At a time when the traditional news powerhouses are buckling under the pressure of drastically changed media environment, the Canon Media Awards seems, on the one hand, a modern example of fiddling while the empire burns but, on the other, an important reminder of what's at stake.
As each of the winners made their way to stage, the audience at The Langham was essentially given a highlight reel of the important role journalists played in keeping the public informed.
From the NZ Herald's ground-breaking investigation into the hair trade (which won best single story of the year) to Fairfax's reportage of the Kaikoura earthquake (winner of best coverage of a major news event), quality journalism was still shining lights in dark places over the last year.
Commenting on the coverage of the earthquake, Fairfax acting managing director Andrew Boyle commended his team's commitment under trying conditions.
“The circumstances were extraordinary," he said. "Our journalists on the ground roughed it in tents, and we had to figure out how to get our newspapers into the town without road access. Newspapers were vital for those isolated in Kaikoura and it was a massive team effort from our newsrooms across the country to tell such an important story for New Zealand.”
Admittedly, there are few stories that were quite as big as the Kaikoura earthquake last year. But it also takes an enormous amount of effort and skill to publish a high-quality news title every time the deadline hits. And this sentiment is perhaps best captured by the Weekend Herald, which was declared Canon Newspaper of the Year for 2017 and also claimed the Weekly Newspaper of the Year and Best Newspaper Front Page categories.
Judges Campbell Reid, News Corporation Australia’s news chief, Brett McCarthy, The West Australian newspaper editor and Paul Thompson, CEO and editor-in-chief of RNZ, said the Weekend Herald was simply New Zealand’s most complete newspaper, unmatched in its exclusive reporting, quality of its writing and analysis, lifestyle content and commentary.
It was also a good night for the New Zealand Herald, which beat TheDominion Post, the Press and the Otago Daily Times to win the Newspaper of the Year (more than 30,000 circulation) category for the third year in a row. The New Zealand Herald team also had a good night on the digital side, with nzherald.co.nz winning Website of the Year.
"In a period of huge upheaval in the industry, our journalists have shone, delivering stories that matter," said NZME managing editor Shayne Currie. "That's reflected in these big wins and in extremely strong readership and audience growth for nzherald.co.nz and, indeed, our newspapers. I am incredibly proud of the entire team."
There were no hat tricks among the papers with a circulation of lower than 30,000, with the Nelson Mail taking over the title from last year's winner, the Taranaki Daily News.
In the other individual awards, the annual Wolfson Fellowship to study at Cambridge University was awarded to Miriyana Alexander, editor of the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.
NZ Herald journalist Matt Nippert repeated last year's performance and again won Reporter of the Year (perhaps, he really is a golden god).
Nippert was also awarded won The Best Investigation category and shared Business Journalist of the Year with Caleb Tutty.
Herald journalist Dylan Cleaver also won a cluster of awards: Sports Journalist of the Year; reporter – health and lifestyle; feature writer-sport (long-form), largely on the back of his investigations into the long-term effect of concussion on the lives of former rugby players, and the opinion writer-sport category. Cleaver was also awarded a $6000 senior NIB health journalism scholarship as was Aaron Leaman, of Stuff and Waikato Times. Leaman also won Regional Journalist of the Year, one of four finalists all from the Waikato Times.
Photographer of the Year went to the NZ Herald's Alan Gibson, while Stuff's Ross Giblin (who also won the best news video category) claimed Videographer of the Year.
Feature Writer of the Year (long-form) went to Joanna Wane, North & South, while Feature Writer (short-form) was awarded to Nikki Macdonald, The Dominion Post and Sunday Star-Times.
Cartoonist of the Year went to Sharon Murdoch of the Sunday Star-Times, The Dominion Post and The Press for the second year in a row, and Duncan Garner won Opinion Writer of the Year for his columns penned in The Dominion Post.
This year again saw a strong showing from RNZ, with the public broadcaster landing a range of awards across various categories. This is a testament to the work the work the organisation has done in embracing digital channels, despite its funding being frozen for a number of years now. Given the complexity involved in moving such an established beast toward digital, RNZ head of digital Glen Scanlon emerged as a deserving winner of the Editorial Executive of the Year trophy at the event.
'It is notable that our staff have been recognised for outstanding work in such things as long-form journalism, column writing and artwork and graphics," said RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson. "These are new skills that RNZ has developed over the past few years. I'm especially pleased for Glen who has successfully and skilfully led RNZ's digital transformation. He came through in a strong field of finalists for the Editorial Executive of the year."
On the topic of digital, the Blog of the Year went to Lizzie Marvelly's site Villainesse, which also recently celebrated its second anniversary. Alongside this award, Marvelly also won an opinion writer award in the general category.
Rounding out the digital awards was the Newshub, which picked up Best News Website/App for the year.
Best Blog Site: Villainesse
Best News Website or App: Newshub
Website of the Year: NZ Herald
Feature Writing (long-form, +2500 words)
Best Feature Writer - Junior: Don Rowe, 1972 magazine and New Zealand Geographic
Feature Writer - arts and entertainment: David Larsen, Metro
Feature Writer - business and politics: Simon Wilson, Metro
Feature Writer - crime and justice: James Mahoney, Metro
Feature Writer - general: Aaron Smale, RNZ
Feature Writer - health and lifestyle: Kirsty Johnston, NZ Herald
Feature Writer - sport: Dylan Cleaver, NZ Herald
Feature Writer of the Year: Joanna Wane, North & South
Feature Writer of the Year (runner-up): Aaron Smale, Mana magazine, North & South and RNZ
Feature Writing (short-form, up to 2500 words)
Best Feature Writer - Junior: Christopher Reive, Taranaki Daily News
Feature Writer - arts and entertainment: Charlie Gates, The Press
Feature Writer - business and politics: Mava Enoka, The Wireless
Feature Writer - crime and justice: Jared Savage, NZ Herald
Feature Writer - general: Adam Dudding, Sunday Star-Times
Feature Writer - general (runner-up): Madeleine Chapman, The Spinoff
Feature Writer - health and lifestyle: Greg Bruce, NZ Herald
Feature Writer - sport: Jonathan Carson, Sunday Star-Times
Feature Writer of the Year: Nikki Macdonald, The Dominion Post and Sunday Star-Times
Best artwork/graphics: Toby Morris, RNZ and The Wireless
Best artwork/graphics (runner-up): Richard Dale, NZ Herald
Best headline: Matthew Dallas, Manawatu Standard
Best headline (runner-up): Ian Allen, Marlborough Express
Best trade/specialist publication and/or website: Jackie Harrigan, NZ Dairy Exporter magazine
Cartoonist of the Year: Sharon Murdoch, Sunday Star-Times, The Dominion Post and The Press
Cartoonist of the Year (runner-up): Toby Morris, RNZ and The Wireless
Reviewer of the Year: Duncan Greive, NZ Herald and The Spinoff
Best magazine design: HOME
Best magazine design (runner-up): Mana magazine
Best newspaper-inserted magazine: Your Weekend/The Dominion Post, The Press and Waikato Times
Magazine of the Year: New Zealand Geographic
Best newspaper front page: Weekend Herald
Canon Community Newspaper of the Year: Feilding-Rangitikei Herald
Canon Newspaper of the Year: Weekend Herald
Newspaper of the Year (more than 30,000 circulation): NZ Herald
Newspaper of the Year (up to 30,000 circulation): Nelson Mail
Weekly Newspaper of the Year: Weekend Herald
Opinion Writer - business and politics: Simon Wilson, Public Address, RNZ and The Spinoff
Opinion Writer - general: Lizzie Marvelly, Weekend Herald
Opinion Writer - humour/satire: Steve Braunias, NZ Herald
Opinion Writer - sport: Dylan Cleaver, NZ Herald
Opinion Writer of the Year: Duncan Garner, The Dominion Post
Best feature photo: Richard Robinson, New Zealand Geographic
Best general photo: Paul Taylor, Hawke's Bay Today
Best news photo: Blair Pattinson, Otago Daily Times
Best photo (junior): Christel Yardley, Waikato Times
Best photo essay: Mike Scott, NZ Herald
Best portrait photo: Meek Zuiderwyk, Metro
Best sports photo: Chris Cameron, NZ Herald
Photographer of the Year: Alan Gibson, NZ Herald
Best coverage of a major news event: "Kaikoura earthquake", Stuff, Kaikoura Star, The Dominion Post, The Marlborough Express and The Press
Best editorial campaign or project: "#buythisbeachNZ", Stuff
Best editorial campaign or project (runner-up): "Panama papers" RNZ, TVNZ and Nicky Hager
Best investigation: Matt Nippert, NZ Herald
Best Reporter (Junior): Donna-Lee Biddle, Stuff and Waikato Times
Best (single) news story: Olivia Carville and Mike Scott, NZ Herald
Business Journalist of the Year: Gareth Vaughan, Interest
Business Journalist of the Year (runner-up): Matt Nippert and Caleb Tutty, NZ Herald
Community Journalist of the Year: Paul Taylor, Mountain Scene
Regional Journalist of the Year: Aaron Leaman, Stuff and Waikato Times
Reporter - arts and entertainment: Vicki Anderson, Stuff and The Press
Reporter - crime and justice: Eugene Bingham, Phil Johnson, Toby Longbottom and Paula Penfold (Stuff Circuit team)
Reporter - general: Lane Nichols, Weekend Herald
Reporter - health and lifestyle: Dylan Cleaver, NZ Herald
Reporter - Maori and ethnic affairs: Renee Kahukura Iosefa, Maori Television
Reporter of the Year: Matt Nippert, NZ Herald
Science and Technology Award: Kate Evans, New Zealand Geographic
Sports Journalist of the Year : Dylan Cleaver, NZ Herald
Sports Journalist of the Year (runner-up): Liam Napier, Sunday Star-Times
Student Journalist of the Year: Miri Schroeter, Manawatu Standard
Best feature video: Mike Scott, NZ Herald
Best news video: Ross Giblin, Stuff
Best sports video: Brett Phibbs, Mike Scott and Peter Visagie, NZ Herald
Videographer of the Year: Ross Giblin, Stuff
Videographer of the Year (runner-up): Mike Scott, NZ Herald
nib Health Journalism Scholarships
nib Health Journalism Scholarship - Junior: Rachel Thomas, Stuff
nib Health Journalism Scholarship - Senior: Dylan Cleaver, NZ Herald AND Aaron Leaman, Stuff and Waikato Times
Editorial Executive of the Year
Glen Scanlon, head of digital media, RNZ
Miriyana Alexander, Editor of the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday
NPA Outstanding Achievement Awards
Donna Chisholm, feature writer and editor
Matamata Chronicle, 50 years' publishing
NZ Cartoon Archive, 25 years' archiving cartoons
Ross Setford, photographer