure,
dealing with talkback callers would make anyone tetchy from time to
time, but screaming “d*ckbrain” at a grandmother may not be the most
dignified, or articulate, way to vent.

Crikey readers say:
Ray Hadley v Ali Downer
RH : You’re a pompous dope. That’s what you are. You’re a pompous dope.
AD: Don’t be so bloody rude.
RH: No, I’ll be more than rude to you. You’re a disgraceful… you’re a disgrace. – James Walker

MEDIA BUNFIGHT OF THE YEAR:

Two winners:

Kerry Stokes v The World.
Stokes’s decision to take his C7 conspiracy theory to court broke the
media industry’s code of silence, and made enemies out of News Ltd, the
Nine Network, PBL, Foxtel, the Ten Network, Telstra and a host of
others. To quote Mark Latham on Stokes: “if only half of what he said
is true, it’s the corporate story of the decade. Stokes is going to run
it through the courts next year. But the case might last forever: this
bloke can talk the leg off a chair.” Events in court this year so far
seemed to support his assertions, with Ian Philip’s now infamous memo
to Telstra a case in point.

Writs were written, injunctions were thrown and shows were pulled as the very disobedient Mark Latham left a trail of chaos and broken media deals in the wake of his Diaries publicity jaunt. Lateline double-crossed Enough Rope, who News Ltd
thought double crossed them, who double crossed everyone by panicking
and prematurely publishing revelations from the hotly anticipated Diaries. It may have caused grey hairs at the ABC and MUP, but gee, it was great publicity for a book.

BEST BLOGGER OF THE YEAR:

We read hundreds of them a week, but Troppo Armadillo
stands out for consistency, entertainment value, variety and the must
read factor of the renaissance blogger’s musings on law, politics,
economics and life in general.

Other contenders:
Larvatus prodeo, Tim Blair, Professor Bunyip .

THE SPIN AWARD OF 2005:

Steve Vizard
spun his way through 2005 with a finesse that no-one else, despite
their efforts, could match. This year’s performance by the former
comedy host turned man about town followed Vizard’s original spin of
previous years: my book keeper stole my money and I lost $330,000 on
share trading. When that didn’t wash, Vizard and his lawyers pulled off
a great deal with ASIC over Vizard’s share trading while a director of
Telstra, involving a small fine and no criminal charges. But the spin
there – I was guilty of some offences and I’ve fessed up and paid my
dues – spiralled out of control as the media and (surprisingly) the big
end of town hit this spin attack out of the park. This required a spin
rethink, and towards the end of the year, after retiring to the nets to
perfect some new deliveries, Vizard emerged in TheWeekend Australian Magazine
to launch his redemption spin. And behind the scenes throughout it all
was PR operator Mike Smith, who is emerging as the great unseen
Australian spinmeister.

COLUMNIST OF THE YEAR:

Is
there a great Australian columnist – a William Safire or Walter Lippman
or Matthew Parris? Hardly. Which is why we find ourselves relying on
the trusted work of the one political columnist who is calm, knowing
and always the one to read: Laurie Oakes in The Bulletin.
His weekly column may lack the frenetic indignation of the tabloid
right-whingers, or the ideological enthusiasms of many of the
broadsheet trundlers, but this is the thing about the Oakes column: it
reeks of insider knowledge, its judgements are almost always judicious,
its logic is impeccable, its historical context is unmatchable and it
doesn’t need hysteria to achieve all this. In many ways we wish there
was a bold new columnist to match Oakes for knowing gravitas, but it
certainly didn’t happen in 2005.

Other contenders: Matt Price (almost everywhere at News Limited), Richard Ackland (SMH), Trevor Sykes (AFR), Geoffrey Barker (AFR) and Ross Gittins (Smage).

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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