The Peter Cole Press Awards

Step forward, Rupert for humble pie and Piers for literacy awareness

The British Press Awards remain an uncertain entry in the 2007 diary. Although their organiser, Press Gazette, the journalists' trade paper, has again been reprieved from a death sentence, details of the next awards ceremony have yet to be disclosed. So, amid the speculation, the last day of 2006 is an appropriate moment for this column to present its own awards.

It has been a year of crisis or hysteria, depending on your view of the world. Certainly fewer newspapers have been bought, particularly red-top papers, and advertising revenues have taken a pounding.

It has been a year when everybody has been saying things cannot remain the same but nobody is entirely sure how they should change. The champions of convergence have made the most noise and there have been the first signs that the internet can attract advertising, but as yet not much.

Print publishers have, to varying extents, made efforts to improve their website offerings, buy internet businesses and flirt with pods and blogs. They have disguised a lack of clarity in their visions by adopting a new newspeak and using words like multi-skilling, monetising, media (instead of "newspapers" in the company title) ... and free.

The latter word has never been popular with finance directors, but even some of these people have been forced to contemplate the idea that if you can't sell it, you might try giving it away. There has been time meddling, too: if you can't sell it in the evening, try doing it in the morning. Some regional evening papers are trying this approach.

Now for the awards:

'Daily Telegraph' Young Journalist of the Year: Will Lewis

The new Telegraph editor personally presided over the construction of an exotic new building fit for the purpose of housing him and his ideas. He has grabbed the headlines with his enthusiastic championing of the new media age and has set about converting the most conservative newspaper audience to the joys of the pod and afternoon edition print-out.

Lifetime Achievement Award: John Bryant

The editor-in-chief and acting editor of the Telegraph, before making way for a man young enough to be his son, finally departed last week. Man of many newspaper careers - Mail, Times, Sunday Correspondent, European. Came to fame by controversially bringing South African athlete Zola Budd to Britain.

Humility Award: Rupert Murdoch

"Power is moving away from the old elite in our industry, the editors, the chief executives and, let's face it, the proprietors." In spite of this unlikely sentence in his Stationers' Hall speech in March, there have been no signs of power slipping away from this proprietor.

Survivor of the Year: 'Press Gazette'

The flamboyance and high profile of new owners Piers Morgan and Matthew Freud were not matched by staying power, and they decided to cut their losses and abandon the magazine. For a few weeks this really seemed like the end, until the much lower-profile Wilmington Media came to the rescue just before Christmas. A chance for all those journalists who mourned the magazine's passing but never bought it to replace their tears with subscriptions.

Victims of the Year: Sarah Sands and Veronica Wadley

Sands carried out instructions and relaunched The Sunday Telegraph as a more cuddly, women-friendly product. Circulation did not soar and she was summarily sacked from the editorship, to be replaced by Patience Wheatcroft. Circulation did not soar.

Wadley was forced to maintain publicly that the sale of the paper she edits, the Evening Standard, would not suffer from a 25 per cent price increase and 800,000 free rivals on the London streets. Circulation plummeted.

Fake of the Year: the Fake Sheikh

Aka News of the World investigator Mazher Mahmood, who gets his best stories by dressing up in sheikh's attire. Fooled Sophie Wessex and Sven Goran Eriksson. But not...

Failure to Be Taken In Award: George Galloway

The Respect MP smelt a sheikh when it tried to interview him, and reported the matter to the Commons authorities and the police.

Cerebral Editor of the Year: Matthew d'Ancona and Patience Wheatcroft

The new editors of The Spectator and Sunday Telegraph were both billed as ferociously intelligent when appointed. D'Ancona is a Fellow of All Souls, an unusual qualification for editorship.

Parasite of the Year and Ultimate Cost Saver: Google

Collecting news requires reporters and costs lots of money. Google News has found a different approach: it puts other publishers' news on its website. It calls this "aggregation".

Un-followed-up Exclusives of the Year: 'Daily Express'

The paper is not only convinced that the death of Princess Diana was the result of a continuing establishment conspiracy, but led with new "evidence" week after week in the belief that its readers held similar views. The stories sank without trace.

Contribution to Language: Will Lewis

... for hub, spoke and touchpoint, to describe the layout of his newsroom and the key publication moments in his multimedia, multi-platform day.

Profanity Award: Roger Alton

The Observer editor is honoured for deleting the deleted from expletive deleted whenever he is interviewed. Robust language should not disguise the success of his translation of his paper into compact format.

Something for Nothing Award: 'London Lite' and 'thelondonpaper'

Serious afternoon battle of the frees between Associated Newspapers and News International, with the Murdoch-owned title currently shading it. Aggregate circulation heading for a million and concern in regional big cities that the experiment may be heading their way.

Crisis of the Year: Trinity Mirror

A recent review at the publisher of the Mirror and People titles and largest regional newspaper publisher has led to the planned sale of some regional titles. Nationals to be kept, but circulation falls are serious - The People's catastrophic.

Creative Use of Statistics: 'Manchester Evening News'

The paper claims it has raised city-centre circulation from 7,500 to 70,000. Former paid for. Latter free.

Failed Launch of the Year: 'The North West Enquirer'

Brave attempt to launch new weekly covering the region from Merseyside to the Scottish border. But bad time to launch a newspaper and regional concept flawed. Scousers have little in common with north Cumbrians. Lasted four months.

Ship-jumper of the Year: Michael Grade

For leaving BBC chairmanship for ITV.

Services to Reading: 'First News'

Piers Morgan-backed children's newspaper. More in common with the Mirror than Arthur Mee's original Children's News. Still hanging on, but circulation minimal.

Ranter of the Year: Melanie Phillips

The Daily Mail columnist and former Guardian leader writer is a consistently strident critic of multiculturalism, the breakdown of marriage and family life, education policy, and most things New Labour.

Inducement to Purchase Award: wall charts

So much cheaper than DVDs, yet found very effective by The Independent and Guardian. Dinosaurs, birds of prey and wild flowers now hang on thousands of children's bedroom walls.

Greed and Profit Award: all major regional newspaper publishers...

... which maintain and seek to increase profit on turnover at over 35 per cent, while continuing to cut costs.

Relaunch success of the Year: 'The Independent on Sunday'

Followed its pioneering stablemate by converting to compact format, with dramatic increase in sales.

Creepy Columnist of the Year: this columnist

See previous entry.

Most Worrying Prospect for 2007: mooted reality TV programme starring Kelvin MacKenzie

The former Sun editor revives flagging circulation of regional newspaper.

Peter Cole is professor of journalism at the University of Sheffield

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