The winners of New Zealand’s most prestigious media awards were announced yesterday at a bacchanalian feast in Hamilton.
The annual Wintec Press Club awards were staged as part of the Wintec Press Club free lunch extravaganza, held on the banks of the Waikato River, featuring guest speaker and gun nut Heather du Plessis Allan.
Journalists from around New Zealand imbibed with TV show ponies and poor but honest journalism students from Wintec at the glittering occasion.
There were four awards. The first award was the inaugural Wintec Press Club life achievement award, won by longtime journalism tutor Jeremy Smith.
“This award has been created especially due to the magnificent efforts of one person,” said Press Club life president Steve Braunias.
“Jeremy has given over oh at a rough estimate more than 50 years service to journalism as a practitioner and an educator. He’s played a major role in the careers of countless journalists.”
The second award was the Wintec Press Club Best Friend award. The previous winners were Annette Taylor (2013) and David Slack (2014.) The award recognises the efforts of one person outside of Wintec who has worked towards the good of the Press Club and all who sail in her.
The 2015 winner is Stephen Stratford.
“He has done so much for Press Club over the years as the man who has written wildly entertaining and almost certainly libelous chronicles of almost every lunch since 2010 in his blog Quote Unquote,” said Braunias. “Long may he continue to sup deep at our trough.”
The third award was the Wintec Press Club Best Sentence of the Year Award. Previous winners were Jade Laan (2013) and Don Rowe (2014). The award recognises a sentence of rare and striking beauty written during the year by a journalism student at Wintec. There is a cash prize of $500, making it the richest literary prize in New Zealand if not the world in terms of dollar per word.
The 2015 winner is Carlie Scott.
Three students in 2015 got close as finalists. They are: Jason Renes, for this moment of stillness in a story about migrants finding a new life in Hamilton: “The next morning he woke to find frost and silence had fallen all around. “
Christopher Reive, for expanding our knowledge of conditions at sea with this crisp, fact-based nugget, “Invisible to the average person, the long-period wave is a set of 10cm swells spaced out over around 300m that can cause havoc at the port.”
And Paul Mitchell, for this wonderfully sensitive lyric in his profile of a Muslim woman: “With the hijab on, her beauty became a secret, she almost looked like everybody else.”
Carlie Scott’s winning sentence is actually a sequence of three sentences, all written with deliberate intent and comic timing. The sentences read,
“It was winter, when they moved. It was cold, it was miserable, it was boring. It was Hamilton.”
Braunias said, “She’s probably the most naturally gifted writer I’ve ever read at Wintec. I wish her well in her career outside journalism as it appears the trade cannot contain someone of her talents, and she is about to leave the trade and – that dread word – disappear.”
The final award was the Wintec Press Club best writer in New Zealand award. Previous winners were Joshua Drummond (2013) and Aimie Cronin (2014).
This 2015 award is shared by two writers – former Sunday Star-Times journalist Jessica McAllen, and Alex Casey at The Spinoff.
Braunias said, “Now this award, like all the awards, has been selected by a panel of experts. I have taken enormous pleasure in reading New Zealand journalism in 2015 and indeed the pitiful irony of it is that this time of crisis is also a golden period of good writing. Expressive writing, writing which is powerful, hilarious, superbly reported, and beautifully composed.
“There are five finalists who nearly got the ultimate prize.
“The finalists are: a young woman who goes by the name Lorde. Her devotional piece of writing in the Listener about Father’s Day was exquisite. It made grown men cry, and I daresay one of those men was her dad. Well done to Lorde and no doubt she will treasure this nomination above her Grammy Award.
“The second finalist is Greg Bruce. This guy is pretty damned outrageously funny in a mordant and deeply depressing way. His recent masterpiece in the Herald on Sunday was about his whole life flashing before his eyes as set against the All Blacks World Cup campaigns. It’s the best piece of writing about the Rugby World Cup.
“The third finalist is Hayden Donnell, for writing what I think is the best feature article of the year, a 4000-word investigation into the making of Kim Dotcom’s appalling dance record. This was high-quality reporting. Hayden seemed to interview absolutely everyone involved, including Neil Finn, and created an unforgettable portrait of excess in a world-class story that was the equal of the best longform journalism published in the US.
“The fourth finalist is Anke Richter, who wrote an incredible piece about the Centrepoint community in North & South. Her story is probably 4000 words long. The fifth and final finalist was chosen for four words.
“They were like an advertising campaign, and the four words and the noble concept they embodied went around the world, and the author was heralded as a new and important voice in feminism. Bravo to Lizzie Marvelly, who wrote the My Body My Terms campaign.
“We’ve never had two winners of this prize before. I just couldn’t decide and I couldn’t bear one of them not winning. They wrote completely different things. One wrote a strange form of journalism and the other wrote LOL opinion pieces as well as powerful essays which made her a media star.
“Jessica McAllen’s feature stories in the Sunday Star-Times were in a class of their own. She had the singular gift of choosing stories that made people take notice, and talk about. The best example was her classic insider’s account of a rich young mob of unbearable idiots led by Max Key. But she also wrote a marvellously sensitive portrait of Chris Knox.
“Alex Casey’s stories about trash TV in The Spinoff just got funnier and funnier. She became the writer to read on the popular site, and then she crashed it with an overwhelming number of views when she wrote a rigorous, passionate feminist essay provoked by l’affair Dom Harvey. This was that thing we hear about it but seldom see: zeitgeist writing. She captured a spirit of the age and it may be instructive to be told that Alex’s age is 24. Jess McAllen is 23. Together they are providing the best writing in New Zealand in 2015.”