Ok. Next year I’m going to set fire to Callan Park and then I’m going to write about it. We’d lose a few dogs, but it would be worth it -- at least I’d win a Walkley. All up, the Victorian bushfires scooped the pool at the Walkleys last night, generating seven awards, mainly for ABC Radio.
The big one, the Gold Walkley, went to The Australian
’s Gary Hughes, who fought bravely to save his house, watched it burn to the ground, and then borrowed a lap top to file two superb stories. He was unwell last night, but his wife and daughter were there to collect his awards, which included Best News Report. The Walkley Foundation also gave them three extra Walkleys to replace the ones he’d won in previous years, which were lost in the fires.
Biggest disappointment, however, was the lack of biff; since Glenn Milne pushed Crikey founder Stephen Mayne off the stage in 2006, things have been very tame. The absence last night of the famously combative Canberra press gallery, still at work covering the Opposition leadership crisis, may have had something to do with it. The evening’s MC, heavily-pregnant Annabel Crabb said she had been chosen because she was “...very nearly impossible to shove off stage, keep that in mind, Overington.”
Not only was the “only person in this room guaranteed not to get pissed”, she added, “I’m living proof that there is a perfectly natural way of escaping the Rudd administration for a period of at least several months.”
But we were visited by Kevin Rudd (comic Antony Ackroyd), who gave us “Kevinspiration” poems in Mandarin and the song “Rudd is in the Air”, sung to the tune of John Paul Young’s ‘Love is in the Air”.
“Rudd is in the air, like emissions on the breeze. Rudd is in the air, when I’m flying overseas.”
The other highlight was comic Gerry Connolly (on tape) impersonating SBS newsreader Lee Lin Chin, complete with outrageous outfit and statement spectacles.
But it was Annabel Crabb who stole the show, even winning her own Walkley for her Quarterly Essay: Stop at Nothing; The Life and Adventures of Malcolm Turnbull
. She introduced presenter Helen McCabe, the former deputy editor of the Sunday Telegraph
, as having a “brilliant career during which she hardly ever got flashed at by Col Allen”.
Author Paul Barry’s “greatest triumph had been to write a book,
in which – against all the odds – he managed to make James Packer appear interesting, “ she said, adding that Helen Dalley had a media CV “longer than ASIC’s One.Tel legal bill.”
“Hidden in an attic there must be a portrait of Helen Dalley looking incredibly haggard but here she is, as fresh as a daisy.”
However, Nine news presenter Peter Overton managed to misread his autocue, saying that “journalism exists to uncover things that somewhere (sic), somewhere doesn’t want you to know about. “
One of the highlights was the best non-fiction book award, won by the great political speechwriter Graham Freudenberg for Churchill and Australia
, published by Pan McMillan. Freudenberg said that he became a reporter 53 years ago because he wanted to be a writer. He wasn’t much good as a reporter, he said, so he became a press secretary, but wasn’t much good at that so became a speechwriter.
“And now winning this great award, what I thought 50 years ago, that to be a journalist is to be a writer, is true after all."
The award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism went to Tony Stephens who started on the Daily Mirror
in 1961. When Tony retired from the Sydney Morning Herald
this year, his duties included editing the obituaries. Fairfax management soon received a letter from Gough Whitlam, expressing his great concern that Tony would now not be available to write his entry. He asked them if it were possible to contract Tony to write one final piece.
In his speech, Tony advised young journalists to keep asking sceptical questions and “try to seek out the better angels in society and listen patiently to what they have to say. “
Several of last night’s Twitterer’s pointed out the irony of Tweeting about awards for “old media”. Ben Harris Roxas said at 10pm “It’s the battle of the failing business models tonight - music industry at the Arias and media at the Walkleys. Which will disappear first. “
Annabel said that online journalists were “the new kids on the block who reach a big audience out there hungry for news yet curiously reluctant to pay for it. It may be free, for now, but it is quality.
“Online journalism, the new rivers of gold? (Or) a swamp in which dinosaurs go to die?” she asked us. Annabel, please, it’s a swamp.