Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Ten thoughts about The Press Awards

The Times team celebrates the Newspaper of the Year award
Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar/Press Awards UK
Last night the great and the good of Britains national newspapers gathered for the Press Awards. It was a cracking evening from which I have just about recovered. I really ought to have learned by now to skip the bar afterwards. The Times took the Newspaper of the Year award - helped massively by the dogged determination and journalistic brilliance of Andrew Norfolk in uncovering the Rotherham sex scandal. All credit to The Times for giving him four years to cover one story. You can watch his emotional acceptance speech for the News Reporter of the Year award here - and reassure yourself that investigative journalism is alive and well. Well done to him, The Times and all of last nights winners. As always, the night was a real celebration of the best newspapers in the world and an opportunity to catch up with (increasingly) old faces. Here are my musings on the night.

Andrew Norfolk with host Nick Ferrari
Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar/Press Awards UK
i) The Times were the winners on the night by a long way. The daily collected eight winners’ awards - including Newspaper of the Year, largely due to the amazing work by Andrew Norfolk in Rotherham. There were also two highly commended awards. The Sunday Times collected two winners awards and two highly commended. It was quite a haul. It was also pleasing to see the paper which won the most individual awards, winning newspaper of the year. That hasn’t always happened ... but it makes sense to me.

ii) The Mirror also had a good night. The daily collected five winners’ awards and two highly commended mentions. The Daily Record also won an award and a highly commended, the Sunday Mirror was highly commended twice and the People once. It is good to see a red-top doing so well. The full breakdown of last night's award winners is Times 8, Daily Mirror 5, Daily Mail 4, Independent and i 3, Financial Times 2, Sunday Times 2, Guardian 1, Daily Telegraph 1, Standard 1, Press Association 1, Mail On Sunday 1, Independent on Sunday 1, Daily Record 1. In the last 15 years the only red-tops to win Newspaper of the Year have been the News of the World (2005) and the Mirror (2002). The judges, mainly journalists, have traditionally gravitated towards the heavier papers. It is, of course, difficult comparing red-top story-getters with the writers of the qualities. The Society of Editors has recognised this, separating some categories for the quality and popular papers. A good move.

iii) The Mirror did well  but where was The Sun? One shortlisted entry (Dan Wootton for Showbiz Reporter) and one nomination for the Cudlipp Award were the paper's only mention. Britain’s biggest selling paper not winning an award, let alone barely being shortlisted, is a bit of a shocker. I was also surprised that the world’s biggest newspaper website, MailOnline, wasn’t shortlisted for the digital award. Perhaps it didn’t enter.

iv) Another imbalance, which was mentioned on Twitter a few times last night, was the number of women represented. Seventeen of the winners were men and only four - including the Georgina Henry Women In Journalism Award -  were women. Last year there were 13 male winners and six women, so it looks like a step backwards. I believe, though, that the breakdown is more indicative of the balance in the newsrooms than any problem with the awards. The Society, under the guidance of Sue Ryan, is certainly ensuring there are more women on the judging panels. It is clearly a broader issue. And dont get me started on the number of journalists with an ethnic background 

v) It is always interesting to see how last year’s winners perform. The Guardian which cleaned up last year with four awards, including Newspaper of the Year, only won one award this year. It seems to be a bit of a pattern. The Daily Telegraph, which swept the board and won Newspaper of the Year for the MP expenses story in 2010, only gained a couple of highly commended mentions the following year. Someone suggested in the bar last night that there was some kind of ‘Buggins turn’ going on. There definitely isn’t. In years of judging I have never heard anyone suggest that last year’s results should be a taken into account  ... at any level. There must be another reason. Any thoughts? 

vi) The winners are invited to say a few words as they collect their award. Some do, some dont. The audience usually gives an internal groan when someone goes to hog the microphone. But not last night. The speeches were among the best bits. If you werent there take a look at the videos on the Press Awards website. You will hear Andrew Norfolk talk about how he 'shamed that cess pit of a council in Rotherham'. Another Times journalist Anthony Lloyd took the opportunity to thank the doctors in Syria, Baghdad and London who patched him up and his Syrian fixer who taught him that though the pen is sometimes mightier than the sword there is also a place for a claw hammer’. 
On the lighter side there was Independent columnist Mark Steel saying: 'It’s lovely to write for a newspaper that, when you tell people in the wider world who you’re writing for, they say - aah, I didn’t know that was still going.’ Oh and there was also Quentin Letts calling his editor ‘a pussycat.’  Have a look here, it’s worth it.

vii) Presenter Nick Ferrari is a gem. For the last few years he has hosted the Regional Press Awards and gone down a storm, so it was good to see him stepping up to the big one. He understands the business, he goes off script, he is irreverent but respectful and gets the tone spot on. He was also the best presenter yet in keeping the murmuring crowd in check. The event ran over but he was still there beaming away even though he had to be back on LBC for the early shift this morning. Great job Nick.

Young Journalist of the Year, Peter Campbell
Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar/Press Awards UK
viii) It is always nice to see people I have had the privilege to train, getting recognition. I worked with Larisa Brown and Peter Campbell on the Daily Mail training scheme and Alan Selby on the Trinity Mirror scheme. All three were nominated for the Young Journalist award. As an extra bonus, Peter won it. Well done to all three. I met Heidi Blake on the Telegraph scheme and was delighted to see her involvement in the Insight investigation into the Fifa Files, which won the News Team of the Year Award for The Sunday Times. It was also great to see Fay Schlesinger, home editor of The Times, on the stage with the team picking up the Newspaper of the Year award. Proud of them all.

The Telegraph's Matt with Nick Ferrari and Sue Ryan
Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar/Press Awards UK

ix) Two of the industry’s most likeable, talented and self-effacing characters collected special awards. Matt Pritchett - known to most people simply as Matt - was presented with the Journalists’ Charity Award for an outstanding contribution to journalism. Presenting the award, Sue Ryan, the charity’s chair, said: ‘His gently subversive but life affirming world view is as sharp as any leader writer or columnist - with the added pleasure that he also makes us laugh out loud’. I’ll drink to that. The chairman’s award went to a man who Bob Satchwell said had 'a formidable reputation for accuracy, fairness, lack of bias and speed of delivery’. Step forward the Press Association’s Jonathan Grun. Two very well-deserved awards.

PA's Jonathan Grun receives the Chairman's Award
Picture by Nick Carter, MagStar/Press Awards UK

x) And, talking about the Journalists Charity ... a whipround on each table raised nearly £3,000. The Mirror’s table won the Champagne for stuffing their donation box with the most notes … well done them. The charity is something all journalists need to support. The details are here

Finally congratulations again to Bob Satchwell, the Society of Editors' executive director, and his team, including MagStar. Its been a tough year for journalism, so we all needed something to celebrate and a bit of a party. It went off brilliantly, the food was lovely, the drink flowed, the presentations were slick and the company was enjoyable. But behind the scenes I know all too well the effort that goes into making the whole thing as fair as possible, organising the event, printing and proof-reading, keeping everyone happy in a room bouncing with rivalry and egos and general firefighting. Well done Bob ... it was a triumph.

Now we have to do it all again at the regional awards. Ill see you for more celebrations on May 15. 


  1. Peter Sands drink too much? Couldn't happen.

  2. Ha. Thanks for that Kieran. Maybe one day it will ...