Canon Media Awards 2016: winners, losers, drunks, takeovers, new players and golden gods

The coveted Canon Media Awards, celebrating excellence among New Zealand’s media across a range of platforms took place on Friday where winners were announced from a whopping 1,603 entries. Here’s a look at who took away what.

The awards, showcasing the best of New Zealand’s newspapers, magazines and websites, as well as the work of feature writers, columnists, cartoonists, reviewers and photographers were held at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, where 450 media folk sat down to a black tie dinner.

Judging the newspapers were News Corporation Australia’s news chief Campbell Reid and West Australian newspaper editor Brett McCarthy.

And in this category it wasn’t all about the big guys this year, with Fairfax’s The Waikato Times and its weekend edition taking out the Canon Newspaper of the Year award as well as Weekly Newspaper of the Year.

This win comes after Fairfax’s restructure last year, which saw new regional editor roles come into play.

Waikato Times editor Jonathan MacKenzie said he was thrilled the paper had won the major title at the awards this year,” Stuff reported.

“I think it’s a reflection of the hard work the team has put into the paper over the past couple of years,” he said.

“Staff have weathered many changes but have adapted well and continue to produce stories, photos and videos which are relevant and important to our community and readers.”

The judges said the Waikato Times stood out this year for ambition, bold design and provocative journalism aimed directly at its readership.

However, for the second year running the New Zealand Herald (+30,000 circulation) and the Taranaki Daily News (-30,000 circulation) took out the Newspaper of the Year categories.

Of course, while all this was going on, no doubt many in the audience were whispering about the possible merger of Fairfax and NZME. And the topic made it onto the stage when the NZ Herald’s outspoken editor Murray Kirkness couldn’t help but mention it by admitting he was specifically told not to mention the “takeover” on the night.

On the topic of the merger, it will certainly be interesting to see how the Canon Media Awards evolve as the two biggest publishers potentially come under a single umbrella. 

Moving on to the other categories, Home magazine took out Magazine of the Year, while the Kapi-Mana News based in Paraparaumu on Wellington’s Kapiti Coast won Community Newspaper of the Year.

RNZ took away a few awards on the night, with its youth-directed publication The Wireless winning Website of the Year (for which there were many ‘cheers’ from the audience) and Toby Manhire and Toby Morris won best opinion general writing section for their impressive, animated weekly column on RNZ. Tess McClure also won the best junior feature writer.

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson said in a release, the recognition at the Canon’s reflects RNZ’s multi-media offerings and its evolution from pure radio.

“These awards showcase excellence in New Zealand news and current affairs, the websites and their contributing journalists. Our success tonight marks further progress in RNZ’s transition from traditional radio broadcaster to a successful multi-platform media organisation.”

In a similar vein, TVNZ, which traditionally wouldn’t have been at the awards won Best News Website or App for One News Now.

New Zealand’s indie media was also recognised, with online magazine The Spinoff (a crowd favourite on the night) winning Best Lifestyle/Entertainment Site, while its reporter Alex Casey won an award for best Humour/Satire Opinion Writer, which was well-received by the crowd. 

Interestingly, Hayden Donnell (now at The Spinoff) took home the award for Arts & Entertainment Feature Writer for a piece of content marketing that originally appeared in Barkers’ magazine 1972 but was republished on Pantograph Punch about Kim Dotcom.

1972’s editor Duncan Greive told The Register earlier Barkers decided to be more hands off around a year and a half ago and not have every piece of content directly reference the brand.

He pointed out that just because 1972 features branded content, it doesn’t mean the editorial quality has to be diluted.

“That was amazing for us – Barkers and The Spinoff – to think a piece of branded content could be up for a Canon Award, it’s amazing.” 

Best Blog Site went to Public Address, which has been going since 2002. Its founder Russell Brown talks about the win here, as well as other winners from the awards.

Leading individual awards went to Matt Nippert, The New Zealand Herald, Reporter of the Year (who also won Business Reporter of the Year); Stephen Parker, Rotorua Daily Post, Photographer of the Year (as well as Best Portrait Photo and Best Sports Photo); Mike White, North & South, Feature Writer of the Year (as well as Crime & Justice Feature Writer of the Year); Luke Appleby, TVNZ, Scoop of the Year; and Rachel Stewart, Taranaki Daily News/Manawatu Standard, Opinion Writer of the Year.

Matt Nippert seemed pretty happy with his winnings, with one of our StopPress team overhearing him yell “I am a golden god” towards the end of the night, while clutching his awards.

He was feeling the celebration the next day, however:

NZ Doctor’s managing editor Barbara Fountain took out Editorial Leader of the Year and gave a great speech about the importance of journalism, even in a trade publication.

This speech was particularly pertinent given the publication was close to shutting up shop last year, but Fountain partnered up with Anna Mickell and bought the publication from the previous owner.

NZ Listener senior feature writer Rebecca Macfie was awarded the annual Wolfson Fellowship to study at Cambridge University in the UK and similarly stressed the importance of journalism, despite the tough climate out there for the profession.

Cartoonist of the Year went to Sharon Murdoch from Sunday Star-Times/The Press.

The only award that had no winner was the Best Headline award, and the crowd expressed its displeasure with “boos”.

And as usual, after the awards NZME and Fairfax were quick to put stories out through their respective channels, pettily championing their own successes and making no mention of the competition (despite journalism’s supposed role in striving for balance). 

Among the many other accolades, Waikato Times/Stuff.co.nz photographer Peter Drury won Best News Photo for coverage of the Nepal earthquake, while fellow Fairfax photographer Grant Matthew was judged Junior Photographer of the Year.

Best Environmental Photo went to underwater photographer Richard Robinson for a close-up photo of a blue shark in South Pacific waters while his series on mako sharks, filmed off Auckland’s west coast, won Best Photo Essay.

The top video award went to Iain McGregor of The Press for his gripping portfolio, which included Thai children’s fights and use of 1080 poison.

Canon New Zealand managing director Kim Conner said the calibre of this year’s submissions truly reflected what it meant to be the best of New Zealand journalism.

“On behalf of Canon, I am thrilled to congratulate all the worthy recipients acknowledged at this year’s Canon Media Awards.”

See the full list of winners here:

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