Tonight the nation’s journalists, photographers, videographers, reviewers and columnists gather at Auckland’s glamorous Cordis Hotel for the most glittering night in media, the Voyager Media Awards. Read a selection of The Spinoff’s rip-roaring 17 nominations here.
Website of the Year
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Best First-Person Essay or Feature
“I arrive in time for the first test. I go from Heathrow into London on the tube, dragging my heavy red suitcase that Mum and Dad bought me to go to university, up and down hundreds of stairs. I take the train to Wales.
One night, Robert sneaks me into his hotel. As we go to his room – usually he’s sharing, this time he isn’t – seven or eight All Blacks, all naked or nearly, race past us in the corridor. They’re pushing a vast trolley, stacked neatly with towels and sheets. They’re crowing with the fun of it.
The Captain’s fiancée tells me the owner of the small hotel where she and Ian have snuck away to for a night knocks on their door and asks them to leave. He has reason to believe they’re not married.
I’m walking past New Zealand House and a man walking towards me says – ‘Hey! Aren’t you someone’s wife?’
A tour guide from Palmerston North invites me to join a tour of Edinburgh with a group of New Zealand supporters. As I climb on to the bus he says, ‘We have a special guest today! Three cheers for Mrs Burgess!’”
Best Feature Writer – Junior
“The Ubisoft/HitRecord partnership treats its offer of spec work as a fun, normal way to engage with fans. It’s being criticised because it’s bringing that attitude into the mainstream, playing down how harmful and exhausting spec work can be to workers. A freelance market built on spec work means freelancers will over-promise and undercharge. That can lead to burnout, breakdowns and mental health consequences, both for freelancers doing work that keeps getting rejected and for the lucky few who have to keep up their pace to make ends meet.
The Ubisoft/HitRecord partnership also exists in a games industry where multi-billion dollar companies and smaller studios alike are routinely overworking their employees, turning a blind eye to abuse in the workplace and laying off workers to replace them with enthusiastic ‘community volunteers’. “The one time I had a long relationship with a company in the game industry was legally a contract job,” Matt Hopkins explains as an illustration. “I was never offered proper employment.” Now, Hopkins says, “larger companies have not only found a way to keep outside workers from steady employment, but also to pay them much less (if at all) on spec.”
Reviewer of the Year
“Other artists cultivate an air of mystique and separation from their fans, whereas Six60 seem supremely relatable – even in their success, they do what middle New Zealand aspires to. One drives a late model BMW, others own their homes. When I met up with them to shoot a segment for The Spinoff TV, bassist Chris Mac had a scab on his face from falling over while walking. What’s more quintessentially New Zealand than that?
Through all this normalcy they become an enigma – the biggest band in the country by far, yet scarcely acknowledged by many cultural institutions. The best thing to happen to the local industry in years, while also oddly distant from it. Capable of filling our biggest venue without viewing it as much more than a stop on the way somewhere else. Incredibly corny, but deeply and affectingly sincere.
A band whose music I find really hard to listen to, yet whose story is the most bold and fascinating in New Zealand music since Lorde.”
“I think that’s why Jordan Peterson is so popular: why he’s touched such a nerve. He is, bizarrely, a counter-cultural figure, vaguely analogous to Timothy Leary. Leary told kids to drop out and take LSD, Peterson is telling them to read The Bible, tidy their rooms, and that men-are-men and women-are-women, because that is now a radical, subversive, counter-cultural message.
And he’s far from the worst thinker the alt-right and its millions of angry young men could embrace. His advice is somewhat sensible, mostly, eventually; he celebrates (some) literature; he insists that he hates totalitarianism and Nazis; he tells millennials to improve their posture. And he seems like a fitting adversary for the campus left, who are protesting and no-platforming him with vigour because his unrepentant stand on gender pronouns, rambling pontifications about Adam and Eve and suggestions that communist revolutions might have their downsides are triggering them and making their learning environments unsafe. Jordan Peterson is not for me, fallen and polluted anti-human non-Being that I am. But maybe he is the public intellectual that both the alt-right and the radical left simultaneously need and deserve.”
“Extracts from the book were bandied about, repeated, dissected, pored over. They were scathing, damning. You were a little concerned about the direction of the Presidency? Oh my God, Fear revealed, you should be running for the exits. You should be buying a survival bunker in New Zealand. The most powerful country in the world is at the mercy of an infantile, pathological narcissist, a grifter and liar, someone so unfit for office that he shouldn’t be running a gas station. And that’s not even considering the fact, confirmed by all US and UK intelligence agencies, that the Kremlin (in whatever spirit of Machiavellian wickedness and calculation) illegally helped to put him in power.
We knew this already, but it was bracing and alarming to have it so starkly confirmed, by Pulitzer Prize-winning, Watergate-era journalist Bob Woodward, no less. (You couldn’t help thinking of the four or so most dim-witted journalists in New Zealand, who couldn’t see this coming, and who have actually even praised Trump.)”
Best Trade/Specialist Publication, Free Magazine and/or Website
1972: the Barkers magazine, produced by The Spinoff
“Jesse Mulligan is hugging an invisible koala in a busy Kingsland cafe. I think he thinks people aren’t looking at him, but they are. I can tell, because I’m not a famous person on telly who gets looked at, nor am I the tall man in an orange sherbert polo miming marsupial affection during morning coffee rush hour. Across the road, ex-Metro editor Simon Wilson, who gave Mulligan his big break in food writing, happens to be waiting at a bus stop. This is Auckland.” – Alex Casey, The making of Jesse Mulligan
Opinion Writing – General and/or Sport
“Imagine if a media company told you the name of the man accused of killing Grace Millane. Imagine if, in defiance of a very clear court ruling of interim name suppression, that company told you his name in an email – spelling it out, even, in the subject header.
Unthinkable? That’s exactly what happened in the early hours of Tuesday this week.”
Opinion Writing – Humour/Satire
“I feel for them because I feel what they’re feeling. Everyone got mad at Hill Cone for saying mean things about Clarke Gayford. Hill Cone responded by confessing “I lose my inner monologue.” Today, Newstalk ZB host Kate Hawkesby has stated she feels for Hill Cone because she too has been in a similar situation when it comes to her column. “I hadn’t intended for it to be read,” she said, referring to the way her scripted radio editorial was republished in the Herald, “and then boom there it was.” Reading an opinion column in a newspaper or online may lead you believe that there’s an editorial process behind such publications but as these two brave women have testified, that’s not how it works. Opinion pieces are shoehorned directly from the writer’s consciousness – I’m just saying things out loud at my desk and now you’re reading them – and there’s nothing we can do about it.
In fact, it’s happening right now.
Back when I first began at The Spinoff I was working oh good morning, Don. How was your night? Good, thanks. Just working on my column. Ha ha ha you’re telling me. It’s like the deadline creeps up faster and faster every week.”
“Ever the showman, Peters offered a flicker of possibility that he might anoint a Prime Minister Ardern. But only the most credulous or naive political observer could have fallen for that. It was always going to be National, it was always going to be Prime Minister English.
As Peters later grudgingly acknowledged, National might have fallen short of an absolute majority, but it was impossible to ignore the fact that voters had awarded them 56 of 120 available seats. Moreover, the prospect of a three-headed government, with Labour relying on both NZ First and especially the Greens, was never a serious starter. Perhaps MMP is meant to provide such possibilities, but New Zealand is not yet ready for them. No serious student of politics would imagine such a governing arrangement lasting even a year.”
Best Feature/Photographic Essay
“Many friends and whānau are at the marae at Fairfield College to lend support in many different ways. It’s a stark contrast to a ‘routine’ tattooing experience where it’s usually just the tattoo artist and the recipient in a tattoo studio. The beautifully carved wharenui is full of children, mums, dads and kaumātua watching on, chatting, catching up, singing traditional and new waiata and karakia, all adding their support in one form or another.
But one thing that cuts through the noise is the sound of the uhi (traditional tattooing chisel) tap, tap, tap – wood hitting wood that drives the attached albatross bone, shaped into needle-thin points, that penetrate the skin. The uhi creates the lines that tell the story of Maxine’s wairua, tūpuna and whānau, especially her mother, Rita.”
Best (Single) News Story/Scoop
“Exclusive: Dame Denise L’Estrange-Corbet of New Zealand fashion pioneer WORLD is this country’s most out-spoken critic of off-shore manufacturing. Yet a Spinoff investigation has revealed that multiple garments labeled as made in New Zealand are manufactured in China and Bangladesh.”
Student Journalist of the Year
“Whatever the mayor’s motives, there’s space to make a little room in our language for one word that was spoken by the proud people who lived, worked and thrived on the banks of the mighty Waikato river. It costs us nothing to remember them. And to remember that one word – Kirikiriroa – connects us to a side of our Hamiltonian heritage we might have had less appreciation for. The people of Kirikiriroa called our home, home. They just called it a different name.”
Business Journalist of the Year
“They work every day mere metres from each other, often standing within arm’s reach outside their shop fronts. But do they speak? Huatuan is emphatic. “No. Not since he opened the shop.”
When I leave Huatuan’s store with a shameful amount of rice still sitting on my plate, I take a menu with me. I’d stopped into Momo Tea beforehand. They weren’t keen to talk about anything so I took a menu and left. But when I walk by a second time on my way home, Huali is outside and sees that I’ve just eaten at Huatuan’s place. He waves me over.
“I’m the BBQ Noodle House owner. The original.”
“The cash was running out. In mid-2014 technology company CricHQ was desperate for investment. The company’s grants from government agency Callaghan Innovation had been spent, and their income was just a trickle – not the flood of cash required to keep a technology startup with global ambitions going.
Like all software startups it was hungry for one thing in particular: money, and lots of it. The cloud-based cricket platform received help from on high – the government’s international business agency New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) introduced CricHQ to Singaporean-based private equity firm Tembusu Partners in September 2014. It had a chance now, but the price would be dear.”
Best Team Video – Feature
“Jehovah’s Witness boasts 8.3 million members worldwide. According to the most recent census figures, there are approximately 18,000 adherents in New Zealand. Direction on policy and practices filters down from an eight-man governing body based in Warwick, New York. Under the “two witness rule”, victims were for decades told by church elders that allegations of sexual abuse could not be internally investigated unless substantiated by two or more witnesses. Often they felt re-victimised – being summoned, like Naomi, to recount graphic details of the abuse to an audience of male elders, as well as their perpetrators.” – Amy Parsons-King, Silent Lambs: Child sexual abuses and the Jehovah’s Witnesses
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.