Press Awards shocker. No punches thrown

On The Press: Have Piers Morgan and Matthew Freud saved journalism's Oscars?

Charlie Wilson was pushing a trolley round a supermarket when I caught up with him. Good to know that he is not cut off from real life like many of the main players in the national newspaper soap opera. The man who has edited more newspapers, including The Independent, than the fake sheik has had victims was back in the domestic routine while reflecting on the British Press Awards for which he was chairman of the judges.

Wilson's was not an easy mission. This year's awards so nearly didn't happen and Wilson was an important part of the rescue package, which had not only to restore respectability where there had been boorish behaviour but bring together newspapers which were blaming each other for that behaviour. It came off. One has to scrape the barrel for an example of traditional bad behaviour. The best I could find was a shout or two of "Nobody effing buys it" from The Sun table when The Guardian or The Independent won an award.

For the rest it was near-civilised behaviour, or as Wilson put it, "a celebration of journalism excellence rather than a bun fight." What went right?

Press award ceremonies over the years tended to mirror football terrace behaviour. They could turn ugly. Men who in their day jobs wore suits, earned large sums of money and wielded considerable power could, on awards night, turn into hooligans.

As with football, passions were heightened by the twin evils of drink and excessive partisanship. The class divide between tabloid and broadsheet also played its part. These were the days - I am talking about a year ago - of the macho tendency, male and female, when even if you were too sensible or sober to take part in the yobbery you still enjoyed telling the tales in the pub for weeks after.

The judges also came in for abuse. Decisions were questioned, bias alleged. In terms of the corporate image of journalism, it was not good. The crunch came at last year's awards dinner. The catalyst was Bob Geldof, who traded verbal blows with the Mail contingent; things became rather ugly.

The more reflective realised belatedly that bad behaviour at big industry events does get around. Low respect for print journalists and lack of trust in newspapers is hardly helped by stories of binge drinking and yobbish behaviour.

The innocent player in all this was the self-effacing trade paper, Press Gazette. Its moment of the year, for both visibility and income, was the organisation of the Press Awards. Now they were owned by former Mirror editor Piers Morgan (who himself had form in terms of awards dinner behaviour) and PR Matthew Freud. These were not necessarily the low-profile, uncontroversial figures best placed to restore dignity and good behaviour to the awards.

For a while, it seemed entirely possible that there would be no awards. Ian Reeves, the editor of Press Gazette, patiently negotiated with the editors who had threatened to boycott to bring them back on board. The dinner was moved from the terraces of the Hilton to the all-seater stadium of the Dorchester. And Wilson became chairman of judges. Only the Telegraph and Mail titles refused to participate (plus the Express, which always does). Morgan and Freud sensibly stayed away.

Wilson says he saw no example of uncivilised behaviour at Monday's dinner. Reeves, at his seventh awards dinner, said he found it the most "respectful" he had been to. He cited in particular the sports journalist of the year, the Mirror's Oliver Holt, paying tribute to senior rivals on the short list, and Hala Jaber of The Sunday Times, foreign reporter of the year, speaking movingly of colleagues who had died covering the Iraq story. Reeves believes all the issues of a year ago have been addressed and the awards are back on track. He hopes the Telegraph and Mail titles will rejoin.

Wilson feels, I sense, quietly confident that they will. He is surely right. The Daily Mail, particularly, which has won so many awards over the years will not want to make itself ineligible for much longer.

Peter Cole is professor of journalism at the University of Sheffield

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Data Analytics Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading organisation...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Insight Analyst Vacancy - Leading Marketing Agency

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency have won a fe...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices