Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Filth and the Fury: British Press Awards

The British Press Awards, an annual industry awards ceremony that has been administered by trade journal Press Gazette for almost 20 years, were held in mid-March. The fall-out from the British Press Awards has continued now for several weeks, which may be an indication of the strength of opinion about the Awards or may equally be an indication of the willingness of British newspapers to continue a spiral of self-publicity by attacking their rivals and the Awards. To be fair, to gather a group of highly competitive newspaper professionals in a glamorous venue, ply them with food and drink, and then ask them to watch while a single rival from each category is announced as 'best in class', is always going to be a risky strategy. In previous years the event has been marred by fist-fights between leading industry names. This year the Awards hit the headlines initially due to comments made by one of the 'personalities' presenting the awards: Sir Bob Geldof indulged in a heated exchange from the podium with various editors and publishers over the issue of their coverage of Africa. Following those headlines, a longer and more vicious campaign has ensued, with leading newspapers criticising the Awards as 'corrupt'. These attacks led the chairman of Press Gazette to issue a strongly worded article defending the Awards and the judging process. The article - War of words could make losers of us all - rightly warns of the negative consequences of the very public bloodletting since the Awards. It is a lesson that all Awards programmes need to heed: while a well-run, and well-respected, industry awards scheme can benefit everyone involved (winners, organisers, sponsors and the wider industry), so too can poor publicity and undermining of the Awards have a detrimental effect on those same parties (winners, organisers, sponsors and the whole industry).