What could go wrong?
Now sponsored by Canon, they began with an audio-visual feature of the major stories of 2010, complete with tinkling glass and earthquake rumble sounds that had some looking to dive under tables.
But when it came time to welcome the 450 guests and kick the night off, I was lost for words.
The autocue failed, and the twin glass screens were blank.
“Just wing it,” someone shouted.
MC Maggie Barry sprang to the rescue with a copy of the script, proving yet again the power of print.
The rest of the evening went smoothly as 66 winners from 179 finalists were honoured across newspapers, magazines and online.
APN cleaned out the big four – New
spaper of the Year (The New Zealand Herald); Best Weekly (Weekend Herald); Best Newspaper over 30,000 circulation (New Zealand Herald) and Best Website (nzherald.co.nz).
Fairfax publications were to the fore in reporting, with The Dominion Post’s Phil Kitchin winning Reporter of the Year for a fourth time and stuff.co.nz judged Best Online News Site.
The Southland Times was Best Newspaper under 30,000 circulation.
Stuff.co.nz editor Sinead Boucher won the Wolfson Fellowship, which provides a term’s study at Cambridge University in the UK.
Two of the country’s oldest and most respected newspapers – the Otago Daily Times and Christchurch’s The Press – celebrate their 150th anniversaries this year and both were invited to produce videos for the awards.
The Otago Daily Times closed with editor Murray Kirkness kissing the
bald head of his managing director, Julian Smith.
Two stalwarts of New Zealand journalism were also honoured with outstanding achievement awards.
Peter Bush, 80, famed for his rugby images, has been a fixture on the sidelines of All Black tests for 50 years and will again be there at this year’s Rugby World Cup.
He began as a photographer on the New Zealand Herald in 1948, using glass plate negatives.
Some of Bush’s most famous pictures were screened during guest speaker Martin Snedden’s thoughtful and entertaining keynote speech.
Mr Snedden, Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive, spoke on the challenging task of managing the tournament and the expectations of a rugby obsessed country – a grandstand of four million.
Jim Tully, the highly respected head of Canterbury University’s journalism school, was also honoured.
This is his 25th and final year of guiding post-graduate students into journalism and in that time he has shaped the careers of many of the country’s most successful journalists and editors.
Mr Tully was the inaugural New Zealand Journalist of the Year in 1978.
The NZ NPA took over running of the awards last year, with the aim of setting new standards each year in
celebrating excellence in a vibrant and exciting industry.
Tim Pankhurst is the chief executive of NZ NPA and secretary of the Media Freedom Committee.