The season for journalism awards is long and arduous. Not for those shortlisted and certainly not for the prizewinners, but for organisers, judges and those seeking sponsorship to get a particular show on the road, the post-Christmas period of intense activity soon leaves Easter in its wake, and doesn’t allow any relaxation until the time to cast a clout to a departing May is practically upon them. Rewards for the stars of the news media have come a long way since Mirror Group launched the first set of press awards – initially named after the legendary columnist and editor Hannen Swaffer – with half-a-dozen categories and a jolly lunch devoid of rancour that nonetheless sometimes went on until tea time.
The years passed, Swaffer became no more than a name to be Googled – do so if you are unaware of him – and awards for distinguished journalism grew like Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s Topsy, so much so that it seems today most titles can claim to be “Newspaper of the Year”. Indeed, some do whether or not they have an award to justify such bravado.
Among this astonishing proliferation of gong-giving, the London Press Club Awards have continued to be at the forefront of those taken seriously and remain among the most sought-after, perhaps largely because the judging process does not involve anyone working full time for any media organisation. Also, they do not require entries, accompanied by substantial entry fees. Although pitches are often made by rightfully proud editors wishing to see a LPC Newspaper or Sunday Newspaper of the Year trophy on an office shelf, the LPC judges reserve the right to make awards in all categories to newspapers or individuals whether or not submissions have been received.
Our other USP is that although categories have occasionally been updated, two of the LPC’s original awards – for Scoop of the Year and the Edgar Wallace Award for writing or reporting of the highest standard – have stayed at the heart of one of the premier acknowledgements of British journalism at its best.
These unique awards demonstrate how, despite all the pre- and post-Leveson problems, high-class journalism continues to flourish. Britain continues to have the best news media in the world, a claim again substantiated this year by the high standard of the individual journalists and newspapers shortlisted by the judges after a great deal of reading, analysis, discussion and good-tempered argument. They had as tough a job as I can remember, all of them agreeing that the dazzling quality of all the journalism considered made drawing up shortlists, let alone choosing a winner for each category, harder than ever.
My congratulations to all those nominated for an award today, to the winners and those who just miss out, and my thanks to the judges for their knowledge, understanding and tireless enthusiasm and the sponsors for making certain that this splendid event can continue.
Hannen Swaffer would be delighted.
by Bill Hagerty
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