The Fourth Estate

A New York Times journalist attends the British press awards and gives us a rare glimpse into the prestigious occassion:

The British Press Awards have been called “the Academy Awards of British journalism,” Britain’s answer to the Pulitzers. But last night’s ceremony—a mind-numbing parade of awards in 28 categories—was not a mutually respectful celebration of the British newspaper industry fueled by camaraderie and bonhomie. It was more like a soccer match attended by a club of misanthropic inebriates.

The losers were not happy for the winners. “What’s he ever fucking reported, except what fucking Alastair Campbell told him?” a man sitting at a nearby table muttered when Trevor Kavanagh of the Sun was named Reporter of the Year (Campbell is Tony Blair’s former chief spokesman)

….The winners were not gracious in victory. Early in the evening, Sir Bob Geldof came to the stage to praise the Sun, which won a prize for its campaign to raise money for Africa. First he bragged inappropriately about the size of his penis. “I’ve just been down at the bog,” he said (“bog” being “bathroom”), “and it’s true that rock stars do have bigger knobs than journalists.” He then called a recent Daily Mail story “a disgrace” and began a disastrously misjudged—given that he was speaking to British journalists—discussion of the forthcoming G-8 meeting.

Someone heckled him. “Do you even know what it is, you twat?” Geldof responded, referring to the G-8. “You’ll have a Clarkson moment in a fucking minute.” (Jeremy Clarkson, a TV celebrity and perennial Motoring Writer of the Year nominee, meaning that he writes about cars, is known for an incident at the last year’s awards in which he is said to have called Piers Morgan, then editor of the Daily Mirror, a “fucking cunt” and then physically attacked him.)

……The British Press Awards allow the papers that win them the opportunity to indulge in 12-monthlong victory laps. For the rest of the year, the News of the World will be able to write “Newspaper of the Year” across its front page; Jeremy Clarkson will be able to call himself “Motoring Writer of the Year.” But how important are they, in the scheme of things?

“It’s all shite,” a woman at my table informed me, “until you win something, and then it’s just a well-deserved recognition of talent.”

(Cap Doff: Matewan)