A cesspit of jealous hacks

The right people won at the Press Awards, says Piers Morgan. The rest of you are just sore losers
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The Independent Online

I turned my mobile back on after landing in Dublin at midnight and it nearly vibrated out of my hand. Fifteen text messages roared in, each updating me on the latest new outrage from the British Press Awards.

I turned my mobile back on after landing in Dublin at midnight and it nearly vibrated out of my hand. Fifteen text messages roared in, each updating me on the latest new outrage from the British Press Awards.

It was the first time I had missed the event in 16 years, and I assumed this would come as a blessed relief to most of the audience, given the admittedly shameful incidents that seemed to regularly dog my appearances in the past. But the texts told another story. "Marr's speech is all about bloody you" read one lament. "In a good way?" I texted back, fearing the worst. "Not exactly...", replied my informant. "Clarkson's just called you an arsehole on stage" reported another correspondent, gleefully.

Ah Jeremy, that great testosterone-fuelled pugilist who pummelled my forehead with his dainty little fists at the awards last year. Not "physically capable of having an affair" as he memorably claimed when the Mirror caught him with his tongue where it shouldn't have been - but quite capable of being a drunken, brawling, abusive, hypocritical bore.

Then the real fun started flashing on to my phone. "Oh. My. God. Geldof's gone berserk!" What? How? I was breathless for detail. "He's called everyone twats from the podium, apart from The Sun which he says has been utterly brilliant to black people. Everyone's screaming at him." Another text: "Geldof's just said we've all got tiny knobs." This was beyond parody.

"It's all kicking off", regaled one editor. "Broadsheets furious at News of the World winning paper of the year."

I sat back in a taxi heading for the depths of southern Ireland, wishing for the first time since my sacking that I was still in the newspaper game. It all sounded absolutely marvellous, and completely in keeping with the spirit of an event that for sheer envy, spite and vile behaviour has always been miles ahead of lowly pretenders like the Oscars or Brits.

Lest there should be any doubt as to the kind of human being we hacks really are, let me remind you of this memorable accolade from WB Yeats: "I hate journalists. There is nothing in them but tittering, jeering emptiness. They have all made what Dante calls the Great Refusal. The shallowest people on the ridge of the earth."

Seems about right to me.

There really is nothing more ridiculous than the great British journalist in full indignant flow about either a personal "invasion of privacy" or some perceived slight against their "integrity".

Forget politicians and their thin skins, Fleet Street's full of such breathtaking pomposity and lack of self-awareness that it's a wonder most of us can crawl out of our vats of oily sanctimoniousness in the mornings. And never are our dreadful character traits better laid bare than at the annual Press Awards, a seething cesspit of hatred, jealousy, drinking, fornication, fighting and general mayhem.

I have always adored it from start to finish.

What usually provided the most delicious pleasure was the spectacle of eyeing someone from a "serious" paper at the precise moment they discovered they were not going to win anything for their stunningly self-indulgent 5,000-word epic from Afghanistan - and that in fact the winner was a spotty little halfwit from a tabloid who'd caught a soap star having it away with a transsexual hairdresser.

The "serious" journalist would be so enraged sometimes that I genuinely feared some form of spontaneous combustion might occur. Blind fury would set in, built on an unshakeable belief that their type of journalism was better than that of a tabloid.

I read Stephen Glover's piece on the awards in these pages last week with heaving hilarity. Mr Glover is a wonderful columnist and I enjoy his work enormously. I was especially pleased for him that after four blistering demands in a decade for me to be fired, he finally got his reward. But the idea that he is some standard bearer for all that is fine and great and ethical in the newspaper industry is preposterous.

He was a spectacularly unsuccessful editor himself, peddles ranting bigoted vile bile in the Daily Mail to all and sundry, likes a drink or 10 from my experience when I've met him on the social circuit, and is just about the last person on earth qualified to pontificate on the purity of Pulitzer journalism.

But what is particularly galling is his insistence that somehow the Press Awards are now corrupt. I don't remember him saying this when the Mail kept walking away with Newspaper of the Year. He seemed to think it was a thoroughly worthy and accurate reflection of the press year then.

But this year the Mail only won sports journalist of the year, hence the dramatic shift in his view.

The other papers who signed up to the absurd "joint statement" announcing a formal protest at the awards and a veiled threat to pull out next year all shared something in common with the Mail. They, too, had won almost bugger all.

And that, I assure you, is what is really behind all this nonsense. I spent years berating Press Gazette editors for ignoring the brilliant journalistic outpourings of my staff - and shoving endless awards to the broadsheets and mid-market papers. It used to get so farcical that some years the red-top papers would win almost nothing despite setting the news agenda for the entire year. But my incandescent rage at this injustice soon dissipated when the Mirror won Newspaper of the Year in 2002. I suddenly realised how wholesome, ethical and downright wonderful these awards were. And there you have it. It's all about the winning.

Rebekah Wade boycotted the awards a couple of years ago, believing her then News of the World staff had been cruelly overlooked. She held a rival awards ceremony in a nearby hotel just for NoW staff, and every award was of course won by one of them. She said it was a great night and everyone enjoyed themselves.

So perhaps that's the answer. Each paper should just host their own awards, win everything by default, and go home blissfully happy. Or perhaps those papers who lost out this year should reflect on how many times popular mass-market papers like the News of the World, Sun and Mirror have won Newspaper of the Year before. Answer... just twice in my living memory.

The NoW didn't even win it in 1994, when we had so many great stories from Alan Clark's coven to Lady Buck that What The Papers Say gave us a first and only special plural award for Scoops of the Year.

Andy Coulson's fine organ thoroughly deserved to win it this year. They broke the three biggest stories of 2004 - Beckham, Sven and Blunkett.

And that was the unanimous verdict of a panel that boasted some of the finest names in the history of "serious paper" journalism.

And if the NoW's brand of journalism is not "real journalism" then why is it that the "serious" papers all devoted so much space to following up their sex scandals in 2004? It's not good enough to simply say that once the news is made public, it becomes valid news - while slamming the exposé in the first place. Every paper has a choice not to run a word on a sex scandal. To give you some idea, The Guardian ran 44,446 words on Blunkettgate, 18,879 words on Beckham's affair, and an eye-watering 33,428 words on Sven and the PA. The Independent ran even more on Sven, 33,465 words, and tucked in nicely on Blunkett (54,135 words) and Beckham (7,460 words) too. The Telegraph drooled over 50,095 words on Blunkett's bed romps, 9,301 on Beckham, and 17,459 on Sven.

That's a grand total, from just three of the "serious" papers, of 268,668 words. To put this in context, there are only 138,020 words in the New Testament. So it was, truly, hypocrisy of biblical proportions.

I reckon most of the awards went to the right people this year, Clarkson and AA Gill excepted obviously. And the night itself seemed up there with one of the best. There was a huge turnout, by all accounts a great speech from Andy Marr, some hilarious acceptance addresses from the stage (something I'd called for for years), fine wine and excellent food, and enough incident to keep journalists talking and laughing about it for decades.

My message to all the unsuccessful nominees, particularly the "serious" brigade, is the same one they used to all proffer up to me in the years I vented my alcoholic wrath around the Hilton: get over it, loser.

Piers Morgan's new book 'The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade' is published by Ebury Press, price £17.99