Hard News by Russell Brown


The media awards are dead – long live the media awards!

Friday's Canon Media Awards was the most interesting instance of the long-running national ceremony in a long time, maybe ever. There were notable insurgencies – The SpinOff took two awards from 11 first-time nominations, Radio NZ's The Wireless won Website of the Year – and there seemed to be more young people in the room than I can remember.

It might well also have been the last media awards in the current form.

For years – and more especially since the broadcast categories were removed, making the whole thing slightly less leviathan – the awards have centred on a rivalry between the country's two big newspaper chains. Assuming the whole merger thing isn't just a ruse while big investors get their money out of APN and Fairfax, the two chains could be one by this time next year. Nominations earned as rivals in 2016 might be awards received as colleagues by May next year

This isn't necessarily a disaster. The partisan cheering and table-thumping can be a bit wearying if you're not involved. And the path ahead seems clear enough: make it a journalism and publishing awards across the various media platforms.

We got a bit of that on Friday. One News Now was named best news site,  TVNZ's Luke Appleby got Scoop of the Year for the prison fight club story, The Wireless and The SpinOff got noms and awards in "proper" journalistic categories (most notably, Tess McClure was named Junior Feature Writer of the Year). And while it will take some working out, it's do-able. I'd like to see more recognition of "digital" – the one-word name for the level at which so may young people come into the industry now. And while it was great to see Harkanwal Singh win "best digital artwork or graphics", I think we're due for data visualistion to be a thing.

These are changing times. And in that context, I think the most touching story on Friday was the naming of Barbara Fountain as Editorial Leader of the Year. Barbara has been editor of New Zealand Doctor for the past 20 years and has made it an exemplary trade publication – but it could have ended last year. Instead, she stepped up and in partnership with Anna Mickell bought NZ Doctor and several smaller publications from their previous owner. It continues to operate as both a print periodical and a paywalled website and we're all the better for that.

Also: warmest congratulations to my friend Matt Nippert, who was named Reporter of the Year after a number of years as a bridesmaid. If ever a man earned the right to drink red wine from a trophy and exclaim "I am a  golden god!", it's Matt.


And yes, we won too. Public Address was named Best Blog Site. That's the whole site, not just me: and that means all our bloggers, our developers CactusLab and you, the readers and commenters. Lord knows some of you try my patience at times, but I learn something from you every day.

But it was personally pleasing too. Public Address has been online since 2002 and we've had comments since 2006. Hard News itself has its roots in the Hard News radio rant on 95bFM, which began in 1991 and whose text (and sometimes audio) was published on the internet from 1993.

You do have your ups and downs in that many years, and I've had some dispiriting experiences recently. I've wondered if I still had the energy for this, the more so given that my means of support as a working journalist have been increasingly uncertain. It's hard to find the time not just for publishing, but for people.

But I'm cheered, not least by the kind words from my journalist peers on Friday night. We'll press on. And this week I'll finally get the forms and sign us up to membership of the Press Council, something Graeme Edgeler has been patiently offering to pay for for quite a long time now. (Sorry Graeme.)

I'm also cheered by something I saw a few hours before Friday's awards ceremony. For years, I've been wishing for a shared voluntary subscriptions platform for blog and independent media. I started talking a while ago to Alex Clark, who had a vision for something similar.

He is an extraordinarily persistent man, he was able to attract a little investment, and I'm pleased to report that Press Patron is under serious development and only a few months away from a 1.0 release. I went and had a look at the work in progress and it's good.

I should note that although the mock-ups on the Press Patron website feature Public Address pages, this is Alex's baby. My main contribution has probably been steering him away from the hard paywall model towards the voluntary subscriptions that have worked for us on a more informal level.

So at some point I'll ask those of you who are supporting Public Address via PayPal subscriptions and online banking payments to consider moving to this new platform. I'll have a much better idea of who (and how many) you are and will be able to communicate better. You'll have a dashboard to manage your contributions to us and other sites. I'm keen to work on a subscriber benefits system once the platform is up and running. It's good.

And finally, thanks and congratulations to our friends at the other blog site nominees, Villainesse and The Pantograph Punch. We do different things in different ways, but it felt nice to be there alongside positive ventures. I think we've well and truly broken through some stultifying conventions about what blogs are.

Update: I've received the comments from the judges, Deborah Hill Cone and Bill Ralston. They're touching and gratifying:

With Public Address Russell Brown inspires hope the internet can be deep as well as fast.  He should feel proud he has created a unique and meaningful community with a compelling voice that demands to be heard, not by shrieking loudly but by talking thoughtfully.

For an online entity, Public Address retains a surprisingly quirky and organic personality. Readers are left in no doubt this is an enterprise which is authentic and wholehearted, not dreamt up in a corporate focus group.  The writing is classy but fierce, bringing clarity to topics as varied as racism, footpaths and eczema.

Public Address is a place to read something that means something.


And after all that, we have a TV show to record this evening. The SpinOff's publisher Duncan Greive will be grilled until he reveals his secret sauce.

Also, we'll look at a story – the crisis around housing and homelessness – in which public service media have taken the lead, with Newshub's Mike Wesley-Smith and Louisa Wall MP. And we'll turn our attention to the strange and unnerving spectacle of the US presidential elections with Jennifer Curtin and John Dybvig.

If you'd like to join us for the recording of Media Take – and you only have another month before we're all on the street looking for work – come to TVNZ at 5.45pm today.

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