The ABC and News Corp both collected a slew of Walkley nominations last night, with News shining in photography and feature writing while the ABC faced little competition in the radio current affairs and news categories.

Last year was a clean sweep for Fairfax, who scored a staggering 27 nominations to News Corp’s 13 and the ABC’s 18. But the tables turned this year — Fairfax dominated the business category, but it scored only 17 nominations overall.

2014 Walkley Award nominations by media outlet

The events announcing the shortlists in Sydney and Melbourne were more sparsely attended than in recent years, but those who turned up weren’t complaining, with the bar tabs lasting right until the end of the night. Those in Sydney were served fried whitebait and broccoli, while the Melbourne gathering got Vietnamese rolls and sushi, which eventually gave way to meat pies and pizza. Crikey understands the Sydney launch was attended by a range of new media types, while the party in Melbourne had Fairfax and The Guardian comprising the largest contingents.

In Melbourne, Fairfax investigative star and the night’s co-host Richard Baker was placed in the awkward position of deciding whether to clap for his own  nominations (he decided against it). He took home three nominations overall, all shared with co-conspirator Nick McKenzie along with a host of other rotating reporters. Crikey’s spies, however, thought the odds were on Fairfax business reporter Adele Ferguson (four nominations — three of them for the same story) to take out the Gold Walkley, or, failing that, the Journalistic Leadership Awards (for which a shortlist is not announced).

The headline-writing category has turned into the battle of the editors. The Daily Telegraph’s editor-in-chief Paul “Boris” Whittaker, who already has two Walkley gongs to his name, is going up against his underling (and day editor) Brad Clifton and The Saturday Paper‘s Erik Jensen. The NT News, which took home the category last year, wasn’t a finalist this time.

Many were surprised to see West Australian senior scribe Steve Pennells with a nomination in the press photography category. Pennells, who took out the Gold Walkley in 2012, is best-known for his writing on resources and his court battles with Gina Rinehart, but he’s an accomplished photographer as well. He took out the WA Media Award prize for photographic feature essay in both 2011 and 2013.

Only the ABC and SBS are ever really competitive in the radio categories, but Radio National’s Background Briefing dominated the field last night, taking out all three of the nominations in the radio documentary/feature/podcast or special category and another nomination in the all-media sports journalism category.

The cartoon of the year field yielded a nomination for New Matilda, its first, which will pit long-running NM contributor Lindsay Foyle against veterans David Pope (Canberra Times) and Ron Tandberg (The Age).

Among smaller publishers, Schwartz Media (The Monthly, Saturday Paper, Quarterly Essay) had four nominations while the Guardian Oz had three, one shared with the ABC. The since-deceased Global Mail also got a nomination for “A Guard’s Story”, its graphic novel-style insider’s account of working in a detention centre that became the last story it ever published.

Channel Nine was the only commercial free-to-air TV station to be shortlisted, getting three nominations overall. Sky News also got a nomination for David “what is metadata?” Speers’ interview with a befuddled Attorney-General.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.