9News and A Current Affair confirm support for the 10th Anniversary NRMA Kennedy Awards
In a news year again dominated by world political events and the crippling pandemic 9News and A Current Affair continue to support quality journalism in the 10th anniversary year of the NRMA Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism.
The annual Kennedy Awards continue to acknowledge excellence in journalism and 9News has re-affirmed its commitment again in 2021, supporting three popular Kennedy television categories.
9News is again sponsoring the Gary Ticehurst Award for Outstanding TV News Camera Coverage and the Mike Willesee Award for Outstanding Nightly Current Affairs. The coveted Kennedy award for Outstanding Television (long form) Current Affairs is being sponsored by A Current Affair.
“We’re thrilled to be back supporting the 2021 Kennedy Awards,” said Alexander Needs, Director, Partnerships & Strategy 9News.
“The past 12 months have tested our industry and the world at large. The journalism that has come from this period in history has been remarkable and we look forward to honouring the best of the best at this year’s awards.”
9News’ trailblazers and news icons have featured prominently in the annual Kennedy Awards, not only as repeated category winners but particularly in one of the gala night’s most loved awards, the Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2019 retired 9News presenter, the legendary Brian Henderson, was recognised with the Lifetime Achievement Award before a packed house that rose for a standing ovation.
In 2018 trail-blazing Australian journalist Jana Wendt was recognised with the Lifetime Achievement Award before 600 guests.
Kennedy Foundation chairman Mr Rocco Fazzari today praised 9News for its continued support and loyalty to the NRMA Kennedy Awards.
“9News and A Current Affair have been a loyal supporters of the Kennedy Awards since the inaugural event in 2012 – as well as Nine’s flagship newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, supporting the Outstanding Feature Writing Award,” Mr Fazzari said.
“In a year dominated by massive stories 9News and A Current Affair have reaffirmed their commitment to supporting quality journalism in Australia by again partnering with the Kennedy Awards.”
Now in our 10th year, the NRMA Kennedy Awards will be staged Friday August 6 this year, again at Royal Randwick.
The awards are staged by the Kennedy Foundation, supporting colleagues in hardship and promoting excellence in journalism.
All work from the current financial year must be submitted by close of business July 1 to firstname.lastname@example.org after registering your entry here NRMA Kennedy Awards Entry and Gala tickets Events | Eventbrite
The finalists in all 33 competitive categories will be announced on Wednesday, July 21, after deliberation by our panel of experienced judges.
The presentation of the coveted Spirax trophies will again take place in the Australian Turf Club’s Grand Ballroom, Royal Randwick on Friday, August 6.
You can enter the awards for a tax-deductible donation of $50 for each item of work broadcast or published between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
There is no limit to the number of entries if each is registered separately. Entry for every unrelated item of work or for a series of related stories (maximum of five) is covered by the $50 entry fee.
(Please note the entry fee does NOT cover a gala ticket. The Kennedy Foundation counts on employers to cover the gala ticket costs for its nominees.)
In the category of Outstanding Podcast an edited compilation of relevant material broadcast can be entered and should not exceed five minutes in duration.
For video entries we suggest you upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo, if there is not an existing link to the piece. Dropbox and High Tail can also be used to provide links.
For the $25,000 Journalist of the Year, Best Columnist, Political Reporting, Young Journalist of the Year and Racing Writer you are able to enter a body of work up to a maximum of five pieces under a single $50 entry.
In the Young Journalist of the Year category entrants qualify if they are yet to turn 27 by June 30. For all other entries competing against one’s self is allowed and an entry fee is applicable for each item of work submitted.
The annual NRMA Kennedy Awards are staged by the Kennedy Foundation, a registered charity supporting media professionals in hardship, with compassion in confidence.
Media inquiries: Steve Warnock 0424 407 717
NRMA supports 10th Anniversary Kennedy Awards
In the 10th anniversary year of the Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism, the NRMA has renewed its strong support for the Kennedy Foundation, maintaining a sponsorship bond forged in 2012.
Announcing the NRMA’s continued commitment foundation chairman Mr Rocco Fazzari welcomed the renewal of the partnership.
“We are honoured to say that the NRMA continues to remain a loyal partner to the foundation as its major sponsor in this, the year of our historic 10th awards, a milestone of which we are extremely proud,” Mr Fazzari said.
“The NRMA was an award category sponsor in 2012 before becoming sponsor of the Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism, now a major national media event to be held this year on August 6 at Royal Randwick.
“Organisations such as the NRMA are the backbone of the Kennedy Awards and enable our charity to provide help to media colleagues battling hardship and promote excellence in journalism.
“We are grateful for their support which ensures the NRMA Kennedy Awards will always attract high quality entries from the electronic, digital and print media from all over the country.”
NRMA Head of Media Peter Khoury said the organisation was delighted to maintain the naming rights sponsorship of the Kennedy awards.
“Recognising good journalism is more important than ever and the NRMA is proud of its association with the Kennedy Awards and the remarkable work of the Foundation over the last 10 years,” Mr Khoury said.
“While the awards rightly get the headlines, it is the life-changing outreach done through the Foundation – often in the shadows – that is helping shape lives.
“Scholarships for Indigenous journalism students, funding for Indigenous youth, financial support for Indigenous healthcare and emergency support for those in the industry who need it– all remarkable work with which the NRMA is proud to align itself.”
The NRMA Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism, are named in honour of Sydney crime reporter Les Kennedy who died aged 53 years in 2011. The awards continue to recognise the nation’s finest news media professionals and those who have put so much back into the industry.
PLEASE NOTE: The Kennedy Foundation’s next Sydney Media Club lunch will be staged on May 19th, at the new venue of the City Tattersalls Club, and will feature an address from Kennedy Prize winner Nick McKenzie of 60 Minutes, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Tickets can be secured via THIS LINK TO EVENTBRITE
NB: The lunch will coincide with the official call for entries in the 10th Anniversary NRMA Kennedy Awards, including the $25,000 prize for the Australian Journalist of the Year, on Wednesday May 19.
Work in the current financial year must be submitted to email@example.com by close of business (6pm) July 1.
Entry is $50 for every unrelated item of work and $50 for a series of related stories (maximum five). The finalists in all competitive categories will be announced at 7pm on Wednesday, July 21.
The $50 entry fee helps cover the Kennedy Foundation administration costs. Gala ticket purchases for the August 6 awards can be completed via our home page at www.kennedyawards.com
Anna Magnus: Kennedy Awards (0423 323765)
Peter Khoury: NRMA (0439 133 115)
Nine’s Nick McKenzie winner of the 2020 TPG Telecom Kennedy Prize for Australian Journalist of the Year
Nine’s 60 Minutes and The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald senior journalist Nick McKenzie was tonight crowned winner of the 2020 TPG Telecom $25,000 Kennedy Prize for Journalist of the Year at a gala ceremony at the 9th annual NRMA Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism.
McKenzie’s portfolio of three major unrelated stories – The Faceless Man, Crown Unmasked and One Last Mission – set him apart from a crack field in one of the biggest news years in history.
Against fierce competition from outstanding reporting and coverage of the frightening bushfires which ravaged Australia and the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, McKenzie produced epic stories unrelated to these crises.
In his story The Faceless Man, one year in the making and produced for 60 Minutes and The Age newspaper, McKenzie presented explosive evidence of shocking misconduct in the Victorian branch of the Labor Party as the dark underbelly of Australian political power was exposed.
The end product was an unprecedented look at how power is won and controlled within the Labor Party. McKenzie and the 60 Minutes team cultivated sources and obtained a raft of leaked internal documents which led, ultimately, to taped evidence that provided undeniable evidence of the rot in Labor politics.
The story uncovered corruption, plots to forge signatures, cash drop offs and taxpayer-funded rorting as part of a branch-stacking scandal.
Crown Unmasked, which McKenzie produced for 60 Minutes, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age with Grace Tobin and Nick Toscano, took out two major awards – Outstanding TV Current Affairs and Outstanding Finance Reporting.
The story exposed a corporate scandal unlike anything Australia had seen before.
McKenzie and producer Grace Tobin obtained tens of thousands of leaked documents and internal files from Crown, Australia’s largest casino operator, which revealed Crown Resorts had violated Chinese law by promoting its casinos to mainland gamblers.
In Crown’s darkest hour, 19 of its employees were arrested and imprisoned for breaking China’s strict gambling laws.
One Last Mission, which was a finalist in the Jim Oram Outstanding Feature Writing Award, was the product of two epic journeys involving former SAS medic, Dusty Miller, who struggled for almost a decade to try and right a war crime in Afghanistan in 2012 and then, finally, the medic’s mission of redemption back in Afghanistan while battling the sad deterioration of his mental health.
The story is an insight into a painful, sensitive and vitally important issue confronting Australia’s military.
Nine was a major player tonight, its news and current affairs programs and its metropolitan newspaper mastheads, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, collecting a total 16 individual award categories.
News Corp also featured strongly, its newspapers, Sky News, photographers and online news taking out 9 awards as well as the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award presented to former News Ltd chairman and chief executive officer, John Hartigan.
News’ The Daily Telegraph took out the Rod Allen Award for Racing Writer of the Year, Outstanding Sports Photo and the Peter Ruehl Award for Outstanding Columnist; news.com.au won Outstanding Online Video; The Weekend Australian won the Outstanding Travel Writing Award, The Australian the Outstanding Consumer Affairs Reporting Award and the Jim Oram Award for Outstanding Feature Writing through four time-winner Trent Dalton while News’ Hobart Mercury newspaper won the Vince O’Farrell Award for Outstanding Illustration.
Sky News came out in front in the hard-fought Harry Potter Award for Outstanding TV News Reporting through the superb work of Kieran Gilbert and Andrew Clennell.
For Nine, Simon Bouda took out the Les Kennedy Award for Outstanding Crime Reporting with his A Current Affair entry, Operation Pinnacle; The Sydney Morning Herald’s Nick Moir won the coveted Outstanding News Photo Award while The Australian Financial Review’s James Brickwood collected the Outstanding Portrait Award. Dallas Kilponen’s freelance photo which appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald was voted the Power of the Lens Peoples’ Choice winner.
Nine’s swag also included 9 News’ Neil Breen taking out Outstanding Sport Reporting; A Current Affair’s Lauren Golman collecting the $5,000 Young Journalist of the Year Award; A Current Affair winning the Mike Willesee Award for Nightly TV Current Affairs; The Sydney Morning Herald taking the gong for Outstanding Court Reporting, Outstanding Reporting on the Environment and Outstanding Investigative Reporting, 9 news.com.auwinning Outstanding Online News Breaking while 9 News’ Chris O’Keefe won the prestigious Outstanding Political Reporting Award.
And 9 News’ senior journalist, Damian Ryan, was voted recipient of the prestigious Cliff Neville Award for Outstanding Team Player.
Seven News’ Paul Walker won the hotly-contested Gary Ticehurst Award for Outstanding TV News Camera Coverage while the inaugural Tom Krause Award for Outstanding Foreign Correspondent went to 7News’ Ashlee Mullany, voted on top from a crack field this year.
The ABC took out three major awards, the Paul Lockyer Award for Outstanding Regional Broadcast Reporting (Background Briefing and Landline), the Sean Flannery Award for Outstanding Radio Journalism (ABC Audio Current Affairs) while the Rebecca Wilson Award for Scoop of the Year went to Four Corners’ Mark Willacy.
And in breakthrough wins, 10 News First Person’s Kimberley Pratt and Stephanie Coombes took out the popular Outstanding Podcast Award from a super field while the southern NSW media organisation, Wilkie Watson Publications, won the coveted Chris Watson Award for Outstanding Regional Newspaper Reporting for The Tumut and Adelong Times and Tumbarumba Times’ excellent coverage of the recent bushfires which ravaged the area.
NITV’s “Living Black” was voted on top in the John Newfong Award for Outstanding Indigenous Affairs Reporting.
Kennedy Foundation chairman Mr Rocco Fazzari said more than 100 nominees from a near record field of entries were judged in all 35 competitive categories to finally decide winners in the 2020 NRMA Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism.
Mr Fazzari said the deserving winners had come out ahead in an absolutely fiercely competitive news year, which included finalists from interstate and all major metropolitan newspapers and television and radio networks, international journalists and photographers as well as artists and photographers from regional newspapers and radio networks throughout NSW.
“In a bumper news year the standard of submissions was exceptional in every category. As has been the case in the past, it took judges long hours to finally sort out the winners from absolutely talented fields,” Mr Fazzari said.
“From investigative journalism to news breaking, superb feature writing, wonderful pictorial entries and great art work, a class field emerged to take out the coveted Spirax Trophies.”
The trustees of the Kennedy Foundation deeply appreciate the continued support of our generous sponsors – NRMA, ACCO Brands, Artline, Stabilo, The ABC, A Current Affair, Nine News, Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, Twitter, The Sydney Morning Herald, TPG Telecom,10 News, Sky News, AGL, Google, Seven News, Castle Rock Global Capital, Hillbrick Bicycles, Australian Turf Club, Salty Dingo, Stonemasons and Landscapers, The Purple Tick, RM Global Asia Pacific, Sally Prosser Voice Coach, CDTL Corporate Accountants.
2020 NRMA Kennedy Awards’ Winners
LES KENNEDY AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING CRIME REPORTING – Simon Bouda, A Current Affair
THE PAUL LOCKYER AWARD – OUTSTANDING REGIONAL BROADCAST REPORTING – Background Briefing and Landline ABC
THE CHRIS WATSON AWARD – OUTSTANDING REGIONAL NEWSPAPER REPORTING -The Tumut and Adelong Times, Tumbarumba Times
THE ROD ALLEN AWARD – RACING WRITER OF THE YEAR – Ray Thomas, The Daily Telegraph
SEAN FLANNERY AWARD – OUTSTANDING RADIO JOURNALISM -Gavin Coote, ABC Audio Current Affairs
OUTSTANDING PODCAST – Kimberley Pratt, Stephanie Coombes 10 News First Person
OUTSTANDING NEWS PHOTO – Nick Moir, The Sydney Morning Herald
OUTSTANDING PORTRAIT – James Brickwood, The Australian Financial Review
OUTSTANDING SPORTS PHOTO – Phil Hillyard, The Daily Telegraph
POWER OF THE LENS PEOPLES’ CHOICE – Dallas Kilponen freelance photographer, The Sydney Morning Herald
OUTSTANDING ONLINE VIDEO – Nina Funnell, Lori Youmshajekian, news.com.au
THE CLIFF NEVILLE AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING TEAM PLAYER – Damian Ryan, Nine News
THE PETER FRILINGOS AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING SPORTS REPORTING – Neil Breen, Nine News
YOUNG JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR – Lauren Golman, A Current Affair
OUTSTANDING TRAVEL WRITING – John Borthwick, The Weekend Australian
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – John Hartigan
THE JOHN NEWFONG AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS REPORTING – Living Black, NITV
THE GARY TICEHURST AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING TV NEWS CAMERA COVERAGE – Paul Walker, 7 News
THE HARRY POTTER AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING TV NEWS REPORTING – Kieran Gilbert and Andrew Clennell, Sky News
OUTSTANDING TV CURRENT AFFAIRS – Nick McKenzie, Grace Tobin, Nick Toscano – 60 Minutes, Nine Network
THE MIKE WILLESEE AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING NIGHTLY TV CURRENT AFFAIRS – Dimity Clancey, Laura Mangham – A Current Affair
THE PETER RUEHL AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING COLUMNIST – Louise Roberts, The Daily Telegraph
OUTSTANDING FINANCE REPORTING – Nick McKenzie, Grace Tobin, Nick Toscano 60 Minutes, The Age
OUTSTANDING CONSUMER AFFAIRS REPORTING – Natasha Robinson, The Australian
OUTSTANDING ONLINE NEWS BREAKING – 9news.com.au
OUTSTANDING COURT REPORTING – Michael Ruffles, Michael Evans, The Sydney Morning Herald
OUTSTANDING REPORTING ON THE ENVIRONMENT – Peter Hannam, The Sydney Morning Herald
THE REBECCA WILSON AWARD FOR SCOOP OF THE YEAR – Mark Willacy Four Corners, ABC-TV
VINCE O’FARRELL AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ILLUSTRATION – Christopher Downes, The Hobart Mercury
OUTSTANDING INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING – Kate McClymont, Jacqueline Maley, The Sydney Morning Herald
THE JIM ORAM AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING FEATURE WRITING – Trent Dalton, The Australian
TOM KRAUSE AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT -Ashlee Mullany, 7News LA Bureau
OUTSTANDING POLITICAL JOURNALISM – Chris O’Keefe, Nine News
THE KENNEDY PRIZE FOR JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR SPONSOR TPG TELECOM – Nick McKenzie 60 Minutes, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald
THE Kennedy Foundation is honoured to announce TPG Telecom will sponsor the Kennedy Prize for Australian Journalist of the Year. Read more
FULL STEAM AHEAD FOR NRMA KENNEDY AWARDS GALA ON NOVEMBER 6TH
The Kennedy Foundation has confirmed the 2020 Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism will be staged on Friday November 6th, at Royal Randwick.
Foundation chairman Rocco Fazzari welcomed the NSW Government’s recent announcement of eased restrictions on the numbers attending corporate events.
2020 GALA TABLES AND TICKETS SOLD OUT
“The foundation would like to thank our valuable partners for their unwavering support in these difficult times,” Mr Fazzari said.
“There will be nothing virtual about the Kennedy Awards, and the gala ceremony can now proceed for what promises to be a tremendous celebration of quality Australian journalism after a colossal news year.”
This year’s gala will be hosted by Deborah Knight and Mark Burrows from Nine News, TEN News presenter Sandra Sully and veteran Kennedy Awards MC from 7 News Michael Usher
2020 KENNEDY AWARDS PARTNERS
HISTORIC JOINT INITIATIVE
The Newcastle Herald has published the first instalment of an historic project supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas and the Kennedy Foundation.
The joint initiative was launched in 2019 – and The Newcastle Herald secured funding for their investigations by winning the Chris Watson Award for Outstanding Regional Newspaper Journalism at the 8th Annual NRMA Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism.
The Kennedy Foundation congratulates Newcastle Herald editor Heath Harrison and his talented team for their “Your Right to Know” campaign.
Kennedy Foundation again hosts the
S.D. Harvey Short Crime Story Award
The Kennedy Foundation applauds the Judith Neilsen Institute for incredible support in tough times.
Click logo for announcement
THE MEDIA’S CELEBRATED NIGHT OF NIGHTS
8th NRMA Kennedy Awards – Winners
2019 KENNEDY PRIZE WINNER ANNE CONNOLLY
Home of the Kennedy Awards The Australian Turf Club wins major hospitality award after entering our Royal Randwick gala
LEGENDS AND THEIR LEGACIES
“It is a sad, sad day when we lose one of our own too early. So it is with Les Kennedy … legendary crime reporter Les leaves a legacy of great public service. He told our readers what was really going on.”
Greg Hywood, Fairfax CEO, August 10, 2011
“Les Kennedy’s journalistic legacy is right up there with some of the great names of Sydney crime reporting who worked in bygone eras. He was up there with the best and will be sorely missed.”
John Hartigan, News Ltd CEO, August 10, 2011
THE STORY OF THE KENNEDY AWARDS
On Friday, August 10, 2012, NSW’s finest journalists gathered to celebrate the memories of six industry legends and their legacies.
Les Kennedy, Cliff Neville, Sean Flannery, Paul Lockyer, Peter Ruehl and Gary Ticehurst were all masters of their craft – dedicated, passionate professionals who entertained, enlightened, and informed millions of Australians over the past five decades.
The idea for these awards was hatched in a pub when Les’ close friends combined with his former editors, friends and family in February 2012. They had a plan to preserve Les Kennedy’s memory in something far more profound than the beer-soaked sentiment of bar banter.
They realised that unlike the other states and territories New South Wales did not properly recognise journalists doing battle in one of the world’s most competitive news markets.
The committee aimed to launch the Kennedy Awards on Friday August 10, 2012, the first anniversary of Les Kennedy’s death at the age of 53. It was a tough deadline, not just because of the logistics, sponsors and media support that needed addressing and securing. This was to be a very emotional journey.
There was no looking back after the Premier agreed to present the Kennedy Award for NSW Journalist of the Year. From that point the doors flew open in a remarkably enthusiastic and passionate response from sponsors and hundreds of other colleagues.
On August 10, 2011, more than 250 people gathered at the Kauri Foreshore Hotel in Glebe to farewell the legend who was the inimitable, irrepressible Les Kennedy.
It was to be a last goodbye to Les, but he had died just eight hours earlier. And so it became an extraordinary celebration of a life lived large by one of the true characters in Australian journalism.
At Les’ impromptu wake, chain-smoking tabloid warriors rubbed shoulders with the corduroy of broadsheet aficionados, senior cops clinked glasses with lawyers and barristers representing the underworld and many young journalists — mentored by Les – were there, trying to get a firm grip on batons he had passed-on to each and every one of them, and not one schooner hit the floor! Along with the amber fluid flowed myriad tributes. Les’ farewell was a truly remarkable gathering – and the inspiration for what happened exactly 12 months later.
As word of the awards spread, close friends and colleagues of five other legends lost in the last year suggested they be honoured in this celebration of quality NSW journalism.
Veteran television producer and newspaperman Cliff Neville is remembered in the Most Outstanding Team Player Award named in his honour. It’s finally time to sing the praises of this unsung hero and magnificent team player who was the glue that held Sixty Minutes together
The “most loveable rogue to ever hold a microphone” – Sean Flannery – is honoured in the category of Most Outstanding Radio Report.
Paul Lockyer – a veteran ABC and Channel Nine journalist – a foreign correspondent who came home to his beloved bush to bring us stories about the people who are the heart of Australia. The award of Regional Reporting of the Year is appropriately named after a man who staked a serious claim to the outback as his story.
Peter Ruehl was once described by Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood as a “national institution,” and by a former editor as a columnist who “launched a 24-year love affair with Australian readers.” Peter is remembered for his wit and wisdom in the Most Outstanding Columnist Award.
Gary Ticehurst was a hero to many after he helped save lives in the 1998 Sydney-Hobart tragedy – and a dedicated helicopter pilot who provided a spectacular platform for hundreds of his ABC camera colleagues to shoot memorable aerial pictures. The award for Most Outstanding TV News Camera Coverage is named after Gary.
By July 2, 2012, the organisers of the inaugural Kennedy Awards had attracted more than 400 entries across 30 categories, judged by a distinguished panel led by former News Ltd CEO John Hartigan, long-serving Nine News director Paul Fenn and Ian Heads, OAM.
By August 10 the Kennedy Awards left the dry dock and set sail for the first time as 460 quality journalists, relatives of those we honoured and special guests filled the room in what would become one of the great nights in the history of NSW journalism.
In 2013 we did it all again and the Kennedy Awards was established as a fixture on the NSW events calendar, with the Chris Watson Award introduced to recognise excellence in NSW regional newspaper journalism.
In 2014 the Harry Potter Award for Outstanding Television News Reporting and the Jim Oram Award for Outstanding Feature Writing were added to the distinguished list of legends honoured by the industry every August.
The Kennedy Awards is organised by the Kennedy Foundation, a registered charity helping media professionals in hardship, with compassion – in confidence – and supporting other community organisations.
Click 2016 Sponsorship Packages or contact Kennedy Foundation General Manager STEVE WARNOCK via firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0424 407717
Tribute to 2016 Lifetime Achievement Winner John Smith
By Mark Day, published in The Australian
There is a view among old newspaper hounds that we had the best of it. We flourished in the golden years — the 1950s through to the end of the 80s — when newspapers and those who filled them with racy yarns were admired, not vilified.
We used to pride ourselves on getting it first and getting it right. We were full of dash and daring and people bought our products for news that told them what they didn’t know.
It’s all changed now, of course. Today’s generation has good reason to ask what yesterday’s men would know about search engine optimisation, data diving or repurposing copy for phones, tablets or Facebook.
So it’s nice to see the news men and women of today pay respect to one of the old-timers .
At Friday night’s Kennedy Awards in Sydney, the old photographer and Daily Telegraph picture editor John Smith received a lifetime achievement award.
The Kennedys, named after the late crime reporter Les Kennedy, are awards for NSWbased journalists, complementing the Quills in Victoria.
This is their fifth year and John Smith follows crime reporters Harry Potter and Phil Cornford and sportswriter Ian Heads as recipients of the lifetime achievement award.
Smithy is 87 now and a great character. He still has his rapier wit, his conversational zingers, his pet sayings such as “the editor will be pleased” and his raffish charm. I am delighted to call him a friend and I call him from time to time to see how he’s doing.
“I’m all right,” he says, “but if I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.” Amen to that.
Smithy was 16 when he commenced as a copy boy at Frank Packer’s Telegraph in 1946. He started work the same day as Phillip Knightley, who went on to head the London Sunday Times investigative team and expose Britain’s Cold War spies.
Smithy was working as the late stop copy boy one night when an escaped convict named Antonio
Martini was involved in a shootout in North Sydney.
“I stole an old Speed Graphic camera from the darkroom and went with the late stop sub to the scene where I photographed a terrified bloke in a phone box with bullet holes in it,” Smithy says. “I had four exposures and two flash bulbs, but neither worked, so my pictures were failures.
“The next day I got a telegram at home saying Mr Packer wanted to see me. I thought that would be the end of me for stealing the camera , but Mr Packer said I had done well. He said ‘Don’t waste your time with the scribblers; I’m going to move you to photographic.’”
That was 1948. Four years later Smithy was in the Korean War frontline, attached to the Australian 3 Battalion, with which his father had served in France during World War I. He documented life in the trenches for Australian newspapers.
Today press photographers can snap a picture and immediately email the shot in a matter of seconds via satphones to anywhere in the world.
“It was different then,” says Smithy. “I took a picture of wounded Aussies coming out of the front line on my Rolleiflex, then sent the film back to field headquarters, where it was then flown to Commonwealth Forces HQ in Tokyo, then on to Australia for processing. It appeared on front pages about a week after I took the shot.”
Smithy spent most of the 50s on the road. He recalls another encounter with Mr Packer after he lavished a bottle of fine champagne on a young lady after the
“I was called to his office and I thought, ‘I’m on toast here’ . Mr Packer said ‘Sit down, son,’ then talked about the Cup and the tennis for a while. Then he said: ‘What’s this taking sheilas out on my money?’ I said I fully intended to pay, of course, and he said: ‘You’re a good liar’ . That was the end of it.”
Another famous Smithy story followed a prolonged drink after covering a royal tour in Canberra with fellow snapper John Jones. The Telegraph’s picturegram truck was spotted allegedly being driven erratically through a Canberra backstreet.
Federal police pulled the truck over and demanded names. “I’m John Jones,” said Jones, to which one copper snarled: “And I suppose you’re John Smith.”
Smithy brought his rapier wit and gift for a quick quip into play. He replied: “Yes, officer.” Jones produced his press pass and one Fed said: “Hey this one is John Jones.”
And when Smithy showed his pass the other incredulous Fed said “And this one is John Smith.” Fortunately all parties were amused and they both escaped with a warning.
Smithy took on a desk job in 1970 when he became the Tele’s picture editor. When Rupert Murdoch bought the masthead in 1972 Frank Packer cried as he watched his staff leave.
“You can stay here, son,” he said to Smithy. “I have a job here for you.” Smithy replied that he felt he had to go with his team but asked if he could buy his company car.
“How much?” Packer asked. When Smithy named his price of $1200 Packer said “You’re a good poker player. I’ll think about it.” Two weeks later Smithy was asked to pay $1 for the transfer fee.
It’s trite but true: Smithy represents an era passed. We will never return to those days and unhappily it won’t be long before the notion of newspapers employing staff photographers is also consigned to the dustbin. That has already happened in many US cities.
Virtually nothing newsworthy happens today without someone, somewhere, capturing the event on a smartphone.
Their pictures or video are grist for the 24/7 television news mill and frequently make the front pages of newspapers.
These shots are not professionally staged or lit, but they carry undeniable impact.
Smithy is the first press photographer to be honoured with a Kennedy lifetime achievement award.
The editor will be pleased, but chances are he’ll be the last.