On a promise of a tropical storm...missed it by that much...

Last night’s NT Media Awards (back on after three forgotten years) began with all the promise of a resurgent La Nina. In the taxi to the gig Fairfax snapper Glenn Campbell wanted to turn around and grab his kit so he could get some shots of the massive storm that loomed all purple and yellow over the ziggurat-like structure that was the venue for this year’s awards, Darwin’s Skycity Casino.

“Bugger it, its a night off. Lets go get a beer!”

Downstairs on Skycity’s massive pokie floors it was wall-to-wall bogans-on-the prowl on a Saturday night. There is something very off-putting about the sight of a boardie-and-thongs surfie fresh off the plane from Kuta Beach feeding fifties into the slots next to a middle-aged woman whose sense of style is stranded somewhere in her teens. Think electric blue plastic gowns with masses of manufactured curls propped up by six inches of stiletto.

Invest in the journalism that makes a difference.

EOFY Sale. A year for just $99.

SAVE 50%

Darwin’s always had a curious relationship with class and style.

Meanwhile, upstairs in what used to be the high-rollers room a hundred and fifty of Darwin’s media (bolstered by a heavy presence of government and corporate hangers-on and spinners) gathered in their finest threads.

For mine the best (male) fashion on the field award went the the venerable Chips Mackinolty in a stunning sky-blue Tiwi Designs jacket topped off by a fine scribbler’s pallor. Best female fashion of the night went to the young lady in a pair of wonderful white trousers. Unfortunately she always seemed to have her very impressive “back” to me so I can’t name her. No VPL here folks.

The casino thoughtfully provided a large balcony for the smokers and I suspect much of the real business of the evening was conducted out there. I followed the time-worn (but very difficult) path of trying to stay sober while picking the slowly-sozzled brains of those less so than mine. I managed to pick up a few tips and some very juicy gossip that I’ll be happy to pass on for a small fee…

All a girl needs...a speech, a BlackBerry & a fine set of pins...

The night kicked off with an intro from Angelique Ivanovica from the MEAA and a cheery gee-up from MC Lisa Pellegrino who segued into a stunning display of masculine femininity by one of the Tiwi Island’s famous “sista girls”. Then we got down to the entree – one of those weird constructions that hotel chefs pass off as food – and the business of the awards for Best Scoop/Newsbreaker (won by the NT News’ Nigel Adlam)  Television/Radio – Best Current Affairs (The ABC’s Jane Bardon) and Print – Best News Coverage (Nigel Adlam again).

Adlam has some particular views about the role of the NT’s only daily, the NT News, as he explained to Sarah Everingham earlier this year on the ABC’s 7.30 Report. According to Adlam the NT News is:

…bizarre and offbeat and a little bit wild and I think that’s great…Our front pages are often absolute classics that go around the world because they’re presented in not just a newsy way, but in an artistic way20 or 25 years ago, the newspaper took itself more seriously. We still take ourselves seriously to a certain extent in that we run many of the so-called heavy stories. They’re just not on the front page...I wouldn’t be so pompous and pretentious as to say Northern Territory News is a newspaper of record. It doesn’t try to be. But it’s still a very Northern Territory product, and we’re quite proud of that.

Another short smoke break was followed by the main courses of more food and awards and a very funny interlude from the Daily Tele’s Joe Hildebrand.

The fast moving Tara Ravens and the very funny Joe Hildebrand

Apart from a mild frisson of outrage at the lack of rubber chicken the feed, and Joe’s speech – consisting largely of hilarious jibes at the expense of the NT News – both went down well.

The ABC’s James Glenday took out the Best Sports Journalism for his piece on a very wet TIO Stadium, our Nigel took out the Print – Best Feature Writing and Nadja Fleet from the NT News took out Best Online Journalism (all creds to her and the NT News team for that one – I was listed as a finalist). Kathleen Bruyn from 9 News Darwin took out Best TV/Radio News Report and my good mate Glenn Campbell from Fairfax (he from the taxi ride) took out Best Photography.

Another smoke break and then back for the biggies – the Marchbanks Young Journalist of the Year and the 2011 NT Journalist of the Year. The Marchbank went to a very deserving Nadja Fleet, the judges saying that:

Nadja demonstrated one of the most important qualities in a good reporter and something difficult to teach – initiative and loads of it.

Nadja Fleet gets her gong as the NT's Marchbanks Young Journalist of the Year

Adlam’s award as NT Journalist of the Year was unsurprising and – in light of the three minor gongs awarded for very solid work – well deserved. But there were more than a few mutterings that it might have been better for him to leave the field to the many younger and no less deserving early career journalists who might appreciate the nice cheque and a trip to Brisbane for the Walkley Awards in a few weeks as much as Nigel would.

Hopefully the powers that be at the NT News – or the MEAA – will do the right thing by Nadja Fleet and give her a trip to the Walkleys. She should go.

We’ll keep you posted.

And big props to Nadja Fleet and the ABC’s Anna Henderson for resurecting the NT Media Awards from what could easily have been an untimely fate.

Freebies for the reptiles of the press...

Postscript: Last evening had a nice circularity for me. Soon after I’d run back to the Top End of the NT in late 2006 after spending too long in the south I was swagging it on the floor of my good mate Andrew MacMillan’s bunker in Darwin’s Stuart Park. One bleary-eyed morning after a few-too-many beers and wines he pointed me to a minor local drama that had erupted around the ABC Lateline‘s Tony Jones’ gig at the 2006 NT Media Awards and a particularly vituperative speech given by the (then) NT Deputy Chief Minister Syd “Vicious” Stirling (who I now work with at the Northern Land Council).

Back then – in my first of many pieces that I’ve written for Crikey – I reported that:

Stirling called Jones a “grub” and the Darwin Press Club, organisers of the Media Awards, were described as ‘disgraceful’ for having the temerity to invite Jones to Darwin to present at the Awards:

Lateline and Tony Jones are up for a Walkley Award. Nothing could be more disgraceful in Australian journalism. The fact that this program has been nominated undermines the Walkley Awards…There can be no bigger beat-up. You have an old woman who has not lived there for seven years, you have got a doctor that has not lived and worked there for four years, and you have got a staffer from the federal minister’s office intent on creating as much mayhem as he can in this area. They put all of these lies together, present them as fact that this all occurred in the days and weeks and months prior, run this drivel out.…My final word is I think it is an absolute disgrace that he is invited here for the media awards on Saturday night, because as much as the nomination of his program devalues and undermines the credibility of what ought be the highly prized and ethical award, the Walkley Award, so also is the evening on Saturday night in the Northern Territory press awards by having such a grub in their midst.

Jones landed in Darwin unaware of the bombs that Stirling had thrown at him:

The Lateline host was briefed as soon as he got off the plane and by Saturday night Jones was well primed. He presented his speech in the form of a memo to Clare Martin, the NT Chief Minister. By some accounts he gave a well-reasoned and vigorous defence of Lateline and the way they ran the Mutitjulu story and related s-xual abuse claims. Others thought that Jones failed to address a number of matters of serious concern, including perceived ethical breaches, raised by the Lateline broadcasts and the subsequent conduct of Lateline editorial staff in relation to the saga.

What does all this matter? Well, to the hacks of the NT media it matters a lot – they see Lateline as having trampled on their turf by sensationalising a story they’ve been reporting for years but that has been largely ignored by their editors, politicians and readers. They are also upset by the “moral panic” approach that Lateline and other national media have taken to a story from the NT media’s own backyard, and they despair at the clumsy handling and the subsequent vigorously prosecuted debate over ethical standards in reporting sensitive issues concerning indigenous culture. Most of all, they hate being scooped on a story of national significance. There is a lot of angst about these matters up here, and it has spread from the ranks of ABC radio and TV journalists concerned about the trashing of their collective reputations into the wider news community.

In one of those equiste irony’s that the Top End’s wet seasons manage to throw up from time to time Tony Jones was in Darwin earlier in the week on QandA duties. Now if only I’d managed to remember the five-year old brouhaha and raised it as a question for Tony or as a Tweet. Oh well, just another opportunity lost. And by the way, Syd “Vicious” Stirling was nowhere to be seen in the QandA audience.

But last night all was sweetness and hale-fellow-and-mam-well-met. Not a punch or angry word thrown or heard. Quite UN-Territorian.

Save this EOFY while you make a difference

Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

We’ve pushed our journalism as far as we could go. And that’s only been possible with reader support. Thank you. And if you haven’t yet subscribed, this is your time to join tens of thousands of Crikey members to take the plunge.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
SAVE 50%