The Christmas season, when sweetness and light are fouling the air, is no time to pass judgment on anything, so that's exactly what I'm going to do. Undeterred by the fact that the IPC makes awards, that the Granada 'Papers' team makes awards, that just about everybody makes awards, I propose to hand out one or two of my own. I have been helped in my decisions by a distinguished panel of judges, none of whose names I can actually remember, now I come to think of it.
There are several categories of awards. spread over the whole of the newspaper world. In some cases there were many con- tenders and discussion over the merits of the nominees was lively and long. But in one category the judges had almost no doubt at all as to who should be selected. This was the Unisex Award, for writing of high im- becility, low degree of style. and a total lack of any characteristic other than tweeness. It goes, of course, to Mr Hunter Davies of the Sunday Times, who in the opinion of the judges is without peer in this field. There was one rival nomination, Miss Jilly Cooper, but this was withdrawn when it was pointed out that as far as anyone can tell, she and Mr Davies could very well be the same person. The judges felt that special mention should be made of the fact that Mr Davies is a working-class lad from Carlisle and manages to disguise it completely, by writing in a manner that couldn't be bettered by any twit
from the King's Road, Chelsea. The Award takes the form of a charming plaster hermaphrodite, appropriately labelled His and Hers.
There was considerable disagreement among the judges over an award for the Stumer of the Year, but it was finally agreed
that it should go to the Mirror magazine. The TV Times and the Radio Times had a
lot of support on the grounds that nobody wants to read one of them and nobody is able to read the other, but in the end the
panel felt that the sheer ugliness of the Mir- ror magazine overrode any other con- sideration. The Award takes the form of a model of the Mirror building in High Hol- born, decorated with the phrase, `Ah well, we all make mistakes sometimes'.
As for the title of Most Entertaining Writer of the Year, votes were just about equally divided between Christopher Ward
and Donald Zec, both of the Daily Mirror. Each maintains a consistently high standard,
whatever subject he is writing about and each has dealt with a very wide variety of topics. Other names mentioned included
Harry Whewell of the Guardian for his Saturday morning column, Nancy Banks- Smith for her work on the old Sun, and Jon
Akass. It was thought that the nomination of John Pilger was intended as a joke. In the end the panel remained divided and decided to make the award a joint one to Ward and Zec. It takes the form of a slightly catty smile, with a great deal of brain behind it, the whole done in sugar etched rather deeply with acid.
There were several contenders for the title of Paper of the. Year. The recent liberalisa-
tion of the editorial policy of the Sketch was noted with approval, the arrival on the scene of the new Sun was welcomed, the Financial Times was complimented on reaching its
25,000th issue and on beginning to resemble a real newspaper, and nice things were said about several other journals. In the end, though, the judges felt that although there were very many encouraging things hap- pening on the newspaper scene at the mo- ment, none of them was so outstanding as to merit a prize. The judges have therefore decided to make no award for the Paper of the Year, but to issue a general instruction to keep it up, lads.
There was no doubt in the mind of most of the judges that the most improved paper of the year was the Sun, but no award was made because it would have been very hard
not to have improved on the old version of the paper. Nevertheless, Mr Rupert Murdoch and Mr Larry Lamb both receive an honourable mention for what they have done in wakening up Fleet Street. The paper is clearly not right yet, and still makes a lot of mistakes, but as Mr Murdoch is reported to have told a former editor of a rival paper, 'what a pity you didn't make the same mistakes and put your circulation up by half
a million or so', a remark which the panel received with acclaim as being characteristic of the cheek which will ensure that the Sun survives.
And that was that. The panel didn't feel themselves able to make any more awards or mentions, apart from tipping their hat to the redesigned Daily Telegraph, nodding in the direction of the avant-Guardian, inclining regally towards the Times, and informing Mr Alan Brien that they now know more than they wish to about his body and its workings, and that if he cares to write about something else it will be all right with them.