The ABC kicked an own goal at this year’s Kennedy Awards for excellence in journalism. The corporation carried off an armful of prizes, but the nabobs of Ultimo pulled their sponsorship at the last minute. So when host Ray Martin asked if Q&A presenter Tony Jones was in the house (the AJC ballroom at Randwick), he was met with a deafening silence. None of the ABC’s A-list attended. Crikey was told that the ABC withdrew its support due to budget cuts, and this seems plausible. However, Friday night’s guests also heard another rumour that the journalists’ union, the Media Alliance, put pressure on the ABC to withdraw support because it feared that its own Walkley Awards were being undermined, which the MEAA’s Paul Murphy has denied, calling it “categorically untrue”.
The ABC’s absence made no obvious difference to the evening’s success. More than 400 journalists hired dinner suits (the boys) and ironed ankle-length frocks (the ladies) to attend the awards function in memory of the late Les Kennedy, an ace crime reporter who worked for The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald and wrote a couple of cracking crime books. Premier Mike Baird and senior cabinet ministers showed up — Deputy Premier Troy Grant, Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian, Energy Minister Anthony Roberts — as well Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas.
The ABC’s Caro Meldrum-Hanna won Journalist of the Year award for her greyhound investigation. She and her Four Cornerscolleagues Sam Clark and Max Murch also won separate awards for exposing the greyhound cruelty scandal. Meldrum-Hanna was in the winner’s circle again for TV’s outstanding consumer affairs reporting, a first prize that she shared with Ali Russell and Mario Christodoulou. Popular winners were Adele Ferguson and Ruth Richards (SMH) for best finance journalism (a ripping expose of NAB), outstanding news photographer Andrew Meares (SMH), outstanding political journalist Andrew Clennell (Telegraph) and lifetime achievement award to veteran sports writer Ian Heads.
The commercial TV networks flooded their respective categories with coverage of the Lindt Cafe siege, leaving the audience with the impression that the TV crews had been to Stalingrad or the Battle of the Somme instead of parking their cameras in Martin Place.
One noticeable thing: tables occupied by broadsheet journalists from The Australian were raucous and rather loutish while their tabloid cousins from The Daily Telegraph were positively civilised.