Off the back of winning the Newsreader of Year award the New Zealand Radio Awards, Hilary Barry returned to Sky City to host the Canon Media Awards for the second year in a row to over 500 attendees. And she once again brought her legendary wit to the event, punctuating the announcement of winners with a series of entertaining off-the-cuff remarks about the local industry and journalism in general.
She kicked off the event by thanking the organisers for choosing her, saying that it felt as though they had "swiped right" this year, following the previous event where she had served as a substitute to John Campbell, who was unable to attend at the time.
The first gongs of the night were awarded in the photography category, with the coveted photographer of the year gong going to New Zealand Herald photographer Brett Phibbs. This award served to set the scene as the Herald went on to pick up major silverware across categories throughout the evening.
The Herald took out both of the key traditional print awards by winning the Newspaper of the Year and the Best Daily Newspaper (over 30,000 circulation). And at a time when the digital is becoming increasingly important, the NZME-owned publication also took out the Best Website award.
Newspaper judges Australian editorial chiefs Campbell Reid and Garry Linnell said: “The thing that sets the Herald apart is its depth. It is a high quality newspaper from page one to page 101 and beyond. It doesn’t have a weak link. Its journalism can break an international scoop one day and be unapologetically parochial the next, but its hallmark is always the rigour and quality of its information.”
Individual accolades also streamed in, with one of the biggest of the night, the Wolfson College Fellowship in Cambridge, going to the Herald's Shayne Currie (and in what could possibly be a reference to the lack of sub-editors in the industry, his name was spelt incorrectly on the screen at the event).
In a release, NZME chief executive Jane Hastings said: “I cannot think of a more worthy and respected recipient of the Wolfson College, Cambridge Fellow than Shayne. He is an exceptional talent with years of experience and industry know-how, the basis for his recent promotion to managing editor, Herald Brands."
Given its Canon Media Awards haul adds to the 22 gongs it recently won at the NZ Radio Awards, NZME dedicated a full-page cartoon drawn by cartoonist Rod Emmerson to the success in today's edition of the Herald.
— Rod Emmerson (@rodemmerson) May 22, 2015
Upon taking to the stage to collect the award for Newspaper of the Year, outgoing Herald editor-in-chief Tim Murphy applauded the quality of the other finalists and also said that it was promising to see quality journalism also extending to digital publications.
Last year, the digital category attracted controversy—and a unanimous jeer from the crowd—when Cameron Slater was called to the stage to collect the Best Blog award for Whale Oil. Fortunately, there was no repeat of this, because, as Barry pointed out several times over the course of the night, Slater was not among the finalists. Only Steve Braunias and Jarrod Gilbert were shortlisted this year, with the award going to the latter. And while there wasn't any controversy in the category this year, Gilbert did use his microphone time as an opportunity to point out that he might more of genius than Braunias.
This edition of the Canon Media Awards marked a complete turnaround in NZME's favour after last year when the Fairfax-owned Dominion Post won both the major print awards and Stuff picked up Best News Site of the Year (Yahoo.co.nz won best website).
And while perhaps not its most memorable night, Fairfax also enjoyed some success, with the Sunday Star-Times winning Weekly Newspaper of the Year, Taranaki Daily News picking up Newspaper of the Year (up to 30,000 circulation) and NZ House & Garden walking away with Magazine of the Year.
Fairfax group executive editor Sinead Boucher said: "We are absolutely delighted that the excellent work of our very talented journalists across the country has been so well recognised. We are committed to journalistic excellence and to serving the needs of our readers. The breadth and depth of awards shows that we are doing a good job for communities big and small across the country."
Commenting on the Best Weekly Newspaper award won by the Sunday Star-Times, the judges said: “Deeply committed investigative journalism, agenda-setting reporting, a strong sport section, an engaging eye-catching design and sections that entertain and inform all combined to make the Star-Times a stand-out winner in this category.”
Bauer was the most prominent publisher in the magazine category with NZ Listener and North & South each collecting three gongs while Home magazine picked up one for having the Best Magazine Design of the year.
"We were delighted Home picked up the award for Best Magazine Design – especially being selected from among the auspicious lineup of finalists, which included our colleagues at Metro and North & South," Jeremy Hansen, the editor of Home, said. "Home has a slightly unusual arrangement in that every issue of the magazine is designed by Arch MacDonnell and the team at Inhouse Design (an external design agency). They’ve been designing the magazine since late 2011 and it’s a process that works exceptionally well – the strong readership growth ever since Inhouse started working on Home is testament to the power of top-notch design."
NZ Listener feature writer Rebecca Macfie enjoyed a particularly successful evening, winning three awards in the magazine category (Magazine Feature Writer of the Year, Magazine Feature Writer in Business and Politics, and Magazine Feature Writer General).
North & South writers Jolisa Gracewood, Donna Chisholm and Mike White picked up awards for their feature writing in their respective beats. And the Best Trade/Professional Magazine of the Year went to Pro Photographer (which pippedNZ Marketing), while Best Magazine cover went to Architecture NZ.
Pro Photographer's win in the trade category was particularly impressive given that it has only been in circulation for the last two years, and this is something the judges Reg Birchfield and Chauncy Stark touched on in their comments: “Pro Photographer, launched only in August 2013, has travelled an astonishing distance in a very short time. It’s now best of breed and showing other longer-lived competitors just how exciting and vibrant magazine publishing can be. The magazine is stunningly designed, superbly written and edited, and is precisely pitched to its professional photographer audience.”
The individual newspaper writing awards were evenly spread with the Herald’s Jared Savage winning Reporter of the Year and Dylan Cleaver, Best Investigation.
Newspaper Feature Writer of the Year went to Charles Anderson of The Press while the top cartoonist award went to Chris Slane (NZ Listener) and the columnist of the year went to Michele Hewitson (NZ Herald).
As all the individual awards were handed out, a name that was notably absent was that of NZ Herald and Metro writer Steve Braunias, who despite being nominated for five awards walked away empty-handed.
One of biggest cheers of the night went to Northland Age editor Peter Jackson, who beat stiff competition from Tom Fitzsimons (The Dominion Post), Jonathan Milne (Herald on Sunday/Sunday Star-Times) and Simon Wilson (Metro) to nab the Editorial Writer of the Year award.
As he stepped onto the stage, he treated the audience to a speech that was untainted by corporate references or concerns about the changes in the media landscape. It was honest, and focused on the hard work he does with a very small team. And in giving advice about writing editorials, he said that writers should let an issue simmer for a week before heading into the office on a Sunday morning and then letting it spew onto the page.
Here's the full list of winners: